One of the most frustrating parts of airline loyalty programs is when they devalue their programs without notice. This time it was Air France/KLM's Flying Blue program pulling a move out of Delta's playbook.
My friend Richard Kerr from Award Travel 101 reached out to Air France/KLM via Twitter and was told that as of July 1, 2017, stopovers would no longer be allowed.
Perhaps you're wondering why this wasn't mentioned prior to the policy change. Well, I'm right there with you. Why would an airline (or any company for that matter) want its customers to trust them? Ya know, the ones who keep them in business.
Previously, you could book award tickets with Flying Blue miles and build in a stopover on round-trip bookings. This allowed travelers to see more places thanks to one award ticket. For those new to stopovers, stopovers are over 24 hours while layovers are less than 24 hours.
Here's a simple example:
- Fly from New York City to Paris
- Visit Paris for 4 days - this is your stopover
- Fly from Paris to Amsterdam
- Visit Amsterdam for 4 days - this is your destination
- Fly from Amsterdam to New York City
Unfortunately, many airlines including American Airlines and Delta Air Lines no long allow stopovers.
Several airlines still allow stopovers, though. Alaska Airlines allows one stopover on one-way and round-trip bookings but you are limited to one partner airline per booking.
Singapore Airlines allows a stopover on round-trip bookings at no extra cost or for a fee on one-way saver level awards (the only awards you should book if at all possible).
United Airlines and All Nippon Airways (ANA) each allow a stopover on round-trip bookings, while Japan Airlines allows up to 3 stopovers on a roundtrip award ticket.
Cathay Pacific is probably the most flexible with its stopover policy but the difficulty in booking them over the phone makes it less useful for most people.
While the news that Air France/KLM has ditched stopovers is disappointing as it makes visiting different regions of the world more difficult, it's really troubling that they would do so without letting anyone know.
I would love to see why they changed their routing rules in this way. I'd be happy to hear them out as to how it was bad for the airline and/or passengers. I seriously doubt they could come up with a reasonable explanation for the latter.
If the stopover policy was having a negative impact on the company, they should explain their reasoning publicly so consumers aren't left in the dark rather than sneaking in a change and hoping people won't care once they finally notice.
In the end, this is not the worst change an airline could make even though it was disappointing. However, the way in which it was implemented was laughable.
There isn't an airline in the world that can feign ignorance to how travelers feel about unannounced changes. They all know it's a shady business practice and any airline that wants to be trusted by consumers should take the opportunity to set themselves apart by being upfront about changes.