The Strange Case of the Disappearing Flying Blue Miles

A recent unfortunate award booking situation posted on Reddit highlights the travails travelers face when redeeming transferable credit card points for award flights.

One eager couple planning their dream honeymoon decided to book business class award flights to Europe for 68,000 miles each way on Air France. They transferred all their Chase Ultimate Rewards points over to Flying Blue, Air France’s loyalty program. When they tried to book the ticket, an error message prevented online booking despite award availability still being shown.

The weird part of this story happened when the couple called Air France and asked them to reverse the transfer back to Chase which, oddly, Air France agreed to do but said that they’d  need to “contact Chase to accept them [the points].” At this point, the Flying Blue miles had disappeared from the couples’ account, but when they called Chase, representatives said they “wouldn’t accept the transfer.”

A very odd story

As a general rule of thumb, credit card points can only be transferred one way and, once they’re transferred, there’s no going back. That is, Chase Ultimate Rewards (or Amex Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, or any other transferable credit card points) can be turned into airline miles, but airline miles cannot be turned into credit card points. Once that transfer has been completed, there’s effectively no way to get your credit card points back.

I’m shocked that an Air France representative told the couple that their points could be transferred back to Chase and equally shocked that those points somehow disappeared from the couples’ account. I’ve never heard of something like this happening.

Important takeaways

A few things can be learned from this couples’ experience:

  1. Credit card points can only move in one direction. All transfers are final.
  2. Airline phone representatives can be wildly misinformed when it comes to the world of award flights. 
  3. Phantom award inventory, where a flight appears available but can’t be booked, is fairly common. If something looks too good to be true, it often is. The best way to prevent a situation where you transfer points to an airline but can’t book the flight you wanted is to search for the same flight on a partner airline. If it appears bookable on more than one airline’s website, it usually is.


If this story is to be believed, odds are that the couple will get their Flying Blue miles back. It might take some time, but given that Air France clearly did something wrong here in promising to transfer points back to Chase, I’d be shocked if the miles weren’t reinstated sooner or later. Either way, this is a good illustration of the many things that can go wrong when booking award flights, and that the savings that come with booking a premium cabin with miles comes with some costs.

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