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Flying Dutchman downgrades to Flying Blue

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Air France completed a merger, and what this meant was the combining of the KLM Flying Dutchman loyalty program with Air France Frequence Plus, called Flying Blue. From the marketing material, the program is "the most enriching frequent flyer programme possible". In reality, opportunities to both earn and spend miles have been virtually eliminated by the fine print. Flying Blue is a Flying Turkey.

When you fly a lot, the novelty of being on a big plane in a little seat with lots of people around you wears off pretty quickly. When you fly for over 24 hours from JNB to LAX, only to be searched for two hours because you look like a cocaine addict on detox, the novelty is officially over. Airline loyalty programs step in smartly: "Buy exclusively from our airline, and we will reward you with flight upgrades, a relaxing lounge to wait in at the airport, showers, and our staff will treat you like a human being". Sure, where do I sign.

Airlines reward frequent fliers using "tier" levels. The more you fly, the higher your tier, the more benefits you earn, the more comfortable your flying experience. KLM was a master at this, reserving benefits like shower access exclusively for frequent fliers. Their program was simple. If you flew the miles, you earned the miles, exceptions were only kept for youth fares and group fares. And you could swap the miles for upgrades or free flights, no problem, no fuss.

Not any more.

The new Flying Blue program has two key flaws. Earning miles is now restricted to a mere 25% on all but the most expensive of ticket classes, but no warning of this is given when you book the ticket, not even when you book via the Air France ticket website, nor are you given any choice in the online booking tool to pay a higher fare to earn the miles. It is also now no longer possible to book upgrade awards on any but the most expensive economy class tickets. So it's now harder to earn miles, and having earned them, harder to spend them.

So what does it mean to a former Flying Dutchman member? It's means you'll lose the tier level you have, and you'll find it impossible to use your miles to improve your travel experience. Which makes flying a pain in the backside.

According to a representative of Flying Blue who used to work for Frequence Plus, the airlines are "cost concious". In response, this former Flying Dutchman Platinum Elite member is "service concious". If you want me to fly exclusively with your airline, to choose potentially longer routes or pay potentially more expensive fares than the competition, then make it worth my while through meaningful and accessible service rewards. If you don't, then I go shopping elsewhere, which means the loyalty program has failed.

It's tragic to see a company like KLM whose strategy has been to "treat the customer right", fall for the cheap trick of making golden promises only to renege on them in the fine print.

Anyone know another airline with a meaningful loyalty program?


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