Flying to the bank

BLF launches credit card with Air France-KLM

Just in time for the peak travel season, Banque Libano Francaise (BLF) yesterday launched a cobranded credit card in an exclusive partnership with Air France-KLM. The European airline group is the first to partner with a local Lebanese bank, with clients automatically getting air miles when they use the card. BLF said they perceived the group’s decision as a show of confidence both in the bank and the Lebanese economy.

“It is an important step for the economy and the banking sector in Lebanon knowing that is the fifth country worldwide chosen by Air France-KLM for a cobranded card,” said Raya Nahas, Deputy General Manager at BLF. “It shows faith in the banking sector as such an international company of course did its due diligence before associating its name with a local bank…It will push the economy to be more electronic in payment,” Nahas said, adding that BLF was the first bank to launch credit cards in Lebanon thirty years ago.

BLF initiated talks for a cobranded card with Air France in 2003 but at that time they were merging with KLM and had to deal with merging their fidelity programs as well and so the issue was dropped. In 2011, Air France-KLM again started searching in the Lebanese market for a partner. They selected five big banks in Lebanon and started a long and competitive process which culminated in three banks being shortlisted and finally with BLF winning the bid.  “I believe the reason Air France- KLM chose Lebanon as a country for this partnership is that they studied the market and know that Lebanese people are frequent flyers and also because the Lebanese banks are a pillar in the economy and are doing well, despite the current economic turmoil,” said Nahas.

She explained that the added value of a partnership with a European group of airlines was access to the group’s Flying Blue Program. “The program has, in addition to the airline partners, many major hotel partners such as Hilton, Marriot, Accor and Starwoods. They also have car rental company partners and commercial centers so, by simply using your card in day-to-day spending, you are accumulating access to all those opportunities.” 

There are two different categories of the card, Visa Signature and Visa Platinum – Visa Platinum being the most prestigious with added benefits such as access to all VIP lounges. Both cards are available as debit cards and charge cards and in Euros as well as dollars. “We tried to broaden our selection and are offering the card first to our clientele and to those already members in Flying Blue. On the other hand, the card will be a nice incentive to those Lebanese who need a push to travel and would benefit from using the cards,” says Nahas.

Nabila Rahhal

Nabila is Executive's hospitality, tourism and retail editor. She also covers other topics she's interested in such as education and mental health. Prior to joining Executive, she worked as a teacher for eight years in Beirut. Nabila holds a Masters in Educational Psychology from the American University of Beirut.