Air France KLM Frequent Flyer Program Going Revenue-Based

There’s a thread on Flyertalk about new rules for the Flying Blue program, discovered through the flight booking process. Booking a ticket May 1, 2018 onward generates a message “your flight is in 2018, discover Flying Blue new programme rules” and new mileage-earning rates are shown.

The website mileage-earning calculator hasn’t changed. Air France KLM hasn’t made any announcement to members yet. And there’s no word on whether minimum spend will be introduced for elite status as part of these changes.

Air France KLM Flying Blue was talking about a move towards becoming a revenue-based frequent flyer program at least as far back as three and a half years ago. They’re closely tied to Delta (anti-trust immunized revenue sharing joint venture across the Atlantic, and now business partners in Virgin Atlantic).

  • No status: 4 miles per Euro
  • Silver: 6 miles per Euro
  • Gold: 7 miles per Euro
  • Platinum: 8 miles per Euro

There are several things fascinating about this.

US programs, following Delta, started base-earning at 5 miles per dollar for non-status members. Flying Blue offers fewer miles (4 not 5, and of course one Euro is more than a dollar).

Flying Blue is largely already revenue-based. You didn’t earn 1 mile per mile flown on the cheapest fares. Instead you’d earn just 20% of miles flown. And on premium cabin fares you’d earn big bonuses.

This change shouldn’t make much difference for customers flying on the cheapest fares. Air France KLM’s minimum of 750 miles per segment is itself multiplied by the fare class earning percentage, so a short trip today earns a minimum 150 miles (750 * 20%). A 50 euro plus tax one-way short hop will now earn 200 miles.

Similarly, you just need a base fare lower than $533 roundtrip for New York JFK – Paris to break even with 25% mileage earning for the ticket. (3635 miles each way x 2 = 7270 miles, but 25% mileage earning means 1817 miles earned which you’ll earn on a 454 euro ticket which is the equivalent of $533 at current exchange rates.)

Are there cheaper fares? Sure, sometimes, but they aren’t much cheaper so any loss in earning will be modest on those. And for US-based customers the ability to transfer points from Chase, Citibank, and American Express overwhelms the change especially since with spending bonuses you generally earn more than 1 mile per US dollar spent.

Where earnings are going to be impacted by the move to revenue-based are discount business class fares, and intra-European business class connecting itineraries.

Ultimately it’s surprising that it took Flying Blue this long to make the change. IT is hard. It isn’t as drastic for most members as when a similar change (with more generous earning) happened in the U.S. But in this monkey see monkey do industry it increases the likelihood that other European programs could follow in the future.

Since it hasn’t been formally announced it’s possible the start date of this change will not actually be May 1, that’s just when the website appears to be pulling up the new information. So no doubt more details will emerge.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Death Amex? Hardly. It remains head and shoulders above all other issuers if you have a clue.

  2. I was able to book a may 2018 award flight several months ago using the current system. Guess I lucked out.

  3. Maybe so, but if Air France and KLM are copying Delta, then revenue-based redemptions can’t be far behind revenue-based earnings.

  4. Since Gary moved to a Southwest Airlines city he has been able to see how an airline’s frequent flyer program can move up in the rankings simply by devaluing more slowly than competitors. Although to be fair Southwest recently added free same-day standby as an elite benefit. That was a major enhancement. I have used it much more than I ever expected to.

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