Editor's note: An Air France spokesman confirmed to Thrifty Traveler on Jan. 8 that while the airline is honoring this policy, many Flying Blue support agents are unaware and inform customers it's not possible. The airline said it is “continuing to ask our customer contact centre management teams to ensure the message is disseminated to and understood by the front line teams.”
Air France and KLM didn't make many friends when they decided to cancel dirt-cheap business class awards to Europe this week, insisting those 13,500-mile lie-flat flights to Croatia and 5,000-mile (or less) fares to France were a mistake. Refunds of miles as well as taxes and fees are on their way, but Air France is going above and beyond for travelers who transferred points from banks like Amex, Capital One, and Chase to book.
An Air France spokesman confirmed to Thrifty Traveler on Wednesday that the airlines will allow affected customers to reverse those transfers, sending points back to their credit card partners. To request a reversal of that transfer, customers will need to reach out to Flying Blue customer service. But you may need to wait to make that request … and don't expect an instantaneous turnaround to get your points back in your account.
Miles used to book those mistake fares were expected to be refunded to Air France/KLM Flying Blue members' accounts sometime this week.
Bravo to the airlines: This is an unprecedented consumer-friendly move.
In 9,999 cases out of 10,000, those transfers are a one-way street: Once you send your credit card points to an airline or hotel partner, you typically cannot get them back. I've personally never heard of it, though there may be some one-off cases where travelers have been able to get their credit card points back after making an erroneous transfer or punching in a wrong number.
That Air France and KLM are committing to making it happen is a testament to their response to handling this mistake fare.
Of course, it's still disappointing for travelers who thought they booked the deal of a lifetime to Europe in lie-flat seats. But at least travelers can get those points back to their stash of Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Capital One Venture Miles, and other currencies rather than leaving thousands or even tens of thousands of miles stranded in their Flying Blue accounts – especially since those miles could easily expire in two years and could easily be forgotten.
How to Get Your Credit Card Points Back
There's a reason why these kinds of reversals are so rare: It'll likely be a logistical nightmare.
But Air France and KLM are apparently willing to do it. A few things to keep in mind:
- Anyone who transferred points to Flying Blue last Friday, Dec. 15, and the week prior will be eligible to send those points back to a credit card account, according to an Air France spokesman.
- You can call Flying Blue at 1-800-375-8723 or start a chat online to request a reversal. It may also be worth trying to contact Air France via online chat, Facebook Messenger, or iMessage.
- Be patient. If you call up or chat Flying Blue today, agents may be unable to do anything – if they've even heard of this policy. You may need to give it a few days (or a week or more) before even submitting a request.
Even after you've done all this, keep in mind it may take some time to actually get your points back. Flying Blue hasn't provided a timeline, but an airline spokesman cautioned it could vary based upon which credit card points travelers initially transferred.
“This is a manual process, and we have to work with each of our conversion partners. Especially given the holidays, it will likely not be instantaneous, unfortunately,” Maxime Patula, said via email on Wednesday.
No matter how long it takes, it's a fairly happy ending to one of the best flight deals of the year that promptly went sour.
What Happened & Why Air France/KLM Canceled
It started last Friday when business class deals from several Canadian cities popped up at ridiculously cheap rates first cropped up. We sent several emails and even text message alerts to our Thrifty Traveler Premium members, like…
- Athens (ATH) for 16,500 miles each way in KLM or Air France business class
- Zagreb (ZAG) for 13,500 miles each way
- A lie-flat seat, then a train ride, to Provence (QXB) in France for just 5,000 miles
- … or an unbelievable 1,500 miles each way to Lille in France in business class
In those alerts, we urged Premium members to quickly transfer the points and book immediately, then hold tight as there's no telling whether airlines will honor deals this good or not. The deals disappeared within a matter of hours – if not minutes – but not before word spread like wildfire to dozens of sites, social media posts, and beyond. Thousands upon thousands of travelers likely booked.
But by Sunday, travelers who booked the cheapest of these cheap mileage deals noticed their reservations were labeled as canceled. On Monday, it was official: It was a mistake fare, and all but a small fraction of those tickets would be canceled.
“Unfortunately this deal was too good to be true. Due to a technical glitch affecting some city pairs (primarily French train stations), some of you were able to book fares for as low as 1,500 miles in (business class),” Ben Lipsey, the head of Flying Blue and senior vice president with the airlines announced on Flyertalk.
There's just one exception: Lipsey said the airline will honor all but the cheapest fares booked by travelers who have racked up Flying Blue Gold status or higher with Air France or KLM “in recognition of their loyalty.”
That decision left the vast majority of travelers who jumped on this deal with canceled tickets and miles stuck in their Air France. But now, it looks like there'll be a way for many of them to get those points back to their credit card accounts.