Air France Launches SWING In Bid To Avoid EU Compensation Obligations

This week Air France announced the launch of a new program: SWING. This new program will send an email to select passengers on Air France flights offering alternative flights plus a “credit” amount to be redeemed for cash or other Air France purchases. The reason passengers receive the the offer is that they are scheduled to travel on overbooked flights.

SWING will make it easier for Air France to manage overbooked flights. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

How it works

According to the SWING webpage on the Air France website, select passengers will get an email with an offer. This offer will include, first and foremost, an alternate flight that is close to the schedule of the original booking. In addition to this, the email will also offer a credit amount. You can choose to accept or decline this offer.

The top of the SWING page. The headline roughly translates to “SWING: Change your flight and win a premium in Euros” Photo: Air France

Additional program details

Here are the rules of the program from the Air France website, translated from French:

  • The offer applies to all customers of the same booking file, and each receives a credit of the amount indicated in the email.
  • Offer is limited and subject to availability.
  • Each credit is nominative and valid for one year from the date of issue. It can be used in whole or in part, for the purchase of air tickets or options (luggage, seat, meal, lounge, etc.) on Air France, KLM, HOP! and Joon.
  • The credit can also be refunded, in an Air France agency or by phone, at the number indicated in the Contact us page of our site.
  • Each passenger can use 2 credits for a reservation, within the limit of 3 credits in the same booking file.

What’s the catch?

As the website Loyalty Lobby also pointed out, this appears to be Air France’s way of dealing with Flight Compensation Regulation 261/2004. We’ve written a guide on it that you can read here. While we have yet to see any examples of SWING offers, it’s almost a certainty that offers will be less than the EU mandate (we already know that some airlines consider this regulation unfair).

Additionally, based on the details above it appears that passengers must take an extra step to get a cash refund.  They will need to contact an “Air France agency or by phone, at the number indicated in the Contact us page” of the Air France website, if they want to turn their credit into cash.

Air France A350
It doesn’t sound easy to turn credit back to cash. Photo: Air France

The requirement of this additional step will likely push customers into spending their credit on Air France flights and services. Clearly, the airline wants to hold on to your money… even if they have to give it back to you!

On the other hand…

Some may see this as Air France trying to offer less than the official EU amount. However, it could also be seen as a helpful feature. According to Wikipedia, “the general difficulties claiming from airlines directly has led to the rise of online intermediaries”. These intermediaries operate on a “no-win, no fee” basis contingency fee. Intermediaries also help in filing claims against airlines, including taking the claim court if necessary.

Waiting at the airport
Cancelled, delayed or overbooked flights can be eligible for compensation. Photo: Wikimedia

A lot of time spent on the phone with the airline or printing/mailing out receipts can be avoided by just accepting an offer in advance. Seems like a win-win situation on the surface…

Conclusion

As Air France and the AF-KLM group face difficult financial times, SWING is one clear step in managing costs and bringing in more profits. Ultimately, we will have to wait and see if SWING offers come close to what passengers could get through EU mandate.

What do you think? Would you accept a lower offer through SWING if you knew it would save you some time and energy fighting with the airline?

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