Air France FlyingBlue Shutting Down Accounts For Searching Award Space?

Air France/KLM’s FlyingBlue program is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou Rewards, though they’ve been acting in an alarming way recently.

In some cases they’ve been canceling the award tickets of people that opened FlyingBlue accounts and transferred points for the purposes of booking award tickets, just because travel is for a different passenger or a different credit card than the account holder’s is used.

Frontier-Membership-Rewards-1

View from the Wing wrote about this a while ago, and shared the bizarre claim that someone in the FlyingBlue fraud department made:

The use of our frequent flyer accounts as boxes opened to transfer miles with our non air partners won’t be allowed anymore.

That’s right. The person is actually claiming that you can’t open a FlyingBlue account for the purposes of transferring points to the account solely to book an award ticket. That’s an unbelievable claim, since that’s exactly what makes transferable points currencies so valuable.

It looks like it’s going beyond that, though, as FlyingBlue is now shutting down frequent flyer accounts for members that are searching for award space without having miles or actually making bookings.

I’ve received several reports of this from readers, whereby they tried logging into their accounts and received this error message:

FlyingBlue

I actually have less of an issue with this, since I think a frequent flyer program is within their rights to restrict people from using their website to search award space if they don’t have an intention of booking. That being said, surely there’s a better way to restrict that, like requiring some mileage activity to search award space (as ANA does), rather than arbitrarily shutting down accounts.

What’s also interesting is that FlyingBlue is very clearly tracking IP addresses, as one reader reported having their account shut down, and then signing up with a different name, but then being shut down again a few days later. That suggests to me that they’re tracking IPs.

Bottom line

Hopefully there’s a resolution to FlyingBlue’s ridiculousness soon, but in the meantime I’d try to do the following when transferring points to FlyingBlue for the purposes of booking award tickets:

  • Avoid using a different credit card than the account holder when redeeming FlyingBlue miles
  • Avoid booking travel for people other than the FlyingBlue account holder
  • Avoid doing too many award searches from one IP/the same FlyingBlue account

Have you experienced any issues with your FlyingBlue account?

Comments

  1. Everything is broken everywhere. I’ll just ride along in my little C+ seat on my little Delta 763 and cry.

  2. how about avoiding the program entirely, since we are dame if we do or dont. just plain ridiculous

  3. Ben, if you’re suggesting not to book spouses, families, etc., when you say “Avoid booking travel for people other than the FlyingBlue account holder”, that would pretty much destroy the value of the entire program.

  4. Crappy program from a crappy airline in a crappy alliance. No big loss (except for those with large balances that are now frozen, of course).

  5. Now that Delta allows one way award booking, I’m not sure there’s too much use for Air France any more except for their discounted awards. Yes, there are some modest sweet spots in the award chart, but if they don’t want to sell their miles to American Express or citi any more, I’m happy to oblige.

  6. What can one expect from Air France? After one nasty experience with their staff, I would never fly them again.

  7. Yes, been having trouble since last year with this! Now it all makes sense. I’ll have to stop flying KLM because of the sheer ridiculousness of this. Oneworld I’m back!

  8. “Now that Delta allows one way award booking, I’m not sure there’s too much use for Air France any more except for their discounted awards.”

    Or fantastic award space on their own flights vs what is available to partners.

    “What can one expect from Air France? After one nasty experience with their staff, I would never fly them again.”

    Air France is a lot like the rest of France… fine if you speak French/a textbook display of condescension if you don’t.

  9. @ Christian — Ultimately these are general tips. I can’t imagine you’ll have much issue if you’re booking for family.

  10. Judging by how many French FF are deserting to OneWorld the AF shenanigans have not gone unnoticed. Me thinks is a case of monkey sees, monkey does. Delta determining miles needed for award travel on the instant of finalizing booking tops the cake for shadiness.

  11. @Larry – you miss the point. The most powerful benefit of booking via FlyingBlue vs Delta is that FB has meaningfully enhanced availability on many AF/KL routes, not visible to DL pax. We can debate who is blocking the AF availability from DL pax (AF or DL), but what is clear is the availability difference.

  12. @Nybanker

    probably it’s AF blocking the award seats this time, since Alaska can’t access them either.

  13. Justin: I can’t defend AF because they seem to have a lousy corporate culture (no American corporation does?) but to say Air France is a lot like the rest of France… fine if you speak French/a textbook display of condescension if you don’t is pretty inane. My experience as a non-French speaker (other than being able to read a French menu) is that you can have many delightful encounters with French people if you learn about their culture and what is considered appropriate behavior (e.g. when you enter a shop ALWAYS greet the proprietor before beginning to browse) and if you accept the fact that they may not speak English. However, I have noticed that Americans (or Russians or Germans, etc.) who are loud, boorish and expect the French to speak a language other than their own are fortunate to be treated with only condescension .

  14. That is odd – I was just able to book two tickets for myself and my spouse on Bangkok Airways using newly-transferred points from Amex and Citi. It took about 5 days to ticket but eventually we did get them.

    Possible differences:
    1) I did all my searching on EF
    2) My account is fairly old – maybe 5 years or more

    I have never flown on AF/KLM, but now I am concerned about transferring points there in the future for any purpose.

  15. @ Johnny — To clarify, I don’t think a majority of people will have issues, even if ticketing for other people/with other credit cards. My point is simply to be on “high alert” and a bit more careful than usual.

  16. I dislike AF with a passion. A few years back, I was flying to Paris in coach and was half asleep with my earbuds in, my iPhone (which was in airplane mode) was in my hand, resting on my lap. Suddenly, jerk flight attendant grabs my hand and turns it toward him so that he can see my phone before telling me my cell is supposed to be shut off. I start to try to tell him that it’s in airplane mode, but he cuts me off and snaps at me to shut it off. No one from customer service ever got back to me after I submitted a complaint. Haven’t flown them since. Love France, hate the airline.

  17. My account was shut by AF last week too.

    I have never earned a single AF Mile nor booked any awards thru them.

    I used them quite a lot for searching award space back when the Delta site was awful. It is still handy for searching some partners online that Delta currently cannot.

    In the end no skin off my back but sad to see it is getting worse.

  18. Just opened an account in December as I was contemplating to transfer some MR points for an award booking. Did plenty of searches with no account balance. Account is still open.

  19. I believe they are able to see the name of the Amex account holder, and, if it doesn’t match pax there is also an issue.

  20. Oh well I don’t think I’m in much danger, I have a Flying Blue account but I regularly credit to it.

  21. Just wondering – were the people signing up with a different name using a different browser? Perhaps it might be them inserting tracking cookies (ou des biscuit parce-que ils sont francais) rather than IP addresses?

  22. Account closed. Zero miles, but primarily used for searches…always hoping that I’d get that one good oppty to book thru FB (sourced from Amex MR).

    Each time I found something nice on AF that i wanted to book – Alaska turned out to be the better program to book the same tickets from.

    $crew AF…

  23. To be fair, I can understand they try to clean up their database if people never use it as FFP.
    What it’s less understandable, it’s they close it without any notice.
    They should at least put a written rule to justify it.

  24. Any updates on this? Is it safe to transfer points, and if so, any precautions besides having the Amex / FB account match names and using the FB accountholders CC?

  25. Well this stinks! I was contemplating obtaining ThankYou points to transfer to flyingblue for the purpose of 30k roundtrip coach from mainland US to Hawaii on AS or (less likely due to low level availability) DL. Heck of a deal from the east coast. Oh well. Looks like I’ll be better off paying 45k in a domestic carrier’s miles or get a cheap flight to the left coast and do 25k avios from there. Anyone have any thoughts on this?

  26. Anyone know if this is still a problem? I’m getting ready to transfer 50k miles to book a flight. Should I purchase some miles directly with FB to prime the account?

  27. hi, can anyone chime in on some updates ?
    is this still affecting accounts/award bookings ?

    thanks

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