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Those who book expensive airfares have much to look forward to with Flying Blue. Budget travelers, not so much.

Flying Blue, the loyalty program used by Air France, KLM and a handful of smaller carriers, will get a significant overhaul in 2018.

On April 1, the carriers plan to move to a revenue-based loyalty program where passengers earn award miles as a function of spend and must qualify for elite status with new distance-based “Experience Points.”

Additionally, in June, loyalty members will be able to book award flights dynamically with miles instead of with traditional pricing tiers.

The launch, centered around, comes on the heels of similar news that just surfaced from British Airways and its Executive Club program.

With the upcoming Flying Blue program, award miles earned will vary by the elite status that the individual holds: Ivory, the lowest tier, members earn four miles/euro spent; Silver earns six; Gold earns seven, and Platinum earns eight.

By comparison, U.S. carriers award between five and 11 miles per dollar spent, depending on the tier.

Instead of earning elite status tiers by distance like a traditional loyalty program, which is how primarily Alaska Airlines does it, Flying Blue will soon use a tiered points system to award status.

Economy flights will earn a base rate of points while higher classes will earn multiples more. A domestic economy ticket, for example, would earn two Experience Points in the new system while a first class passenger would earn 10 — or five times more. I

International flights, broken up in the tranches, would earn up to 12 points for economy passengers or 60 for first class.

Flying Blue’s Earning Chart after April 1, 2018

Silver, Gold and Platinum elite status will now be awarded at 100, 180 and 300 Experience Points, respectively, meaning at worst it would take 150 domestic round trip flights in economy to earn top tier status.

In some ways, that Experience Points model is an improvement over a program in which a minimum spend is additionally required to earn status. Earning top-tier status at American Airlines, by contrast, could require 100 short hop round-trip flights — assuming 1,000 miles for each journey — but also would would need $12,000 in spend. That’s an additional hurdle that many don’t want to navigate.

But it’s also clear who Flying Blue is trying to favor with this model: Premium passengers flying long haul are going to earn elite status much faster using the Experience Points scheme.

What also doesn’t bode well for budget travelers in the new program is the way in which Flying Blue plans to start pricing award tickets.

Flying Blue eventually plans to pin the cost of a trip to fixed volumes of miles, but the exchange rate from miles to dollars isn’t clear. And while that isn’t a carte blanche for gouging customers, it does make it harder to find great award bookings, like it often was in tiered-award category systems.

Flying Blue members have until April 1 to book and fly under the traditional system. At that time, all outstanding point balances will be converted to Experience Points. In June, award bookings will move to dynamic pricing.

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Tags: air france-klm, airline innovation, loyalty

Photo credit: Starting April 1, Air France-KLM passengers will earn award miles as a function of spend and must qualify for elite status with new distance-based "Experience Points." Air France-KLM

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