If you are going to be based in Netherlands and plan to do a lot of international travelling with Air France-KLM then you may want to consider joining the "Flying Blue" frequent flyer program.
The following article is a brief overview of the program:
KLM is the Dutch national airline, now part of the Air France-KLM group. It is based at Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS) and has excellent connections to UK and Europe and a wide international network which includes North and South America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Some destinations may require a connection through Paris with Air France.
It is part of the ever growing SkyTeam alliance with fellow members Aeroflot, Aerolineas Argentinas, Aeromexico, Air Europa, Alitalia, China Airlines, China Eastern, China Southern, Czech Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Kenya Airways, Korean Air, MEA, Saudia, TAROM, Vietnam Airlines and Xiamen Air. Air France-KLM also partners Alaska Airlines and has signed a strategic codeshare agreement with Abu Dhabi-based carrier Etihad.
It's free to join the Flying Blue program and occasionally bonus miles are given on joining.
When flying on KLM-Air France and partners you will earn Award Miles corresponding to your flight distance - these can be saved up and redeemed for travel on KLM, Air France and other Skyteam partners. Note that the amount of miles earned for a flight depends on the fare class and price paid - some cheaper eonomy tickets can earn 0 or 25% miles; full fare and business class tickets will earn the most mileage. If most of your flying is done on cheaper economy tickets then you will probably find it difficult to save a decent amount of miles.
Don't forget that when booking "free" flights (Classic Awards) using miles you have to (1) find availability and (2) pay taxes and charges, which can be quite high. Recently, charges for economy reward flights have been reduced - making them better value, particularly on last-minute bookings. It is also possible to book premium economy, business and first class flights though taxes and charges are higher. Changes to booked Classic Awards flights are permitted for a €45 fee.
Examples of Classic Award round trip costs (in miles) are as follows: Amsterdam-London is 20,000 (economy) and 60,000 (business); Amsterdam-Los Angeles is 50,000 (economy) and 125,000 (business); Amsterdam-Tokyo is 80,000 (economy) and 200,000 (business); Amsterdam-Sydney is 100,000 (economy) and 250,000 (business). You would have to pay the taxes and fuel surcharges on top.
Flex Awards are round-trip reward flights on Air France-KLM offered for 2x-3x Classic Award miles and guarantee full availability. Upgrade Awards are offered where you can use your miles to upgrade into business class although you must have a full fare economy ticket.
Watch for occasional Promo Awards to selected destinations which offer 25-50% mileage discounts on reward flights.
When flying on KLM-Air France you will also earn Level Miles which set your level of membership in the program depending on how much flying you do in a calendar year. On joining you become an Ivory member. To reach the elite levels of Silver, Gold and Platinum you need to have 25,000, 40,000 and 70,000 Level Miles respectively or fly 15, 30 or 60 flights.
Ivory members get a 50% reduction for the first item of checked baggage for European short-haul flights - paying €7.50 instead of the standard €15. (Note that when KLM first started to charge for checked bags, Ivory members got the first bag free - this has changed as of October 2014).
Silver level benefits include priority check-in and boarding, an extra item of checked baggage, the option to pay for lounge access, premium economy seating discounts and 50% miles bonus.
Gold level members get priority check-in and boarding, an extra item of checked baggage, priority seating assignment, free lounge access and 75% mileage bonus.
Platinum members get priority check-in and boarding, an extra item of checked baggage, priority seating assignment, free lounge access and a 100% mileage bonus. On requalifying at the platinum level threshold, any excess miles are rolled over to the next qualifying year.
Lifetime Platinum status is granted after 10 consecutive years of Platinum membership.
To maximise mileage earnings one could consider applying for one of the Flying Blue American Express Cards which earns between 0.8 and 1.5 miles per €1 spent depending on your annual spending. The Silver credit card is free for the first year but costs €75 per year thereafter. Or consider the higher earning but more expensive Gold (€140) or Platinum (€570) cards. (For other cards for Dutch residents see Credit Cards in Netherlands)
Flying Blue is a partner for American Express Membership Rewards. This means such card holders can transfer their points into Flying Blue miles to book flights, particularly effective if promos awards are available.
Alternative frequent flyer options for Netherlands-based individuals
British Airways Executive Club which has an excellent global network via the Oneworld alliance although you would generally need to travel via London. BA members collect Avios points and a one-way Amsterdam-London flight earns 500 Avios at the lowest fare - though this will drop to 125 Avios from May 2015. Redemption rates start at only 4,000 Avios (plus a fee of £17.50/€21) for a one-way economy flight under 650 miles - this is very generous compared to Flying Blue. Other OneWorld carriers at Amsterdam are Iberia, Finnair, Cathay Pacific, Malaysia Airlines and Royal Jordanian.
Miles & More from the Lufthansa group (which also includes Austrian and Swiss) is part of the extensive Star Alliance. You would need to fly via one of the hubs such as Frankfurt, Munich or Vienna. Like Flying Blue, earning miles on the lowest fares is difficult and fuel surcharges can be high on redemptions. If you are after easier status in Star Alliance then consider Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles or Aegean Airlines Miles&Bonus.
Emirates Skywards is the frequent flyer program of Gulf heavyweight Emirates which flies daily from Amsterdam to its Dubai hub by Airbus A380. Emirates has a significant international route network including the Middle-East, Asia, Africa and Australia/NZ. Emirates is not part of a major alliance but partners include Qantas, Easyjet and Alaska.
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