Old Jan 11, 09, 5:13 am
Senior Mod and Moderator: Aegean Miles&Bonus and British Airways
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Norwich, UK
Programs: A3*G, BA Gold, BD Gold (in memoriam), IHG Spire
Posts: 5,970
Apologies for the long post - I'm hoping fellow FT'ers will help me get this off my chest

Both my wife and I are long(ish) term Gold members, but now have no chance whatsoever of getting back there once this year's expires.

After a day of containing my annoyance, I sent this off to the KLM customer care people this morning:

"It is with considerable disgust, anger and disillusionment that we read of the changes to the Flying Blue programme from 1st April, most particularly in respect of the drastically reduced earnings on most economy fares.

Leaving aside the legalities of Flying Blue technically being a separate legal entity, the reality is that its finances are entirely dictated by the AF/KLM group and the Skyteam alliance. Actions taken by FB must therefore come with the knowledge and approval of the AF/KLM group.

In our view, in making these decisions the group has considerably damaged its relationship with its most loyal customers, those who have continued to support it through many years in spite of much cheaper fares being available elsewhere. Whilst taking some of that cost hit is down to convenience - the ability to use a local airport, in our case Norwich, instead of Heathrow or Gatwick - a more major factor is making what has become an increasingly difficult travel experience more bearable. The ability to use airport lounges (particularly on long layovers between flights), priority check-in counters and easy access to lounge personnel in the event of a problem all form part of that, but clearly it is necessary to maintain Gold for most this to continue.

In the days leading up to the announcement, we had been looking at our leisure flights for the year - we had planned flights to [multiple locations]. It is very likely that we would have taken some flights with relatives in order that they could also have the benefit of lounge access as our guests. On our flights, these would all have been in either T or Q class minimum, which would have returned both of us to Gold again. With the exception of the codeshare with xxx and internal North American flights, all of that would have been on KLM metal, and totalled about €6,000.

Now, of course, those same flights return a mere 50% of the miles (assuming NWA fare classes continue to match KLM's) which might not even take us to Silver status beyond the 2010 soft landing from Gold. This is such a downturn that it beggars belief, and we conclude that it will be virtually impossible for us to return to Gold in the future.

Moving on to accumulation of award miles, you claim: "With these Elite bonus, Flying Blue remains very competitive compared to other Majors (sic) airlines’ frequent flyer programmes."

However, the fact remains that these bonus miles are only attractive if a member can actually reach status in the first place, and they are further diminished by the cut in percentage for lower economy fares. So, for instance, a flight in T from Norwich, via Amsterdam, to Hong Kong would previously have produced a total of 22,795 miles (13,026 level plus 75% bonus). In future, the same fare paid will only return 11,397 in Gold. A frequent flyer programme giving no bonus but 100% on base fare would be more generous!

Having taken all this into account, aside from the potential to take a strategic flight to extend the validity of our miles, we have decided that we will transfer all our future business to an airline that actual values it by positioning its frequent flyer programme to truly reward loyalty - unless someone within the group can convince us otherwise, pretty much a herculean task. Before we do so, we will naturally want to burn-off as many of our 600k accumulated miles as quickly as possible, so that will mean we will convert the flights we would previously have paid for into Business Class flights to the same destinations. Aside from the tax and charges, KLM will therefore collect little or no revenue from us in this financial year or subsequently, and have to give us flights with a re-sale value of about €15,000.

In taking this action, we very much doubt that we will be alone, so the group's future revenue is likely to be irreparably damaged. At a time when the travel industry is trying to pull every last cent in, this hardly seems a sensible business plan.

I also note that your website continues to advertise what will be lower earning fare classes as 100%-eligible for flights after 1st April. I wonder what the legal consequence of this might be if a member relied on it when making a booking? In the same vein, is it really reasonable to impose such a dramatic change on elite and elite plus members with just 11 weeks' notice? For what now seems like the relatively small benefit reduction to a 20-month limit after last flight for Ivory members to redeem miles, you managed to give more notice! It strikes me that the manner in which the group has approached this has been ill-thought out and ill-executed, and these examples pretty much sum it up.

I finish with two thoughts: "As a frequent flyer programme, Flying Blue is committed to rewarding its active customers" and, to quote the spirit of the content of Herbert Verschuren's interview, "Flying Blue rewards our most loyal customers". On this basis, someone at the group obviously has a very strange sense of humour, but certainly not a modicum of business sense if long-term customers' revenue can be so easily lost; perhaps you could explain the joke, because it's completely lost on us. At the same time, perhaps you might like to give us some reasons why on earth we should continue to remain loyal to an airline that quite clearly does not want to keep its side of the bargain."

I'll post any reply KLM send me, but I'm not holding my breath. If anyone else fancies stealing any of my vitriol by cutting and pasting, feel free
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