Air France KLM Would Like Your Help to Fix Their Broken Award Process (Big Interest to Amex and Citi Accountholders)

I finally have an update on the byzantine situation with Air France KLM’s Flying Blue, where members were transferring points in from American Express and redeeming points for awards, only to either:

  • Have their accounts shut down by the auditing department for suspected fraud, or
  • Be told they had to go to an Air France ticket counter to complete their redemption

Three months ago I wrote about the frustrations of a frequent flyer program fraud detection unit gone off the rails.

Air France KLM’s Flying Blue shut down the account of someone who simply transferred points in from American Express Membership Rewards and redeemed those points for a ticket. The American Express account, Flying Blue account, and tickets were all for the same person. (American Express no longer even lets you transfer points to other people any more.)

I learned about readers who had had similar experiences and I saw the response of a fraud unit employee who actually claimed they wouldn’t permit transferring in points just to book awards.

[T]he use of our frequent flyer accounts as boxes opened to transfer miles with our non air partners won’t be allowed anymore.

Air France is adamant that such a policy does not exist.

What certainly is a problem was relayed by a Flying Blue supervisor last month:

a supervisor on the helpline has said that they’re randomly flagging new accounts that have points transfer into them and won’t allow tickets to be paid for online — requiring a trip in-person to an Air France airport ticket counter.

I asked Flying Blue to clarify. Here’s what they said:

Our Flying Blue program has enacted a new automatic security process that will alert us to certain transactions to prevent fraud. If this happens, our agent cannot issue the ticket and the customer must go to an Air France agency to process the payment. We understand and apologize that this process may generate frustration for the members.

Here’s the thing:

  • Many Americans live nowhere near an Air France ticket counter. That’s precisely why Air France has partners like Delta and Alaska, to bring those customers to Air France flights.
  • Airport agents seem to have generally no idea that members are being directed there to issue award tickets and most do not know how to proceed.

    Air France Ticket Counter, Washington Dulles

I’ve been working to bring this situation to the attention of Flying Blue, and get them to address what’s been a very frustrating situation for members. While I haven’t investigated these situations myself in most cases (I am always skeptical of members complaining about airline fraud departments, who really are usually right as they tend to be quite conservative) I’ve seen a consistency to the stories and well over a dozen stories reported.

The spokesman who told me that the ticket counter issuance requirement for new accounts transferring points was new, and there was nothing that could be done, is no longer with the airline.

I spoke to several representatives in the U.S. today who are very much concerned. They’re naturally told that if the auditing department closes an account it’s only for a good reason, so they’d like counterexamples. And they certainly feel that an airport ticketing requirement is not appropriate for the US market as so many people live so far from Air France ticket counters. Whatever need the airline has has to be able to be met in some other way.

And they’d like your help. If you have a story of an Air France KLM Flying Blue account either being shut down improperly after transferring your Amex or Citibank points, or if you were told you could only issue an award in person then they’d like to hear your story. This will help them sort through the details of what’s going and work with Paris and with Amsterdam towards a resolution.

Please e-mail me and I will put you in touch with someone that you can provide the full details to.

Please only get in touch if you’re 100% in the right. I don’t want to send them folks with accounts that have engaged in anything questionable, that will just serve as an excuse for Flying Blue to dismiss the issue. So folks that have 100% followed program rules only, please.

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. my account was shut down after 3 month of inactivity… no notice or anything… just slopped working.
    i never used it to transfer or redeem miles.

  2. Thanks for being our advocate!

    I don’t understand what you mean by ” requirement… longer with the company”. Are they saying it’s an external requirement or no longer a requirement?

  3. @Beachfan – he’s saying the guy who made that statement is no longer with the company

  4. “Please only get in touch if you’re 100% in the right. I don’t want to send them folks with accounts that have engaged in anything questionable,”

    People who engage in questionable behavior usually manage to convince themselves that they are 100% in the right.

  5. OMG, are you admitting that you have readers who do “questionable” things?

    I have to second what Brian wrote ^^^.

    What is questionable? You conveniently didn’t give a definition. It’s best if AirFrance/KLM sees all the Amex MR transactions, so they can get a good idea of what is legitimate, and then they have an idea of how to focus on only the “scammy” stuff.

  6. @Joseph

    That comment is idiotic. He cant control who reads his blogs anymore than you can control who reads anything you post on the internet.

  7. Since I first read about this, I’ve been wondering: does Air France actually claim that if your only miles for a flight are transferred in and not from their flights that’s somehow in violation of rules? What’s the point of having transfer partners? Doesn’t AmEx care about this? I don’t understand how they can legitimately claim there is anything wrong with transferring in all the points you need. Are they claiming that isn’t happening, and it’s being made up, or is it just the “go to an AirFrance desk” part they are disputing?

  8. Yikes! I am literally on the verge of transferring 150k miles for an award redemption on the SFO-CDG A380 for my family. Even with the high taxes this is the best option for my wife and I now that we have a baby. It would be a shame to have to find alternative flights. Should I be worried at all about pulling the trigger?

  9. FYI
    I just created a FB account and transferred from amex the points, was trying to book 3 Award seat for my 3 kids but i kept getting a message ;your query is to complex to be booked online;
    Every time i called i got a new excuse,
    Finally i decided to call to their local France office and i got them issued within 10 min.

    Please note that your card gets charged in Euro and not in USD

  10. Gary,
    I would also like your input on whether or not it is now safe (in your opinion) to transfer Amex MR points to FB to book a ticket for a friend (or for the account holder, for that matter.) I want to take advantage of the Promo award but don’t want to mess with an account closure (even though the ticket would be 100% legitimate for a real friend.)

  11. I had this exact thing happen to me, but eventually I resolved it by waiting a few days and booking again. For some reason, the reservation went straight through a few days later. It is possible that the “fraud detection algorithm” only triggered when the Flying Blue account is literally brand new.

  12. On the verge of transferring 30K MR over to Flying Blue to book flights on Delta. Is this issue resolved? My FB account has been open for about 5-6 months now, but there has been a good amount of award availability searches. Should I be concerned, or should I go ahead?

  13. @ AmeriKop45 – Did you have problems booking?

    I’m curious if this is still an issue. So from reading all these blogs I’m getting that my FB account should not be brand new, I should use my credit card associated with my points program, booking award ticket through AF app may be best.

  14. It is still an issue. Only it’s worse than described.

    AF Flying Blue tells you to go to the airport and have DL issue the ticket. AF reservations says that DL can’t issue FB award tickets and you have to go to an AF office. We live in Portland Oregon so they want us to fly to SFO and we have to get there in less than two hours. Obviously this isn’t possible.

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