Air France KLM Flying Blue Program Review

Air France KLM Flying Blue Program Review

Who Is Air France & KLM Flying Blue Good For?

Though many Delta flyers end up on codeshare Air France and KLM flights, as the three airlines are technically one but operate like three independent carrier, not very many U.S.-based flyers take advantage of the Flying Blue award program, which is used by Air France, KLM and several other primarily European airlines.

While Flying Blue awards give you access to the entire SkyTeam alliance, their core airlines, in addition to Air France and KLM, are Kenya Airways, Air Europa, TAROM, Aircalin, HOP! and TwinJet. Thanks to the regional options offered by smaller carriers like HOP!, Aircalin and TwinJet, Flying Blue has excellent reach to even the smallest airports in all territories throughout the worldwide French Republic, making it an ideal program for taking advantage of many top holiday spots.


During a devaluation of their award chart in 2013, Flying Blue made many changes that actually benefit frequent flyers, most notably decreasing fuel surcharges and fees on award flights. The previous fees were approaching the highest in the industry several hundred dollars on transatlantic legs, and increasing whenever you had a connection but the new award chart keeps things under $100 for most flights, including connections.

As Delta has massively devalued its own award chart, many SkyTeam travelers are now taking a closer look at Flying Blue as their gateway to not only domestic Delta flights, but also the glamorous Air France business and first class, which is primarily only available to Flying Blue members with elite status. Booking through Flying Blue also offers more availability on Air France and KLM flights than when booking through partners.

Hubs:

  • Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport
  • Paris Orly Airport
  • Amsterdam Schiphol Airport
  • Jomo Kenyatta International Airport
  • Henri Coanda International Airport
  • Iasi International Airport
  • Barcelona Airport
  • Tenerife South Airport

How Can You Use Flying Blue Miles?

Flying Blue miles can be used for four different types of awards: promo awards, classic awards, flex awards and round-the-world awards.

Classic
Award
Promo
Award
Flex
Award
Round the
World
Awards
Available to: all Flying Blue
members
Available to: all Flying Blue
members
Available to: all Flying Blue
members
Available to: all Flying Blue
members
Number
of miles
required: depends on
booking class
and destination
Number
of miles
required: up to 50%
discount
Number
of miles
required: depends on
booking class
and destination
Number
of miles
required: depends on
booking class
(Economy or
Business Class)
Airlines offering
the award: Air France, KLM
and
all partner airlines
Airlines offering
the award: Air France, KLM
and some
partner airlines
Airlines offering
the award: Air France, KLM,
Kenya Airways
and Tarom
Airlines offering
the award: Air France, KLM
and other
SkyTeam
airlines
Available to: all destinationsAvailable to: regularly changing selection of destinationsAvailable to: all destinationsAvailable to: all SkyTeam
airlines destinations
Changes/
cancelations: possible for
a fee of € 45
Changes/
cancelations: not possible
Changes/
cancelations: possible free
of charge
Changes/
cancelations: possible for
a fee of € 45

Award tickets at a glance

Promo awards, offering 25-50 percent off the standard award chart, are available each month for select flights, but most passengers will spend the bulk of their miles on classic awards, which can be used on any partner airline but not on first class cabins.

First class awards can only be booked as flex awards, which cost substantially more than classic awards, but with no change fees and much greater availability than classic awards.

Flying Blue is one of the last airline programs to offer round-the-world tickets as awards. They can be quite affordable in economy, starting at 140,000 miles, and include six stopovers, with a maximum of three per continent.

Program Perks:

  • Hold reservations for up to two weeks for $20
  • Very low change and cancellation fees; $23 for classic awards and free for flex awards
  • One-way bookings allowed
  • Open jaws allowed
  • Mixed cabins allowed
  • Stopovers on round-trip tickets
  • Much greater availability on Air France and KLM than when booking these airlines though partners
  • Miles can pay for extra fees such as extra legroom, checked bags, lounge access and meals
  • Flying Blue doesn’t add large fuel surcharges to partner airlines

Booking Quirks:

  • Partner awards cannot be booked within two weeks of departure
  • Transfers between accounts are not possible
  • $70 fee for phone changes or bookings
  • 45 euro change fee
  • Miles expire if no award-earning flight is credited to the account in 20 months

Best Value Awards:

Promo Awards change every month
Promo Awards change every month

The best value you’ll find for your reward miles lies in the monthly promo awards Air France and KLM release each month on the first of the month for travel two months out.

Though the dates are a bit restrictive you must travel in the month indicated and the booking window moderately last-minute, these awards will save you 25-50 percent of the required miles on any given route, even in upper classes.

Recent awards included Japan from Europe for 40,000 miles roundtrip in economy, JFK to Europe for 37,500 miles roundtrip in economy and Washington, D.C., to Europe for 50,000 miles roundtrip in premium economy.

Worst Value Awards:

Though the 2013 Flying Blue devaluation made flying in economy much easier, the number of miles required for first class awards increased as much as 80 percent on some routes.

If you’re looking to fly Air France first class, you’ll need to book through Flying Blue, but paying the exorbitant Flying Blue rates to fly first class on a partner airline, rather than booking those seats through that partner or another SkyTeam member with good first class redemptions, is a waste of miles, particularly if you’re transferring from a transfer program.

The Good Stuff: Upgrades and Elite Status

Upgrades with SkyTeam partners begin at 10,000 miles to go from economy to business within Europe (business to first not available in this zone); 32,500 miles to upgrade from economy to business; and 75,000 miles to upgrade from business to first between the U.S. and Europe.

Flights on all SkyTeam members: Aeroflot, Aeromexico, China Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Czech Airlines, Korean Air and Tarom are eligible for upgrades.

Flying Blue Elite Levels and Perks

Flying Blue categorizes its basic member level, which affords the ability to book economy flex awards, as Ivory.

Membership levelRequired number
of Level Miles
 Required number
of qualifying flights
Ivoryentry levelentry level
Silver (Elite)25,000 Level Miles (30,000 in France and Monaco)or15 qualifying flights
Gold (Elite Plus)40,000 Level Miles (60,000 in France and Monaco)or30 qualifying flights
Platinum (Elite Plus)70,000 Level Miles (90,000 in France and Monaco)or60 qualifying flights

Each subsequent level includes the perks of the previous level, unless stated otherwise.

  • Silver: 50 percent bonus miles, first checked bag free, exclusive check-in counters, one additional piece of luggage permitted, priority check-in, priority boarding, priority baggage drop-off, lounge access with copay, 25 percent on economy comfort seats on Delta and KLM flights and Seat Plus premium economy on Air France flights, ability to carry over level miles to the following year
  • Gold: 75 percent bonus miles, free transfers between Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports in Paris, priority immigration screening, priority security screening, priority service at ticket offices and desks, complimentary lounge access for member and one companion on SkyTeam itineraries, ability to bring extra guests to the lounge with a copay, 50 percent on economy comfort seats on Delta and KLM flights and Seat Plus premium economy on Air France flights
  • Platinum: 100  percent bonus miles, free economy comfort seats on Delta and KLM flights and Seat Plus premium economy on Air France flights

Associated Credit Cards

There are no credit cards associated with Flying Blue or its primary airlines Air France and KLM available in the U.S.