Told to "go to airport" to book award ticket

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Old May 13, 15, 9:48 pm
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Told to "go to airport" to book award ticket

Yesterday I tried to book a trip using quite a few Flying Blue miles (almost 400,000) on Air France... it was a round trip for a family of five from IAD to TLV via CDG.

Long story short, everything went fine until the last step, when the website told me I had to call Air France to finalize the reservation.

Air France couldn't help me. They told me to call Flying Blue. When I did that, I reached someone who barely spoke English, but nevertheless managed to convey that I had to go to the airport with ID, birth certificates, etc., with both myself AND the passenger in order to actually ticket my reservation. This was physically impossible so I gave up.

I've seen a lot of people complaining on the Internet that this happened to them, and of course even when they got to the airport there was nobody there who knew how to help them.

To be honest I was doing a collection of things which collectively may make them suspicious, but I promise they're all totally legit:
  • it was a new Flying Blue account that I just opened
  • I transferred in the miles from American Express Membership Rewards
  • I was not flying myself; I was trying to redeem miles for a ticket for my brother's family so they could join me on vacation in Israel. They live in D.C.; I live in New York.

None of those things (as far as I know) are a violation of any rules.

Has anyone encountered this "go to the airport" nonsense? I'm working with American Express to try to get my miles back since nobody at Flying Blue would really tell me what was going on. Requiring customers to go to the airport to ticket an award reservation is a little bit much, don't you think?

Thanks!
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Old May 13, 15, 9:51 pm
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To AF, it probably looks like broker behavior when you transfer miles into a new account and then immediately attempt to book award tickets for people in another location who don't have any obvious relationship to you. They're trying to prevent fraud and the sale of miles.
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Old May 13, 15, 9:58 pm
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I thought it might be something like that. I'm not entirely sure why they're so worried about "brokers". They got paid by Amex for the miles (quite a bit in fact) and it's not like they would ever let me redeem for seats that they thought they could sell, so it's free money for them.

Am I permanently out of luck? I'm still hoping American Express comes through and helps me get these miles back, if Flying Blue is determined not to let me use them
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Old May 13, 15, 10:11 pm
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I found more information about this here:

http://viewfromthewing.boardingarea....king-an-award/

If I were American Express I'd be pretty pissed about this policy; makes it almost useless to transfer Membership Rewards to Flying Blue.
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Old May 13, 15, 10:22 pm
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Have you considered writing FB and explaining:
- the problem of getting to the airport to book the tickets
- your understanding that they try to prevent fraud by brokers
- your understanding why your behaviour may look like that of a broker
- proof that you are booking for your brother's family to allow them to join you on a family holiday
- with the request to allow you to book the flight or refund the miles?

Regarding your question of why they are against brokers, a hint: the number of award seats is not equal to the number of seats they think they will not sell, and FB miles are not fully "commodified". If this were the case, there would not be award tables, but instead each mile would have a clear monetary value for unlimited buying and a clear monetary redemption value that you could use towards the price of any seat available on a plane.
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Old May 14, 15, 8:18 am
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Airlines are cracking down on people engaging in sale or barter of miles. This is against the T&Cs of FB and other airlines.

There are been other posts on FB and other airlines regarding the exact (and formerly common) procedure that you describe:
- Open a FB account just for the purpose of issuing awards
- immediately transfer the exact number of miles for awrds from AMEX
- issue awards to unrelated pax.

This was a most common and obvious procedure that can be easily detected and leads FB to freeze your miles. Then FB makes you go through various hoops to establish that it is not a transaction linked to selling miles. The burden of the proof is not on FB as they can decide to withdraw the miles in your account at their discretion at any time.

Apparently, you just opened a profile on FT for the purpose of investigating what you can do. If you read other threads, you will see that it is not an uncommon problem (BA has been auditing many accounts too). My suggestion is that you simply accept that you were trying to sell miles and got caught. That is unless you can prove that the awards were issued in the names of family or close friends.
It might seem strange to you that the burden of the proof lies with you, but the T&Cs that you agreed to give FB a lot of leeway.

Article of T&Cs:
1.4.7 The sale, purchase, brokerage, resale, barter or exchange of Level and Award Miles, Award tickets or vouchers for any compensation is prohibited, except as otherwise provided by the Company in accordance with specific terms and conditions defined in FB Communication. Violators, including any passenger who uses a purchased or bartered Award, shall be liable for damages and litigation costs. Level Miles, Award Miles and Awards have no cash value and can never be redeemed for cash.
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Old May 14, 15, 10:18 am
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Originally Posted by brunos View Post
My suggestion is that you simply accept that you were trying to sell miles and got caught.
As I stated, I was not trying to sell miles; these were a gift for my brother's family so they could join me on a vacation.

Originally Posted by brunos View Post
That is unless you can prove that the awards were issued in the names of family or close friends.
It might seem strange to you that the burden of the proof lies with you, but the T&Cs that you agreed to give FB a lot of leeway.
I wasn't asked to prove that the awards were for friends, I was asked to go to the airport where I would be given the runaround.

How do I go about "proving to the airline" that these are for family or close friends?
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Old May 14, 15, 11:04 am
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Originally Posted by MSPeconomist View Post
who don't have any obvious relationship to you.
The OP said it was for his brother's family, so they should bear the same family name as him shouldn't they?
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Old May 14, 15, 3:15 pm
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Round and round and round it goes.

It is very common for new accounts and credit cards
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Old May 15, 15, 2:04 am
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Originally Posted by leafnyc View Post
I wasn't asked to prove that the awards were for friends, I was asked to go to the airport where I would be given the runaround.
I know it's a hassle; but I don't see why you would expect to be "given the runaround" at the airport.

Originally Posted by leafnyc View Post
How do I go about "proving to the airline" that these are for family or close friends?
By going to the airport ticket desk, talking face to face with a human, and explaining your story.
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Old May 15, 15, 7:04 am
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Originally Posted by carnarvon View Post
The OP said it was for his brother's family, so they should bear the same family name as him shouldn't they?
Not necessarily. OP could be a female who has taken the name of her husband. Or all of them could have a veyr common last name so that, when they live in different cities, there would be no presumption that they know one another or are from the same family.
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Old May 15, 15, 7:52 am
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"for my brother's family": so is your brother included? Then it shouldn't be too hard to prove, right?
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Old May 15, 15, 2:16 pm
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I'll try the airport route this weekend and report back if it works
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Old May 15, 15, 7:51 pm
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Doesnt your country have birth certificates with which you can prove that he is your brother? And then the kids' birth certificates would prove your brother's relationships with the kids and their mother.
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Old May 16, 15, 12:45 am
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Originally Posted by MSPeconomist View Post
Not necessarily. OP could be a female who has taken the name of her husband
True! I had assumed male.

Profile says he/she holds 6.000.000 miles and is unable to use them. This may explain current issue.
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