Flying Blue is the frequent flyer program of KLM and partner Air France and may be a good option for regular travellers based in the Netherlands.
The following article is an overview of the Flying Blue 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.
Air France-KLM and Skyteam partners
It is part of the ever growing SkyTeam alliance with the following members:
Aeroflot, Aerolineas Argentinas, Aeromexico, Air Europa, Air France, Alitalia, China Airlines, China Eastern, Czech Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Garuda Indonesia, Kenya Airways, KLM, Korean Air, MEA, Saudia, TAROM, Vietnam Airlines and Xiamen Air.
KLM also partners Aer Lingus, Air Astana, Air Baltic, Air Malta, Air Serbia, Alaska Airlines, Bangkok Airways, Bulgaria Air, CityJet, Copa Airlines, Croatia Airlines, Etihad, Georgian Airways, GOL, Hop!, Jet Airways, Joon, Malaysia Airlines, Pegasus Airlines, Sichuan Airlines, Transavia, Ukraine International Airlines and Westjet.
It’s free to join the Flying Blue program and occasionally bonus miles are given on joining.
Earning Flying Blue Miles
In 2018 Flying Blue changed to a revenue based program. This means you will earn Miles corresponding to the amount you spend on Air France-KLM, Hop! and Joon. The number of miles earned depends upon your status level (see below) in the program.
Explorers earn 4 miles for each euro spent
Silver members earn 6 miles for each euro spent
Gold members earn 7 miles for each euro spent
Platinum members earn 8 miles for each euro spent
Note, that only base fares and carrier charges earn miles, taxes do not.
For flying on other Skyteam partners, the amount of miles earned still depends on distance flown and the booking class of the ticket.
Redeeming Miles for Flights
To book flights using miles on Air France, KLM, Transavia, Hop! or Joon you now need to check the Flying Blue reward price calculator. The number of miles required for an award flight is variable and linked to the actual cost of the ticket. There is no longer a published Flying Blue award chart.
Examples of new one-way award flight costs (in miles) are as follows:
Amsterdam-London is 6,000 (economy) and 27,000 (business); Amsterdam-New York is 22,000 (economy) and 57,500 (business); Amsterdam-Los Angeles is 27,000 (economy) and 67,500 (business); Amsterdam-Tokyo is 36,000 (economy) and 90,000 (business); Amsterdam-Cape Town is 32,000 (economy) and 67,500 (business). You would have to pay the taxes and surcharges on top.
For those without enough miles there is a Miles & Cash option where you can pay up to 25% of the miles using cash.
Changes to booked Flying Blue award flights are permitted for a €45 fee.
Watch for occasional Promo Awards to selected destinations which offer up to 50% mileage discounts on reward flights.
Flying Blue Status (XP)
Flying Blue also has status levels (as mentioned) which are based on XP (Experience Points) gained. You will earn XP each time you fly on Air France-KLM or Skyteam partners. The number of XP depends on cabin and distance flown. This is the XP earning chart published by Flying Blue:
You can see that premium economy earns 2x more XP than an economy flight; business class earns 3x XP and first class earns 5x XP.
An Amsterdam-London flight would earn 5 XP in economy and 15 XP in business. An Amsterdam-New York flight earns 10 XP in economy and 30 XP in business.
When you join Flying Blue you start at Explorer level.
To reach Flying Blue Silver level you require 100 XP within 12 months. On reaching Silver your XP total is reset and you have 12 months to either maintain the level (100 XP) or reach Flying Blue Gold (180 XP) – otherwise you will be downgraded back to Explorer.
On reaching Gold your XP total is reset by 180 and you have 12 months to maintain status (180 XP) or reach Flying Blue Platinum (300 XP) – otherwise you will be downgraded back to Silver.
Status lasts 15 months and offers the following benefits.
Explorer (non-elite) members only get a €10 discount on additional baggage and 10% off extra legroom seats.
Silver level benefits include priority check-in and boarding, an extra item of checked baggage, free standard seat assignment and 25% off extra legroom seats.
Gold level members get priority check-in and boarding, an extra item of checked baggage, free lounge access, free standard seat assignment (including travel companion) and 50% off extra legroom seats.
Platinum members get priority check-in and boarding, an extra item of checked baggage, free lounge access and free preferred seating assignment.
Lifetime Platinum status is granted after 10 consecutive years of Platinum membership.
Flying Blue Credit Cards
To maximise mileage earnings Dutch residents could consider applying for one of the Flying Blue American Express Cards which earn between 0.5 and 2 miles per €1 spent.
There are 4 possible cards: Entry Card (€35 per year), Silver Card (€75, free first year), Gold Card (€170, half-price first year) or Platinum Card (€600, half-price first year). For other cards see Credit Cards in the Netherlands
Flying Blue is a partner for American Express Membership Rewards. This means Membership Rewards card holders in the Netherlands and elsewhere 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 – BA 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 from 125 Avios at the lowest economy fare.
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 more generous compared to Flying Blue.
Other Oneworld carriers at Amsterdam are American Airlines, 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 is the frequent flyer program of Gulf heavyweight Emirates which flies twice 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 Airlines.