Over the past several years we’ve seen the “big three” US frequent flyer programs go revenue based, where they award redeemable miles based on how much your ticket costs rather than how many miles you fly. This started with Delta SkyMiles, United MileagePlus quickly followed, and then eventually American AAdvantage did as well.
In Europe we haven’t yet seen any of the major network carriers introduce revenue based programs. However, it’s probably less necessary over there than here. That’s because prior to revenue based programs in the US, airlines typically awarded a minimum of 100% miles based on distance flown, even on the cheapest economy fares. In many cases this was perhaps overly generous, especially when we’re talking about $500 transpacific fares.
Meanwhile in Europe, Air France, British Airways, Lufthansa, etc., award 25% miles for discounted economy tickets. In other words, they have less of an issue with overrewarding those who are booking cheap fares. US airlines knew that they’d get a lot of pushback if they started only awarding a fraction of the number of miles flown, so at that point they figured they might as well go fully revenue based.
While nothing has officially been announced yet, FlyerTalk member Azureas notes something interesting s/he saw while using the FlyingBlue online mileage calculator. For those of you not familiar, FlyingBlue is the frequent flyer program of Air France, KLM, etc.
When looking at Air France flights as of May 1, 2018, the online mileage calculator indicated that miles would be awarded based on dollars spent rather than distance flown. The results page said “your flight is in 2018, discover FlyingBlue new programme rules.”
It listed the following mileage earning for tickets, based on status:
- Ivory: 4 miles per EUR spent
- Silver: 6 miles per EUR spent
- Gold: 7 miles per EUR spent
- Platinum: 8 miles per EUR spent
As you can see, the mileage earning here is significantly less generous than US programs, especially when you account for the fact that government taxes & fees make up a larger portion of most tickets in Europe than the US. Base members earn 4 miles per EUR, while in the US programs offer 5 miles per USD, which is significantly more generous when you factor in the exchange rate. On the high end, top tier elites earn 8 miles per EUR, while US programs offer 11 miles per USD.
It would appear that this information was accidentally leaked, because the mileage calculator was quickly fixed, and now once again shows miles being awarded based on distance flown rather than dollars spent. Clearly this didn’t just appear out of thin air, so there are two possible explanations for this:
- This is a concept that FlyingBlue was considering, but won’t actually implement soon; this seems unlikely, but is a possibility
- This is a concept that FlyingBlue is implementing, and someone accidentally hit “publish” too early; this seems like the most likely explanation
If this does actually happen, I’m not surprised to see FlyingBlue be the first airline to implement this. They work very closely with Delta, and Delta was the first global US airline to introduce a revenue based program.
For now we’ll have to mark this as “developing,” though I expect this to be true. It would be a shame to see European airlines follow the lead of US airlines, though it wouldn’t be quite as big of a blow to those programs as in the US. That’s because US programs used to offer 100% miles on discounted economy fares, while European carriers generally offer 25% miles for those types of fares.
If Air France-KLM implements this, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the other two European mega-airlines follow their lead.
What do you make of the concept of FlyingBlue introducing revenue based mileage earning?