This is a cautionary tale – sometimes, things actually do go horribly wrong. More specifically, this is a cautionary-tale-in-progress, because the resolution still isn’t clear. But I’ll walk you through all the steps I’ve taken to get this resolved so far, and hopefully there’s a good ending and a good moral to this story. Will update if that happens.
Context: Daria wanted to fly out to do a program in Israel over winter break, and so we transferred 68,000 Membership Rewards points from two of my AMEX accounts (one personal Platinum card, and one business Gold card) to a brand new Flying Blue account I setup to book the flights on Air France.
It was a Flying Blue account in my own name but I booked flights for Daria – I’ve done this plenty of times with other airlines, and imagined no problems with Air France, though it was my first time booking with them.
The booking went through but we never received any confirmation. Later, they told us they had blocked the booking from going through because they were worried it was fraudulent – but we didn’t care, since Daria ultimately ended up deciding not to go to Israel, so it all worked out. And now I had 68,000 points in my Flying Blue account, but I wasn’t too worried about that either, since I figured I’d use them eventually.
I then receive an email from Air France’s ‘Fraud Department’, asking for a photo ID in order to continue the booking. Since I didn’t want to continue the booking, I immediately emailed them back saying as much, and asking them to confirm that the booking wouldn’t go through.
Their initial email to me:
Prévention des Fraudes / Fraud Prevention Department
Following our procedures of control, we would like some information regardinf the Flying Blue account 11097722890.
As a first step, could you please send us a clear copy of your ID, in order to identify you as the member of the account ?
Can you confirm that you gave your agreement for the award tickets redeemed for third parties beneficiaries from the miles of your account ?
Can you confirm the first name/last name of all the beneficiaries and the details of their trip ?
We thank you for your comprehension.
Mrs V. Chevalier.
My reply to them:
Hi Mrs. Chevalier,
Thanks for checking in. We actually didn’t want to book this award ticket – we called in and they let us know that it was not successfully booked. Can you confirm that the award miles were indeed not redeemed and that this ticket will not be processed?
Radio silence on their part – they completely ignored me. I wasn’t too bothered, since again, I didn’t want to book the ticket anymore and I could still see the 68,000 miles in my account, so I figured everything was fine.
Just about exactly 30 days later, Air France’s Fraud Department’s “Mrs. Chevalier” finally replies to me and says the following:
Prévention des Fraudes / Fraud Prevention Department
Within those past 30 days you have been unable to provide any information asked.
We regret to inform you that the Flying Blue account 1109722890 has been definitively closed as per today, in compliance with article 1-4-2 Flying Blue Program’s General Terms and Conditions :
1.4.2 Upon the request of the Company, the Member shall supply valid proof of identity. Failure to do so within a reasonable period as set by the Company will automatically lead to suspension or termination of the membership and forfeiture of all Level and Award Miles accrued.
Also, the Flying Blue account 1109722890 has been identified as linked to award sale transactions : we remind you that selling miles or award tickets is not allowed according to the article 1-4-7 of the Flying Blue program General Terms & Conditions. We invite you to complain to the broker agent involved in your Flying Blue account misuse.
With our best regards.
Mrs V. Chevalier
WTF? They ignored me for a month, and then with absolutely zero warning, completely close my account and requisition the 68,000 miles on my account.
I go batshit crazy on them, and send over my photo ID, demand my miles immediately reinstated, etc…to absolutely no avail. I contact the executive office, using the contacts at elliott.org/company-contacts/air-france/, and am again completely ignored.
I then reach out to consumer advocate Chris Elliott at elliott.org, and they take on the case for me, and contact Air France on my behalf. They, too, end up being completely ignored.
I then call American Express and ask them to take on this case for me – they’re still investigating, but they’ve basically said they can’t do anything.
Then, I realize I’m not nearly the only one in this boat, and this has been going on for at least a year:
I feel bad for that guy in the FlyerTalk forum – everyone automatically assumes he’s in the wrong, but having had my own experience, I fully believe he’s completely in the right and Air France is completely at fault here. He ended up going to small claims court and finally Air France admitted he was right and reinstated his miles.
At this point, it looks like I might have to do something similar. Contacted that guy to see what ultimately helped in getting his account reinstated. Also contacted Gary at ViewFromtheWing to get put in touch with his Air France contacts. Also notified/threatened Air France directly telling them I’ll basically be going to court as my next avenue of recourse here…not an empty threat, as I’m ridiculously pissed about this issue and more than willing to go to court on principle alone, not even to just get these 68,000 points back.
At this point, it really is a thing of principle for me – I can’t believe Air France has gotten away with this for over a year on who knows how many people who absolutely didn’t do anything wrong and had all their miles removed from their accounts with no recourse. I’m definitely going to solve this problem personally for myself, but I hope I have enough anger to get enough exposure for this issue to warn more people away from Air France. Will keep you guys updated on how it goes.
But yeah – this is a definite outlier in the world of flying. I’ve never had remotely such a bad experience before, and this is a reflection solely on Air France and not the aviation industry as a whole so far as I’m presently concerned. Stay away from these guys with a ten foot pole if possible – and if you have to touch them, record and document absolutely every interaction and make sure there’s exactly 0 way for them to possibly weasel you out of anything. Expect them to do completely incomprehensible and unimaginably ludicrous things to take your money and victimize you.
Takeaways: This is generally how you approach an issue. If you’re dogged enough, you’ll get a resolution. In most cases, you’ll get a resolution way before you ever hit a fraction of the things I’ve done here. But if you’re in the right, don’t back down – you deserve what you deserve, and you deserve to get it. On principle, don’t let some asshole company fuck with you and steal your money. They’ll just do it again to everyone else. Thanks.