Air France KLM: Trying To Make Our Program Better So Americans Transfer Their Bank Points

Ben Lipsey, head of Air France KLM Flying Blue who got his start in the airline industry by messaging Air Canada’s President on FlyerTalk to score an internship when he was 20 years old and eventually moved over with Ben Smith when he became CEO of Air France KLM, gave an interview where he talked about the importance of the program’s value proposition for Americans.

Already Flying Blue is the best loyalty program in SkyTeam (“in the land of the blind…”). They offer semi-reasonable redemption rates and better award availability for their own members. And as a European program they don’t have the same opportunities to earn outsized revenue from co-brand credit card deals that U.S. carriers can, largely because of capped interchange.

So the program partners with all of the big transferable currencies in the U.S. You can move American Express, Chase, Capital One, Citibank and Bilt points. And Air France KLM has a U.S. credit card from Bank of America, as well as other cards outside of their home market.

Lipsey marvels about the lucrative card deals, about the billions of dollars of value that U.S. airlines generate, and explains how these transfer deals give them a piece of that lucrative market. And that’s actually a key driver for program design.

Flying Blue is, is a transfer partner, for example, of the Big Four transfer, you know, transferable points, currencies in the US with Amex and Citi and Chase and, and now Capital One. And you know, for us, we’re really trying to improve our proposition, our redemption program to make it more attractive for Americans to earn miles both in our co-brand card with Bank of America, as well as to transfer miles from the US banking partners into Flying Blue and redeem via Flying Blue. Uh, with the number of enhancements that we’ve both made and are about to make, to encourage those members, because like I said, that’s where the money is.

I’d note that Flying Blue has actually re-introduced an award chart after previously eliminating it, and they’ve just added free stopovers even on one-way awards.

Sorry, Europe, the U.S. launched loyalty marketing in the airline industry over 40 years ago and still rules the world.

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