Flying Blue, the loyalty program of Air France/KLM, has become the latest Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner. This is good news, not only because Flying Blue offers award chart sweet spots and attractive and unique partner redemption options, but because booking an aspirational trip now becomes easier since Starwood, Chase, CITI, and AMEX points now all transfer to Flying Blue. But if you are not familiar to the Flying Blue program, be warned — there are some definite pitfalls to using Flying Blue.
First, the company still lives in the stone age in terms of technology and ease of booking. Due to so-called “fraud prevention” concerns, most tickets originating in Africa require in-person airport booking or faxing in copious amount of information including birth certificates and sworn statements verifying the miles are your own. Totally unreasonable based upon standard industry practice. Even worse, Flying Blue can be even more irrational and capricious, shutting down newly opened accounts just for transferring in miles from American Express.
Last, the North American call center is hopelessly bad. Based in Monterrey, Mexico, some agents have been with Flying Blue for years now and still cannot do simple searches for award space. Agents are also not always able to see what is available and bookable online (which is problematic because some space you see online is not really available). Oh yes, and no mixed cabin awards. Even Avianca Lifemiles addressed that…
Do yourself a favor if you book with Flying Blue and follow these steps to mitigate your chance of stress. Always make sure the account holder uses his or her own credit card to pay for the redemption — that seems to send up an automatic red flag. Even though AMEX/Chase/CITI make it virtually impossible to do otherwise, make sure the Flying Blue account name matches up with the account name where the transferred points originate. Finally, award holds are possible for up to 48 hours, with or without miles in your account. Always put space on hold before transferring over any points. Transfers from AMEX and Chase are generally instant.
With partners like Air Mauritius, Aircalin, Air Corsica, Bangkok Airways, Malaysia Airlines, and Ukraine International Airlines you have some interesting redemption options with Flying Blue and award travel to Europe can be lucrative, particularly with Promo Awards. Just be patient when making bookings and follow the steps I have outlined to prevent any potential problems after booking.