Air France introduces “new benefits” overnight

I’m writing about this because Air France’s execution of this is jaw-droppingly bad, and not because Flying Blue is actually a frequent flyer program I really care about.

Last night Air France introduced some changes to their Flying Blue program. Check out the headline:

Oh, yipee, new benefits. I love new benefits. What are the benefits, Air France? Free upgrades for elites? Allowing non-elite members to book first class awards? Nope, here are the new “benefits:”

For flights within Europe1, you will no longer pay a separate fuel surcharge2. This is now included in all award tickets.

Oh, it actually is great news. No fuel surcharges on intra-Europe award redemptions? I can totally live with that. Isn’t it sad how jaded I’ve become to think that any announcement of “new benefits” must be negative? I’m sorry Air France, I think I owe you an apology. Let’s keep reading…

Flying Blue is increasing the availability of award tickets within Europe. This means you will enjoy even more booking options when searching for destinations and flights.

Wohooo! More award availability? Keep the benefits coming, guys!

What other changes do you have in store that you think we’ll like (bolding mine)?

You can still book any Classic Award ticket in Economy starting at the same number of Miles as usual. The number of Miles required for other award tickets has been increased to better reflect the new flexibility and availability as well as the surcharge inclusion.

They introduce “new benefits” overnight, and they come in the form of “the number of miles required for other award tickets [being] increased to better reflect the new flexibility and availability as well as the surcharge inclusion.”

So let’s take a look at Air France on the London to Paris route. A roundtrip ticket in their intra-Europe business class will now cost you 60,000 miles plus $129.17 in taxes/fees:

It’s sad when you have to use British Airways as an example of how to do it, but for the same route they charge 18,000 miles plus $52:

Even though British Airways has a better business class product they’re charging less than a third of the number of miles and nearly a third of the taxes/fees.

Aside from the ridiculousness of introducing a devaluation like this overnight, there are two aspects of this that are pretty interesting to me:

  • What will this mean for partner award availability? In other words, Delta previously had access to the classic/saver intra-Europe business class award space released by Air France, so now that they’re charging their own members more, will they stop releasing that space to SkyTeam partners? After all, it wouldn’t be fair to eliminate saver space for their own members but not partner members, right?
  • I think this is the prime example of fuel surcharges coming full circle. Fuel surcharges are implemented (in theory) as a way to deal with temporarily higher fuel costs. In the meantime they make up half of a ticket cost. So what do the airlines do on reward tickets? They basically double the number of miles required permanently as a way to compensate for what should be a temporary surcharge, and pretend they’re doing you a favor.

Comments

  1. I’ll say it, they’re shit heads.

    Now I know what mileage program to avoid, though that may be their intention. Consider it a success.

  2. In the example you cite (along with just about any other intra-europe trip) you also have the far more desirable option (in my opinion) of taking a high-speed train for about $200 round trip. 60,000 miles + fees is insane. Absolutely insane.

  3. AirFrance/KLM redemptions have been a nightmare for sometime. In respect of Fuel Surcharges, the do make BA look cheap. You should remember that there are special (high) taxes for premium cabins from London and that BA charge the same taxes/fuel surcharges rate for the whole of the Europe area. I guess they aggregate them.

  4. Well, if Flying Blue was the saving grace for the SkyTeam on international, that just went out the window. I guess they wanted to lower the standard and be on par with Delta.

  5. Lucky, can you please say what the 60,000 mile ticket would’ve cost before this change? Not knowing the program, I have no point of reference as to how bad a devaluation this is. Did it used to be 50,000 miles? 20,000 miles?

    Thanks.

  6. It is the Sky Team genes. Perhaps DL has been sharing its management expertise with the partners. 🙂

  7. I have said for a while that it will get harder and more expensive to redeem miles. People who are stockpiling large amounts of miles for use in the future will be disappointed.

  8. It was 20000 miles for intra-Europe business…so 3x increase! However, given that it is just an economy seat with the middle seat left empty, was anyone really that interested in flying in business with miles?

  9. This is really going to hurt the value of DL miles to book business class awards to Europe. All those trips that people were expecting to book on Air France/KLM with a CDG or AMS stopover and then on to FCO or ATH (among others) might have to be thrown out the window now.

  10. First of all, this wasn’t a surprise. It was reported on Flyertalk back in April. Secondly it appears to be good news. Seriously who books intra-Euro C awards? That’s a waste of cash and miles. Y awards are better now, as predicted. The real concern is long haul. Hopefully FB will get an earful about C awards and improve them on long haul, rather than making it worse.

  11. @ stimpy — So you think something being “reported on FlyerTalk in April” is sufficient disclosure to all members for a frequent flyer program to make a substantial change?

  12. So does this mean there will also be less taxes for Delta members using miles on AF/KLM intra-Europe award flights?

  13. @lucky, not to everyone, but many serious frequent flyers who care about FFP’s are on Flyertalk. And again I don’t see this as a substantial change. I’ll bet the number of business class Euro redemption’s are extremely low in comparison to economy. And it’s a nice little improvement for Euro economy awards. But not a huge announcement in any case.

  14. Before: AMS-LYS 10,000 miles + €64.57

    After: AMS-LYS 10,000 miles + €30.12

    It’s a nice improvement and I’ll send a thank you to FB. But not something to get overly excited about.

  15. I’m not terribly concerned about the impact on partner redemptions. First, Y and J are basically equivalent intra-Europe on AF/KL, so if you can’t get O inventory, just take X. Second, it looks like they’re basing the new business mileage levels on distance or something like that and still coding the award space as O. The enhanced coach inventory for more miles, however, likely will not be released to partners.

  16. Even being platinium for life air france flying blue,i think they completely list it,travelling first with miles is a waste of miles,the only good use is the 50%promotion from time to time and being based in.london i find the diffetence in taxes for departing from LHR so huge i opt to buy my tiket LHR to CDG then the miles.
    I still remember in 2008 when london beirut was barely 40000 miles in first today its 100000.
    Air France is just rubbish,i wish BAcan match my status so i will swith alliance immediately.

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