Within the past few months, there has been a real issue with Air France not letting certain members redeem Flying Blue miles for award flights – View from the Wing discussed it and there are threads on Flyertalk about it. The issue is that an automated process will flag certain accounts requiring them to visit a local Air France agent to manually issue the ticket which of course is a HUGE problem if you don’t live near an airport served by Air France (and even if you do, that’s still a ton of hassle). I’ve had some good and bad luck with clients on award bookings made using Flying Blue miles and in my albeit limited sample size, I think I can propose one way to help minimize the risk of a problem. It seems that brand new Flying Blue accounts have a greater likelihood of getting flagged by Air France’s automated process so I am recommending that you open a Flying Blue account now even if you don’t have an immediate need for it.
For the vast majority of us in the United States, they only way to have a sizable Flying Blue balance is via American Express Membership Rewards or Citibank Thank You points transfers so with that I imagine that most people do not have a Flying Blue account at the moment. As such, when the times comes to book a Flying Blue award, one would create a Flying Blue account and then transfer over the points in hopes of booking the award. That’s where Air France’s automated process has stepped in and stopped any tickets from being issued and instead, asking members to go to their local Air France airport to have an agent book the ticket.
I’ve had clients try to book tickets on Delta using Flying Blue miles and after creating a new Flying Blue account & transferring point over, they got an error online. When calling Air France, they got the dreaded “go to an airport” line which quite blatantly sucks. I’ve been refraining from trying to use Air France as an option for clients (and myself as well for that matter) especially if my client did not have a Flying Blue account already open.
Recently though, I’ve had a few success stories in which some clients and friends with existing Flying Blue accounts have been able to transfer points from American Express and were able to book their tickets online with no issue. As mentioned before this is a small sample size but it is encouraging. It appears to me the safer way of having an award ticket issued by Air France is to avoid using brand new accounts.
With that, I want to be very clear about this however as there is no 100% foolproof method for this:
1) Your account may still get flagged even if it is not brand new
2) On the flip side, others have reported success booking awards from new accounts
While I don’t have any perfect method on how to avoid this situation, I believe there is less risk if you create an account now and do not make an immediate transfer from American Express or Citibank to that account. I would still create the account even if there is a solid chance you might never use the account. It takes less than 5 minutes, you can store the frequent flyer numbers in Award Wallet and you will be ready to go the next time you need to book a SkyTeam award flight. I don’t see any downside to opening an account now so I’d rather spend a few minutes of effort now instead of hours later if my account has an issue.