New Air France / KLM Flying Blue. Mon Dieu!

As rumoured last month, this morning Air France / KLM introduced some of the details of the new Flying Blue programme.

The news isn’t good.

Instead of earning status based on distance flown, you’ll earn status based on a fixed number of points per flight, which they’re calling “Experience Points” or XP for short.  For those members of the British Airways Executive Club, XPs are pretty much analogous to tier points.

The other major change in the programme is that you’ll earn miles, which are now only used for redeeming for free flights, based on spend with the Air France / KLM group.  The rates are not good.

Experience Points

Domestic Medium
< 2,000 miles
Long 1
2,000 to 3,499 miles
Long 2
3,500 to 4,999 miles
Long 3
≥ 5,000 miles
Economy

2

5 8 10

12

Premium Economy

4

10 16 20

24

Business

6

15 24 30

36

First

10

25 40 50

60

The number of XPs you need for each tier is as follows:

  • Ivory to Silver – 100
  • Silver to Gold – 180
  • Gold to Platinum – 300
  • Platinum Ultimate – 1,800 over two years

There is no minimum spend requirement to reach a particular tier, you simply need to gain enough XPs.

What is new, is the way that the programme membership years work, and is very much like the old BA Exec Club of yore.  You have twelve months to either retain your tier, or get promoted to the next one.  Upon promotion, your year will be reset and XPs deducted.  Then the twelve months stars anew to get to the next level.

The official wording is as follows:

“The qualification period covers 12 months. Of course, if you gain enough XP to move up to the next level before the end of the 12-month period, you’ll be instantly upgraded. The moment you reach the next level, the XP needed to qualify for that level will be deducted from your XP counter and the 12-month qualification period will restart. Any XP you gained above the required threshold will be yours to keep.”

I missed this the first time around, so thanks very much to the eagle eyed Edd in the comments below.

Earning Miles

This is where the programme does go revenue based.  Rather than earning miles based on the distance flown, with a multiplier for each cabin (and booking class) you fly in, you’ll earn based on the number of € spent.

  • Ivory – 4 miles per €
  • Silver – 6 miles per €
  • Gold – 7 miles per €
  • Platinum – 8 miles per €

The good news (if there is any) is that this at least includes the fuel surcharge element, which can be quite hefty.  However if we compare this to Delta, who are arguably their closest partner, and major investor, they are substantially worse.

Analysis

I think the changes they have announced are actually very interesting – particularly the introduction of Experience Points, bringing the model into line with that of British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.  Also, what’s interesting, is XPs are currently very broad brush.  You earn the same XPs for a cheap business class as you do for a full fare one – this goes against the grain of many programmes (Miles & More in particular) that do not earn very much in the cheaper business class fare buckets.

In terms of status earning, I recently wrote an article looking at the most efficient ways to gain status across SkyTeam.  I’ll clearly need to re-work it, however I suggested two, trips from Milan to Santiago for about £3,200 in total.

Under the new system, each trip would earn 102 XPs.  However, as an Ivory member, after the first trip, you’d reach the threshold for Silver, and 100 points would be deducted, leaving you with just 2 XPs left.  If you took the second flight, that would then be enough to re-qualify for silver, not enough to get to gold.  You’d need to do a further flight to get that.

In terms if miles earning, I’ve produced the following table, which compares the earning rates of the new Flying Blue programme versus that of Delta.  Flying Blue works in Euros and Delta works in Dollars, so I have converted the entire table into Euros, using today’s exchange rate of €1 = $1.16 to make it as fair as possible.

Flying Blue

Sky Miles

Basic

4

5.8

Silver

6

8.1

Gold

7

9.3

Platinum

8

10.4

Diamond

n/a

12.8

As you can see, there’s a significant variation, particular for non-elite members with Delta earning almost 50% more miles.  Also at the top end, if you’re Flying Blue Ultimate, you’re going to be significantly worse off again compared to if you were Diamond with Delta, however that’s probably not a truly accurate comparison.

Again, lets revisit the suggested itinerary from Milan to Santiago.  Under the old system, you would have netted slightly under 50,000 miles for that trip.  Under the new one the fare is only around €1,800 so you’d earn only 7,200 miles on the first trip after which you’d get promoted to silver, and then you’d earn 10,800 miles on the second trip, giving you 18,000 in total.  This is less than half the miles you would have earned previously and a massive devaluation.

Summary

In terms of status earning, from a standing start it’s harder to get status in the new programme.  Once you’re there it’s not too bad, as the XPs to retain are broadly similar to where they are today.  However the killer is on earning miles.  If you travel on cheaper business class tickets, there is a *massive* hit to earnings.

I’m going to re-work my SkyTeam article over the next few days, but the news really isn’t good.

There is also more to come.  What they haven’t announced today is that spending miles will become dynamic.  Not entirely clear what that means yet, but I’m sure they will provide some details in due course.

3 comments

  1. Hi – I may be reading the programme wrong entirely – but my understanding is these XPs are incremental. IE if you start from base level, you need 100 to get to Silver. Then your collect year resets (I think), they deduct 100 from your balance, and THEN you need 180 further for Gold. So from a base of zero, that’s 280 XP to get to Gold. I then interpret it that requalification is just 180 XP to remain at Gold. I may well be wrong….

    1. Very good point – I’ve just found the wording buried on the site.

      “The qualification period covers 12 months. Of course, if you gain enough XP to move up to the next level before the end of the 12-month period, you’ll be instantly upgraded. The moment you reach the next level, the XP needed to qualify for that level will be deducted from your XP counter and the 12-month qualification period will restart. Any XP you gained above the required threshold will be yours to keep.”

      Very much like the old BA Exec Club which used to do the same, as opposed to simply counting the number in a 12 month period that you needed.

      Thanks very much for pointing it out – I’ll amend the article!

  2. Does it say what happens to old miles? Also in another piece you mention that Flying Blue is a good reward scheme except for residents of France. Why?

    Thanks

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