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Segments run without travel document / Flying Blue refusing to cooperate

Segments run without travel document / Flying Blue refusing to cooperate

Old Nov 17, 14, 8:19 am
  #1  
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Segments run without travel document / Flying Blue refusing to cooperate

So, here is the deal.

I decided to go FB Plat this year. I invested so much time and effort in this (transferring on Alitalia, connecting flights with Delta, etc.) but in the end I was sleeping rest assured: I had 60 segments booked until the end of the year. It wasn't that easy though: I'm by no means a business traveler and don't have that high income either, so I did all these annoying connections.

Then something happened. My passport got stolen in a car break-in and I don't have a possibility to travel the rest of my segments. New passport is going to take at least 3 months (no expedited services; the lack of service by consulate of my homeland is a different story).

I have 51 segments in my account now. I asked Flying Blue politely (and a bit desperate) if they can make an exception and give me the Platinum status given all the circumstances and the fact that I would get it anyway if my passport wouldn't be stolen. I would forfeit all travel booked with them and won't ask for refund / change of dates. They took 5 days to reply with the following:

We understand your situation, unfortunately, we regret to inform you that we cannot satisfy your request as you have not reached the necessary amount of Qualifying Miles or Qualifying Flights.

After investigation, we would invite you to refer to your local sales representative in Amsterdam who could study your situation and consider your request from his point of view. After consideration, he could eventually offer you the Platinum card.
They didn't give me any contacts of the "local sales representative in Amsterdam". When I asked to transfer my case to this representative or give me his contacts (and bunch of other questions), they replied almost immediately:

Upon investigation, further to our answer dated November the 15th 2014, we regret to confirm you that we are unable to satisfy your request.

We thank you for your continued loyalty to the Flying Blue programme.
(the last sentence is especially hilarious).

So here's the question for brainstorm: How can I make Plat this year? I need either to fly 9 segments to destinations where they won't check my documents at the gate (I flew like that often to Norway and to France; once I didn't actually have a passport because it was at a consulate with a visa application), or to convince FB somehow to take the case to consideration again.

My nationality is Russian. My home-base location is Amsterdam.

I already have a AMEX FB Plat which already supplied me with 8 segments this year.

Any ideas?

P.S. If I don't make it I'm seriously thinking of switching to Star Alliance. I was thinking about it before and I won't appreciate when a business which I spend the most of my money with, turns its back on me when I need their help the most.

Last edited by dimitriyremerov; Nov 17, 14 at 10:42 am
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Old Nov 17, 14, 8:51 am
  #2  
 
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Just a couple of points ...

(1) Will your consulate/embassy issue you an "Emergency Travel Document" (or the equivalent), as the passport reissue will take so long?

(2) Do you have a driver's licence, or some other form of "Government-Issued Photo-ID?" For flights within the Schengen zone, any such approved document will suffice for check-in and boarding flights.

(However, I know neither your nationality nor your home-base location, so the above points may not even be relevant!)

-- Henry
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Old Nov 17, 14, 10:40 am
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Originally Posted by Henry III View Post
Just a couple of points ...

(1) Will your consulate/embassy issue you an "Emergency Travel Document" (or the equivalent), as the passport reissue will take so long?

(2) Do you have a driver's licence, or some other form of "Government-Issued Photo-ID?" For flights within the Schengen zone, any such approved document will suffice for check-in and boarding flights.

(However, I know neither your nationality nor your home-base location, so the above points may not even be relevant!)

-- Henry
My nationality is Russian. My home-base location is Amsterdam.

1) No. They only issue an "Emergency Travel Document" which is only valid to return back to Russia. It is not valid to travel elsewhere. With this document I can enter Russia, but can't leave until I get a new passport: which is not going to be any faster there.
2) I do have a Dutch driving license. However, that's not a valid travel document in the EU / Schengen countries (I already checked that: the only valid travel documents are Passport or European ID card). I know for a fact that sometimes no one is checking any ID whatsoever at the AF/KL gates in AMS, OSL, CDG, MRS. I'm just not sure if it's always the case or they do do occasional checks. And could it be that in some airports I would always be checked?
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Old Nov 17, 14, 1:13 pm
  #4  
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I'm really sorry to hear about your stolen passport and the Russian authorities lack of co-operation in issuing you with a replacement document.

Unfortunately, there is absolutely nothing unusual about FB's response and I certainly cannot think of a single FFP with which you would have had the remotest chance of being given a status that would not correspond to the flights that you had actually flown in the qualification period. I think that you should switch to *A if you think that they would be better for you but certainly not if you think in any way that they would have been more sympathetic to a similar request there is 0% chance that they would have been.

As for passport checks, unfortunately, there is never a guarantee that you could fly anywhere at all without passport checks. Even though many Schengen countries do not have a policy to systematically impose checks at boarding for flights to other Schengen destinations, almost all could impose such checks on a temporary basis in case of, say, a terrorism alert, which is a permanent possibility in this day and age. In that sense, I am not entirely sure if it is worth the risk for a Platinum card which is not worth much more than Gold if it means that you cannot return to the Netherlands as planned. It is also worth noting that even with documents, finding 9 segments between now and 31 December which happens to correspond to a heavy travel period (at least from 15/12 onwards) is likely to prove very expensive.

In short, I think that if there is no way of getting an emergency travel document from the Russian consulate or in Russia itself, there is no realistic chance of a safe plan that would enable you to fly the 9 segments that you would need for Platinum qualification between now and the end of the year.

Incidentally, I am very surprised about their earlier reference to the commercial representative and really wonder what they had in mind!
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Old Nov 17, 14, 2:04 pm
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Originally Posted by orbitmic View Post
Unfortunately, there is absolutely nothing unusual about FB's response and I certainly cannot think of a single FFP with which you would have had the remotest chance of being given a status that would not correspond to the flights that you had actually flown in the qualification period. I think that you should switch to *A if you think that they would be better for you but certainly not if you think in any way that they would have been more sympathetic to a similar request there is 0% chance that they would have been.
Why would you say so? I understand that it's not up to the rules, but exceptions always can be made in extreme circumstances. Besides, the incentive that FFP has set to me was fulfilled: I actually converted that much so I spent all those money to become Platinum, it's just I can't actually take the flights due to a technical reason.
They do Status Match for instance: that's a case by case decision.

Once an airline gave me a much extreme exception by the way, when I was desperately trying to fly from the United States to the Netherlands without any travel documents whatsoever (all our stuff was stolen in Miami). I heard definite "no" for at lest 5 times from 3 different representatives, who were trying to call to all kind of different authorities to help us but got a "no" everywhere. In the end after 8 hours in 2 different airports and 3 different representatives they did allow us to fly to the Netherlands just with the copies of our passports and copies of our residence permits. For TSA check I used my Dutch driving license and my wife—her OV chipkaart with her maiden name on it. Our alternatives weren't that bright: either getting an emergency document and traveling to Russia and waiting 4 months for the new passport there or getting the new passport in the States (3 months).

I'm sure this kind of exception significantly overwhelms status match-like upgrade, don't you think?

As for the Platinum, I wasn't getting it actually for the status perks themselves, but more because of Platinum for Two and Soft Landing, which if you think is a big deal considering my wife only gets Silver by herself and we would be both at least Gold until 03/2017.
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Old Nov 17, 14, 2:52 pm
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Originally Posted by dimitriyremerov View Post
Why would you say so? I understand that it's not up to the rules, but exceptions always can be made in extreme circumstances. Besides, the incentive that FFP has set to me was fulfilled: I actually converted that much so I spent all those money to become Platinum, it's just I can't actually take the flights due to a technical reason.
They do Status Match for instance: that's a case by case decision.
My point is not a normative one (I'm not saying that they should or should not, could or could not) but an empirical one: FFPs simply do not give you credit for trips you cannot take.

FT is full of similar cases of people who have been prevented from flying for reasons that are beyond their control (including much worse circumstances than yours like severe illnesses and loss of a close family member) and try to get credit for those flights they have purchased and were genuinely intending to take, and invariably, this is refused by the FFPs. I can't think of a single exception that I have read on that (although note that other exceptions can be made, for instance if you were booked to fly A to B on AF and there is an IRROP and you are flown on BA or LH instead, AF will accept to give you the miles as per your original itinerary. However, if your flight is cancelled and you do not go they won't).

There are plenty of times when airlines may make exceptions to their rules, but those cases tend to be fairly well-known/understood. For example, in terms of the case that you mentioned, the reason why an airline will refuse to take you onboard without proper documentation is because they fear that the immigration authorities in the arrival country will deny entry and that the airline will be left with the deportation bill (and often an additional fine). However, if you speak with a senior and willing enough supervisor, they may check either with a representative of immigration authorities at the departure airport or at the arrival airport and get an informal green light in the sense of said authorities saying that they will not deny entry. There are plenty of other cases where we would tell you that you might (without any guarantee) get an exception - from missed departure to needing to cancel a flight because of the death of a relative and plenty more. In some cases, your chances may be 90% in others they maybe only 1%, but in effect, while I am not privy to why airlines and FFPs (which by the way are different and make decisions independently) will be more flexible in some contexts than in others, it is the case in purely empirical terms that people who are not able to travel do not get FFP credit for it.
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Old Nov 17, 14, 3:11 pm
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Originally Posted by dimitriyremerov View Post
Why would you say so? I understand that it's not up to the rules, but exceptions always can be made in extreme circumstances.
I have also full sympathy for your case but Orbitmic is absolutely right in his assessment. I don't know a single airline or FFP who would have said yes to your request. And you are saying that airlines can make exceptions in extreme circumstances. That's right but I fail to see what constitute extreme circumstances in your case. We are not talking about needing to reach urgently a destination due to a family pb or so but we are talking about mileage runs. You would just miss one or 2 segments, maybe an airline would accept exceptionally. But you miss 9 segments in your case.
Rather than blaming AF/KL/FB you should rather blame the Russian authorities because 3 months to deliver a passport, that's what is unacceptable in your unfortunate story.
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Old Nov 17, 14, 3:26 pm
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If you have a residence permit, do you have a Dutch national ID card? Some European countries allow them to be used for travel within Europe.

If you try to fly to a country where you don't think there would be a passport check, what could happen? I'd guess that worst case would be immigration detention and being sent back to Russia to wait for a new passport. Is it a crime to knowingly attempt to fly or enter the secure area of an airport without a passport or substitute documents?

Does KLM still fly to Maastricht? Any domestic flights to Rotterdam?
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Old Nov 17, 14, 4:10 pm
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Originally Posted by orbitmic View Post
I can't think of a single exception that I have read on that (although note that other exceptions can be made, for instance if you were booked to fly A to B on AF and there is an IRROP and you are flown on BA or LH instead, AF will accept to give you the miles as per your original itinerary. However, if your flight is cancelled and you do not go they won't).
OK. Got it. FFP just don't do that and there is no reasonable explanation for it: obviously they are losing some of the former loyal customers this way: as they are most likely going to lose me. I don't care whether *A would refuse me or not: until they didn't I'm not mad at them.

On a quoted note and my previous US-NL case: they rebooked me from a transfer flight via Detroit to a direct flight, because giving an airport clearance in a port of departure is much easier than communicating to another airport. Do you think they could give me at least this one segment? Just out of curiosity, onr segment won't change my life here.
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Old Nov 17, 14, 4:44 pm
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Originally Posted by dimitriyremerov View Post
On a quoted note and my previous US-NL case: they rebooked me from a transfer flight via Detroit to a direct flight, because giving an airport clearance in a port of departure is much easier than communicating to another airport. Do you think they could give me at least this one segment? Just out of curiosity, onr segment won't change my life here.
Probably not (because the rerouting was not due to an IRROPS but to an effort by the airline to help you reach your final destination despite a problem with your id papers) but you can always ask I guess.

On switching to *A, why not indeed. There is an element of randomness in the experiences that we have with various airlines, and sometimes, if we are unlucky with one, it is enough to make us feel like trying another. The fact that we "rationally" know that other airlines could also have [delays/cancellations/downgrades, etc] does not preclude the very human instinct of hoping that a switch will lead to better experiences. Sadly, in my case, as I take over 200 flights/year with all three major alliances, there is a certain limit to how much I can hope from the "next door airline" but I certainly don't blame others for hoping/trying.
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Old Nov 18, 14, 1:23 am
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Originally Posted by MSPeconomist View Post
Does KLM still fly to Maastricht? Any domestic flights to Rotterdam?
All history, unfortunately.
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Old Nov 18, 14, 5:28 am
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Originally Posted by dimitriyremerov View Post
2) I do have a Dutch driving license. However, that's not a valid travel document in the EU / Schengen countries (I already checked that: the only valid travel documents are Passport or European ID card). I know for a fact that sometimes no one is checking any ID whatsoever at the AF/KL gates in AMS, OSL, CDG, MRS. I'm just not sure if it's always the case or they do do occasional checks. And could it be that in some airports I would always be checked?
I do have positive experiences with flying on drivers license only. I contacted them on FB befpre the flights and they confirmed me that KL is accepting dutch drivers licenses, though on KL operated flights only (within Schengen, obviously)
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Old Nov 18, 14, 4:37 pm
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What about taking train to Brussel that you buy from KL?
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Old Nov 19, 14, 3:36 am
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Originally Posted by ajs123 View Post
What about taking train to Brussel that you buy from KL?
I thought about it but you can't do it just with the train, you need to buy ticket connecting from Schiphol to somewhere.
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Old Nov 19, 14, 4:28 am
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If you don't have any luggage for French domestic trip they don't ask anymore any ID. But if you want to go this way you have to be careful with the fare you get as some mini fare don't provide any segments
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