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In 2004, Air France and KLM Royal Dutch merged to form the Air France-KLM Group. One of the products of this merger is the combined airline loyalty program: Flying Blue. This has quickly become one of the most popular airline loyalty programs due to its huge list of credit card transfer partners, lucrative promotional rewards and a huge list of partners to earn and redeem.
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All of this makes Flying Blue a super attractive program for many travelers, especially those of us who focus on earning transferable points. But if you’re new to the show, it can be a bit intimidating, especially given the dynamic and unpredictable price of prizes. However, you are not alone, because today I will walk you through all the details of the Flying Blue program.
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I’ll start by giving you an overview of the loyalty program and then move on to earning and redeeming Flying Blue miles. Let’s get started!
As mentioned above, Flying Blue is the joint loyalty program of Air France and KLM, but these are not the only airlines that use Flying Blue as their default loyalty program. In fact, quite a few airlines, both inside and outside of Europe, use the program to collect miles and gain elite status. Here’s a look at all the airlines that use it:
So if you’re a Flying Blue member and you fly on one of these airlines, you can add your Flying Blue membership number to earn miles, experience points (XP) to qualify for elite status and more. Once you achieve elite status, you will be able to use your benefits on these airlines and reciprocal benefits on other partner airlines.
But just because these airlines use Flying Blue as their default program doesn’t mean you can’t earn Flying Blue miles with other airlines. I’ll delve into this in the next section, but since most of these airlines are in the SkyTeam alliance, you can earn Flying Blue miles with all SkyTeam airlines and various non-alliance partners.
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Like many airlines, Flying Blue offers elite status to its most frequent flyers. The airline currently offers three different levels of elite status: Silver, Gold and Platinum. Each offers different perks and while not as lucrative as many US airlines, the perks are useful for European travelers or anyone visiting Air France or KLM.
Silver is Flying Blue’s lowest level of elite status, but it includes some key benefits that can make a difference for frequent flyers. Benefits include free standard seat selection, priority check-in and boarding, and other SkyTeam Elite benefits. One of the most prominent benefits of SkyTeam Elite is free checked baggage on all Flying Blue and SkyTeam member flights.
Gold, on the other hand, includes more premium benefits. With this status level, you and a guest can access SkyTeam lounges when flying on an international flight operated by Flying Blue or SkyTeam, as well as China Southern Airways or Virgin Atlantic flights. You’re also eligible for SkyTeam Elite Plus benefits like SkyPriority boarding, fast-track immigration and more.
Like Silver, you’ll get a free standard seat choice, but you’re entitled to a 50% discount on Preferred Seating and Delta Comfort+. While it’s not as good as free, you may find it worth upgrading on long economy flights where you’d otherwise be stuck in a cramped economy seat.
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Another interesting benefit is free access to Le Bus Direct, which runs between Paris (CDG) and Paris-Orly (ORY). This is useful when your itinerary requires transit between two airports and can save you 12 euros (~$13.15) on a one-way ticket.
Finally, Flying Blue Gold members (and above) can book Air France La Premiere first class using their Flying Blue miles. These award tickets are limited to Flying Blue Gold and Platinum members, and although quite expensive, Premier is one of the best first class products on the market. La Premiere tickets often cost more than $10,000 when flying from Europe to North America, Asia or Africa, so the ability to book with miles makes a ticket that would otherwise be unaffordable to many travelers.
Flying Blue’s highest Platinum status includes all of the gold benefits mentioned above, but ups the ante by upgrading some benefits and adding others. Platinum members get free access to Economy Comfort and Extra Legroom seats on all SkyTeam flights and can access Delta Comfort+ seats for free.
You can qualify for Flying Blue elite status by earning experience points (XP). Each level requires a certain amount of these points, and you can earn them by flying and spending with your credit card. All Flying Blue (except Transavia) and SkyTeam partners are eligible to earn XP, as are some non-alliance partners such as Qantas.
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The chart above shows how much XP is required to earn each level of elite status. You must reach this amount of XP within a year of earning your first XP. So if you take a paid flight in May, you have until May of the following year before your XP counter resets. Current Flying Blue Elites must requalify by earning enough XP to maintain or upgrade their status for a period of one year.
Earning XP is surprisingly easy, but has its drawbacks – I’ve posted a copy above. You can see that you earn XP based on the distance level and class of service you fly, and miles are earned regardless of the fare class of your ticket. This means that a discounted economy ticket earns the same XP as a full fare economy ticket.
Pretty easy, right? Yes, this table also has its advantages: if you fly international flights within Europe, it is easy to earn points at the medium XP level. According to the award table, a quick 211-mile flight from Paris (CDG) to London (LHR) would earn 5 XP in Economy Class or 15 XP in Business Class.
But things get weird when it comes to earning in larger countries like the United States or Canada. A 2,994 mile flight from Salt Lake City (SLC) to Honolulu (HNL) would earn 2 XP in economy class according to the chart above, that is a domestic flight. So if you fly frequently within the US or to Hawaii and are looking for SkyTeam elite status, it’s in your best interest to credit your mileage elsewhere.
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Is considered truly international, so a 214-mile trip between Detroit (DTW) and Toronto (YYZ) would earn 5 XP in economy. Even better, you can earn XP on these routes when you fly Delta or WestJet, so there are plenty of opportunities for US-based Flying Blue elites to top up their XP balances.
Another interesting feature of Flying Blue is that you earn points based on segments. So if you fly from Frankfurt (FRA) to New York (JFK) via Amsterdam (AMS) on KLM in Business Class, you’ll earn 15 XP for the FRA to AMS leg and 30 XP for the 3643 mile trip from AMS to JFK. segment. This equates to a total of 45 XP for a one-way trip, which already puts you almost halfway to silver status.
This might surprise some, but Flying Blue actually has a co-branded US credit card with Bank of America. I’ll dive deeper into the Air France KLM World Elite Mastercard® in the next section, but one of its standout benefits is the ability to earn XP by spending on credit cards.
You’ll earn 60 XP immediately when your card is approved, and 20 XP each year you pay the card’s annual fee. Plus, you can earn an additional 40 XP on your account anniversary if you spend at least $15,000 during the cardholder year.
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This means you can earn more than half the XP needed for Silver status each year without ever getting on a plane. This is a great offer for US-based travelers seeking Flying Blue status and is by far one of the most generous elite status benefits of any co-branded airline credit card. Of course, its usefulness is minimal for many US flyers.
US travelers can earn Flying Blue status fairly easily by combining XP earned with the Air France KLM World Elite Mastercard and flying. If silver is your goal, you can simply apply for the card and make a few short trips to Canada to gain status quickly.
Gold or platinum, on the other hand, will require a little more work. Gold requires 180 XP. You can reduce it to 120XP with a co-branded credit card and earn through a combination of international short-haul flights and flights to Europe.
For example, the remaining 120 XP can be earned by taking two round-trip Business Class flights to Canada from the US for 60 XP, one round-trip Premium Economy from Los Angeles (LAX) to Paris (CDG)
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