Air France/KLM Flying Blue offers a loyalty program with pluses and minus, which I’ve discussed extensively in several posts. True to form, Flying Blue is rolling out changes to its flight award redemptions that will make some customers swoon and others cringe. Mileage requirement in premium cabins? Up. Fuel surcharges in all cabins? Down. Sometimes.
First the good news. For the first time, it may make sense to redeem points for economy class travel on Air France and KLM. Currently, taxes and fuel surcharge easily surpass $400 and climb as high $600 on a round-trip ticket, negating the value of a 50,000 mile redemption when the same ticket can be had for ~$800-900.
This will change in June when the new fee structure comes into effect–the fuel surcharge will be slashed and apparently be standardized at €100 round-trip, a decent value. Even with connections, the rate will stay the same, allowing North Americans to go to all the way to Israel and back on Air France or KLM for only 50,000 miles in economy and under €180 once government taxes and fees are added to the €100 fuel surcharge (to be clear: in the table below the “carrier surcharge” is only fuel, not all taxes/fees).
But this is all speculation. What about Delta? Flying Blue currently does not collect fuel surcharges on Delta flights but this might change as Flying Blue standardizes its fuel surcharge based on route and region rather than a specific itinerary. Flying Blue states the changes apply only to Air France and KLM flights, but I have my doubts. All we have now is the example above, so we will have to wait and see.
Business class tickets to Europe currently run 100,000 miles round-trip and will go up to 125,000 miles round-trip or 62,500 miles each way in June. A 25% increase is significant and once again demonstrates that miles and points are a depreciating asset. I never keep more than 1,000,000 miles on hand–its nice to have a “nest egg” of points, but I still embrace an earn and burn approach.
Fuel surcharges supposedly will fall for itineraries with European connecting flights, with a fixed rate of €360 round-trip charged. The devil is in the details, but €360 ($471) on a New York-Amsterdam-Rome return trip is a heckuva lot better than the €657 ($858) currently charged. I’d rather save the extra 25,000 miles than pocket the $371 in savings, but the cost proposition is not exactly terrible at $0.015 per mile (though I’d like to think I do much better for my clients and my own bookings).
Generously (and fairly), after the changes take effect in June you can still book under the old scheme over the phone through the end of 2013.
Uncertainty remains about what these changes will look like, but I’ll keep you updated on what transpires and how you can best take advantage of the new program.
(tip of the hat to Gary)