July 22, 2024

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Navigating Travel Wonders

Air France-KLM Flying Blue: What to Know

If you’ve flown Air France or KLM in the past two decades, you may already know that these two airlines merged in 2004. The Air France-KLM Group flies routes globally from two of the largest hubs in Europe: Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Amsterdam-Schiphol. Both of the airlines are part of the SkyTeam alliance.

Here’s what a strategic points collector needs to know and understand about Air France-KLM and its loyalty program, Flying Blue. We’ll cover how earning and redeeming miles works, how to get the maximum value from your miles, and other reasons that this rewards program is worth a second glance.

  • Branding and operations. While the Air France-KLM merger brought the two airlines together under one company, they still operate as separate brands. This is why you’re still able to book a flight on an Air France aircraft or go to the KLM website to browse fares. 

  • Loyalty program. Despite being two separate brands, Air France and KLM have a joint loyalty program called Flying Blue. It’s free to join, and as a member, you’ll earn Flying Blue miles redeemable for award flights.

  • Main U.S. routes. Both Air France and KLM cover quite a bit of the world.

The U.S. cities Air France flies to include: 

KLM operates service to: 

If you want to start earning miles with Flying Blue, KLM and Air France’s frequent flyer program, you’ll first need to sign up for an account. It’s free and easy to do so online.

Earn by flying

You can earn Flying Blue miles by flying with Air France, KLM or partner airlines, then crediting the miles to your Flying Blue account. Note that the transfer list includes non-SkyTeam partners as well as those who are a member of the airline alliance

Air France or KLM

When you fly Air France or KLM, how many miles you earn is determined by how much you spend on each ticket — minus taxes — and your elite status with the airline. Keep in mind, Flying Blue works in euros. In terms of an exchange rate, 1 euro has fluctuated between the equivalent of $0.97 and $1.23 over the past five years.

Here’s how many bonus miles you can expect to earn if you have Flying Blue elite status.

4 miles per euro ($1.00-$1.25).

6 miles per euro ($1.00-$1.25).

7 miles per euro ($1.00-$1.25).

8 miles per euro ($1.00-$1.25).

9 miles per euro ($1.00-$1.25).

Flying Blue is an example of a revenue-based rewards program, at least on the earning side for Air France- and KLM-operated flights. Simply put, the more money you spend, the more rewards you earn.

Partner airlines

When you fly partner airlines, the miles earned are based on the distance flown multiplied by a percentage based on your ticket’s fare class. This means you’ll earn more miles if you book a business class ticket than a budget economy seat.

The percentage varies depending on which partner airline you are on. You can click through the individual partner pages on the Flying Blue website to get specifics.

Earn by spending on credit cards

With the Air France KLM World Elite Mastercard®, Air France-KLM flyers can receive the following welcome offer: Get 50,000 Bonus Miles after you make $2,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of account opening.

After this initial welcome bonus, you’ll continue earning 3 miles per dollar spent with Air France, KLM and other SkyTeam airlines, and 1.5 miles per dollar on all other purchases. And, you’ll automatically earn 5,000 miles each year on your account anniversary after you’ve spent at least $50 on the card.

Earn with transfer partners

Perhaps the easiest way to get your hands on Flying Blue miles is by transferring flexible currency from a bank rewards program. Luckily, Air France-KLM partners with all of the major transferrable point programs.

You can transfer the following points to Flying Blue:

Of all the flexible point programs listed above, the majority transfer to Flying Blue at a 1:1 point ratio. The exception to this is Marriott Bonvoy, which transfers points at a rate of 3:1. 

🤓Nerdy Tip

Occasionally, AmEx and Citi add bonus miles to point conversions. During these promotional transfer periods, the bonus can be as high as 30% more miles in your Flying Blue account, which can make certain mileage bookings more attractive. 

Other ways to earn miles

  • Hotels: Earn Flying Blue miles on hotel stays with partners like Marriott, Hilton, IHG and Hyatt, among others.

  • Car rentals: Spending at car rental companies such as Hertz, Avis, Enterprise and Budget will earn you Flying Blue miles.

  • Buy miles: In a pinch, you can buy Flying Blue miles starting at around $63 for 2,000 miles. Purchasing as many as 75,000 miles will set you back upward of $2,100. Look out for occasional bonus promotions on mileage purchases.

How much Flying Blue miles are worth

Based on NerdWallet’s valuations, Flying Blue miles are worth about 1.2 cents each. This means you should generally get at least 1.2 cents in value per mile for any flight redemptions that you make. 

To determine the value of a mile, we compared the cost of cash flights in economy with their cost in reward redemptions across several different routes and dates. Once we had these numbers, we divided the cost of the ticket by the number of miles required to redeem them. 

How to redeem Flying Blue miles for maximum value

Book award seats early

Flying Blue uses a dynamic pricing system for its award flights, meaning redemption rates start at a certain number of points and can increase based on when and where you fly.

Usually, this means Flying Blue will sell a certain number of award seats at the lowest redemption level before it raises the rates based on demand. To find out what that base level is, enter a city pair into the Miles Price Estimator and see what comes up on your preferred route.

For example, say you want to fly from Salt Lake City to Budapest, Hungary. According to the Miles Price Estimator, the lowest redemption level is set at 20,500 Flying Blue miles for a one-way ticket in economy and 65,000 miles for a one-way ticket in business class.

So if you’re flexible with your travel plans, look for dates when tickets are available at the lowest rates for mileage redemption.

Use Promo Rewards

One of the sweet spots of the Flying Blue program is its Promo Rewards. Every month, the airline releases discounted routes for certain city pairs, and you can get up to 50% off standard award rates in economy, premium economy and business classes of service.

The promo page is updated on the first day of the month, and you have the whole month to book a discounted flight for travel during a specific time period. Keep in mind that some trips sell out quickly — we don’t recommend waiting too long to snag one of these promotional fares if you see one you like.

Delta partner flights

Because Air France-KLM and Delta Air Lines are both part of the SkyTeam alliance, you can use Flying Blue miles to book flights on Delta. Here are some examples of mileage redemptions on Delta-operated flights.

  • U.S. to Hawaii: This redemption will set you back 35,000 miles on a one-way ticket from the continental U.S. to the Aloha State.

  • U.S. to Mexico: Another great redemption that will cost you 19,000 on one-way flights from the U.S. to Mexico.

If you’re an Air France-KLM frequent flyer, you may be interested in earning elite status. Flying Blue members are divided into five elite levels: Explorer, Silver, Gold, Platinum and Ultimate. Everyone starts at the Explorer level when they join the loyalty program, and members can make their way up as they fly.

How to earn Flying Blue elite status

Flying Blue members can achieve elite status by earning enough experience points, or XP, to reach the next level. You earn XP by flying on eligible flights with Air France, KLM, SkyTeam members and other partner airlines. How many XP you earn depends on the distance you fly and your cabin type. 

Once you’ve started earning miles or XP, you have 12 months to accumulate enough XP to reach the next status level. If you accumulate enough XP, you’ll get the benefits associated with that status for 12 months (unless you qualify for a higher tier in that time, then the clock resets). 

To maintain your current elite status level, you’ll need to earn enough XP each year to keep it. If you fail to re-qualify for the same status tier within 12 months, you’ll drop down to the previous tier.

Flying Blue elite status tiers

Here’s how many XP you need to earn to reach each elite level, as well as the benefits you’ll receive once you’ve done so.

Flying Blue Explorer

Reached after signing up for Flying Blue, Explorers receive the following benefits:

  • 4 miles per 1 euro spent.

  • 10% discount on seat selection.

  • 10 euro discount on your first additional paid piece of baggage.

Flying Blue Silver

Silver status is earned after accruing 100 XP. Once a Silver member, you’ll receive all these benefits: 

  • 6 miles per 1 euro spent.

  • 25% discount on seat selection.

  • Standard seat free of charge.

  • One free additional baggage item on SkyTeam flights.

  • Priority check-in, baggage drop-off and boarding.

Flying Blue Gold

Flying Blue Gold elite status is acquired once you reach Silver status, then earn another 180 XP. Gold members receive the following benefits:

  • 7 miles per 1 euro spent.

  • 50% discount on seat selection.

  • Standard seat free of charge.

  • One free additional baggage item on SkyTeam flights.

  • SkyPriority benefits at the airport.

  • SkyTeam airport lounge access for you and a guest.

Flying Blue Platinum

Platinum elite status is the second highest tier for Flying Blue members and is earned after reaching Gold status, then earning an additional 300 XP. Along with the benefits you’ll get from lower tiers, Platinum members also receive: 

  • 8 miles per 1 euro spent.

  • Preferred seats free of charge.

  • One free additional baggage item on SkyTeam flights.

  • SkyPriority benefits at the airport.

  • SkyTeam airport lounge access for you and a guest.

  • Access to Platinum Service Line 24/7.

It’s also worth mentioning that one of the desirable benefits of holding Platinum elite status with Flying Blue is the ability to redeem miles for La Première awards — Air France’s first-class cabin. The redemption option isn’t available to Gold, Silver or Explorer members of the program.

Flying Blue Ultimate

Ultimate elite status is the highest tier for Flying Blue members. You can earn Ultimate Experience Points (UXP) on flights marketed by Air France and KLM only, whereas XP can be earned on all SkyTeam airline partners (or by holding select Flying Blue co-branded credit cards).

  • 9 miles per 1 euro spent.

  • Dedicated 24/7 travel assistant.

  • Complimentary access to Air France and KLM lounges for you and up to eight guests (conditions apply).

  • Extra check-in baggage allowance on Air France, KLM, and SkyTeam flights.

  • Expedited airport services for you and up to eight travel companions at qualifying airports.

  • Four one-cabin upgrade vouchers per membership year.

  • One partner Flying Blue Platinum card.

Air France-KLM change and cancellation policies

There are a few different policies you’ll want to be aware of when booking with Air France or KLM. This is true whether you’re paying cash or redeeming miles. 

If paying cash, the ability to change or cancel your ticket is based on the fare conditions of your booking. To find out what you’re eligible for, you’ll want to head to “My Bookings” on the airline’s website. From there, you’ll see if you can make changes or cancellations, and if so, if there’s a fee associated with it.

Award tickets can be changed or canceled up until the latest check-in time for the flight, though there may be fees involved. 

KLM and Air France partners

KLM and Air France partners include a variety of airlines. KLM and Air France’s alliance is SkyTeam, which includes the following partners:

Flying Blue also has a number of airline partners that aren’t associated with an airline alliance:

Flying Blue and Air France-KLM recapped

Flying Blue may be a foreign loyalty program, but U.S.-based travelers shouldn’t overlook it.

Its miles are easily accessible via multiple transferrable programs, which means that pooling rewards into a single account when you’re ready to redeem miles for an award isn’t difficult.

Although the program uses dynamic pricing for its redemption rates, it still makes low-level awards available to those with flexible schedules. On top of that, transfer bonuses from certain bank programs can drop redemption rates even lower.

If you’re looking to fly a SkyTeam partner on an award ticket, consider Flying Blue and its redemption options.

How to maximize your rewards