Flying Blue is a joint loyalty program of two European airlines: Air France (headquartered at Charles de Gaulle Airport in France) and KLM (headquartered in Amsterdam Airport Schiphol in the Netherlands).
In 2004, the two airlines merged and created a combined Air France-KLM Group. Both of the airlines are part of the SkyTeam alliance, which consists of 19 carriers.
Here’s what a strategic points collector needs to know and understand about Air France-KLM and its loyalty program, Flying Blue. We'll cover how earning and redeeming works, how to get the maximum value from your miles, plus other facets that make this rewards program worth a second glance.
» Learn more: Your guide to SkyTeam
About Air France-KLM
Here’s a quick overview of a few key features of Air France-KLM.
Fare types: Air France operates aircraft with economy, premium economy, business class and first, or La Première, class. KLM operates service in economy and either World Business Class (on international routes) or Europe Business Class (on international or domestic routes within Europe) cabins.
Main U.S. routes: Both Air France and KLM cover quite a bit of the world with their routes. In the U.S., Air France flies to Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas (seasonally), Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis (seasonally), New York City, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C. KLM operates service to Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami (seasonally), Minneapolis, New York City, San Francisco, Salt Lake City (seasonally) and Washington, D.C.
Points currency and loyalty program: The two airlines’ joint loyalty program is called Flying Blue and it’s free to join. As a member, you’ll earn Flying Blue miles redeemable for award flights.
How to earn Flying Blue miles
Earn by flying
You can earn Flying Blue miles by flying on the following airlines and crediting the flights to Flying Blue. Note that the list includes non-SkyTeam partners of Air France-KLM.
When you fly partner airlines, the miles earned are credited based on the percentage of distance flown, which is calculated based on the fare code of a flight you purchase and vary by which partner airline you are on. You can click through the individual partner pages on the Flying Blue website to get specifics.
When you fly Air France or KLM, the miles you earn are determined by how much you spend on each ticket — minus taxes — and your elite status with the airline. Keep in mind, Flying Blue works in euros. In terms of an exchange rate, 1 euro has typically been worth $1.10 to $1.25 over the past five years.
4 miles per euro ($1.10-$1.25)
6 miles per euro ($1.10-$1.25)
7 miles per euro ($1.10-$1.25)
8 miles per euro ($1.10-$1.25)
Flying Blue is an example of a revenue-based rewards program, at least on the earning side for Air France- and KLM-operated flights. The more money you spend, the more rewards you earn.
Earn by spending on credit cards
With the Air France KLM World Elite Mastercard®, Air France-KLM flyers will earn extra bonus miles and a statement credit after spending a set amount on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.
After this initial welcome bonus, you’ll continue earning 3 miles per dollar spent with Air France, KLM and other SkyTeam airlines, and 1.5 miles per dollar on all other purchases.
Each membership year you spend $50 on the airline credit card, you’ll earn 5,000 anniversary miles that are automatically added to your Flying Blue account.
Earn by transferring points between programs
Perhaps the easiest way to get your hands on Flying Blue miles is by transferring flexible currency from one of the bank rewards programs. Luckily, Air France-KLM partners with all of the major transferrable point programs.
You can transfer the following points to Flying Blue:
Of all the flexible point programs listed above, we recommend using American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards® or Citi ThankYou Points as they provide the highest conversion rates.
Nerd tip: Occasionally, AmEx and Citi add bonus miles to point conversions. During these promotional transfer periods, the bonus can be as high as 30% more miles in your Flying Blue account, which can make certain mileage bookings really attractive.
Other ways to earn
Hotels: Earn Flying Blue miles on hotel stays at brands like Marriott, Hilton and Hyatt, among others.
Car rentals: Earn Flying Blue miles on car rentals made with car rental companies such as Hertz, Avis and Budget.
Shopping: Collect more miles when you shop with Batavia Stad Amsterdam Fashion, the Bicester Village Shopping Collection and Voyageurs du Monde.
Buy miles: In a pinch, you can buy Flying Blue miles starting at around $66 for 2,000 miles. Purchasing as many as 75,000 miles will set you back upward of $2,500. The program sometimes runs bonuses on mileage purchases.
Nerd tip: Since miles are always at risk of being devalued, we don’t recommend making speculative points purchases without a redemption in mind.
How to redeem Flying Blue miles for maximum value
Book award seats early
Flying Blue uses a dynamic-style chart for its award flights. In other words, redemption rates start at a certain point and can increase based on when and where you fly.
Flying Blue sells a certain number of award seats at the lowest redemption level before it hikes the rates based on demand. To find out what that level is, enter a city pair into the Miles Price Estimator and watch what comes up on your preferred route.
For example, say you want to fly from Salt Lake City to Budapest, Hungary. According to the Miles Price Estimator, the lowest redemption level is set at 24,000 Flying Blue miles for a one-way ticket in economy and 53,000 miles for a one-way ticket in business class.
So if you’re flexible with your travel plans, look for dates when tickets are available at the low-level rates for mileage redemption.
Use Promo Rewards
One of the sweet spots of the Flying Blue program is its Promo Rewards. Every month, the airline releases discount routes for certain city pairs, and you can get up to 50% off standard award rates in economy, premium economy and business classes of service.
The promo page is updated the first day of the month, and you have the whole month to book a discounted flight for travel during a specific time period. Keep in mind that some trips sell out quickly — we don’t recommend waiting too long to snag one of these promotional fares if you see one you like.
Delta partner flights
Because Air France-KLM is an alliance partner of Delta Air Lines, use Flying Blue for the following mileage redemptions on Delta-operated flights.
U.S. to Hawaii: This redemption will set you back 35,000 miles on a round-trip ticket from the continental U.S. to the Aloha State.
U.S. to Mexico: Another great redemption that will cost you 29,000 on round-trip flights from the U.S. to Mexico.
» Learn more: Some favorite off-the-beaten-path award redemptions
Flying Blue’s elite status program
Think of reaching Flying Blue elite status like playing a game. The more experience points, or XP, you earn by flying Air France-KLM or their partners, the quicker you level up. The number of XP earned per flight depends on travel class and flight type.
Flying Blue flyers are divided into four elite levels: Explorer, Silver, Gold and Platinum. Everyone starts at the Explorer level when they join the loyalty program, then members can make their way up as they fly.
Once you reach a status level within 12 months of being a member, you get the benefits associated with it for 15 months (unless you qualify for a higher tier in that time — then the clock resets). On the flip side, if you fail to re-qualify for the same status tier within 12 months, you’ll drop to the previous tier.
What status holders get
Here are the perks associated with each elite status level. As mentioned previously, Flying Blue works in euros. We've listed a typical range in dollars for comparison.
It’s worth mentioning that one of the desirable benefits of holding either Gold or Platinum elite status with Flying Blue is the ability to redeem miles for La Première awards — Air France’s first-class cabin. The redemption option isn’t available to Silver elites or Explorer members of the program.
What makes Air France-KLM unique?
Passengers flying in KLM’s World Business Class cabin receive a unique gift: a miniature Delft Blue house filled with jenever, a juniper-flavored drink of the Netherlands. The airline designs a new Dutch house every year and has presented these souvenirs to KLM premium-cabin flyers since the 1950s.
To add a porcelain Delft house to your collection, simply book an intercontinental flight in World Business Class.
The bottom line
Flying Blue may be a foreign loyalty program, but U.S.-based travelers shouldn’t overlook it.
Its miles are easily accessible via multiple transferrable programs, which means that pooling rewards into a single account when you’re ready to redeem miles for an award isn't difficult.
Although the program uses dynamic pricing for its redemption rates, it still makes low-level awards available to those whose schedule is flexible. On top of that, transfer bonuses from certain bank programs can drop redemption rates even lower.
If you’re looking to fly a SkyTeam partner on an award ticket, consider Flying Blue and its redemption options.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:
Airline miles and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Premium travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card