Update: My contact at Air France has informed me that first class award tickets were supposed to have been limited to elite accounts since June of 2007, so any award bookings in first class since then weren’t supposed to happen. However, Air France has honored the ticket in question as issued.
In December I redeemed 125,000 Air France Flying Blue miles to fly Air France A380 first class from Los Angeles to Paris. I had an awesome flight, and especially loved the Air France first class lounge Paris.
The booking experience was quite a rigamarole, as there seems to be some confusion at the Flying Blue call center over whether non-elite members can redeem miles for Air France first class or not.
Air France already only makes first class award bookings available at the “flex” level, so nowadays a transatlantic first class award will cost you 162,500 miles one-way.
While in the past Flying Blue had a policy of only allowing elite members to redeem miles for first class, my understanding was that when they changed their award chart mid-last year, non-elite Flying Blue members could also make bookings in first class. Many phone agents agreed with me even after checking with supervisors.
Anyway, through my award booking service we’ve booked quite a few passengers in Air France first class, including one a couple of weeks ago. So I was shocked when they forwarded me this email they received from Flying Blue, downgrading them to business class:
We are hereby to inform you that unfortunately your booking of ______:
– Loz Angeles / Paris: Flight AF ___ on __________ has been cancelled due to the terms and conditions of the Flying Blue programme.
Please accept our sincere apology for the inconvenience caused. We also have refunded your Miles and voided the charge to your credit card.
We also have credited 1 500 Miles to your account and prepared a new booking of ______ on Business Class with 62 500 Miles and USD 266.10 for the airport tax charge excluding the USD 22 booking fee, as a gesture of our goodwill to our members.
Should you need more assistance to confirm your ticket, your Flying Blue team remains at your disposal either by telephone (+1) 800 375 8723 from United States or via the www.airfrance.com and www.klm.com websites.
We thank you for your continued loyalty to the Flying Blue programme.
So apparently the policy is in fact that only elite members can redeem miles for first class, even though it doesn’t seem to be clearly published anywhere. If that’s the case it would be fine for Flying Blue to send the member an email saying they’ll honor this ticket as a one-time exception, but that for future reference non-elite members can’t redeem miles for first class.
However, it’s a clear violation of Department of Transportation regulations (section 399.88) to downgrade/change a booking after ticketing without the consent of the passenger. As usual, though, it doesn’t really matter what government regulations say when the airlines don’t adhere to the rules. You can always file a claim, but that’s not especially useful when the ticket is for travel in a week…
I’ve reached out to a contact at Air France in hopes that he’ll be able to help, though figured I’d post this warning anyway, for anyone that might have been considering a redemption in Air France first class.
Has anyone else booked an Air France first class award as a non-elite and received a similar notice?