American Express Membership Rewards offering a 35% transfer bonus to Air France Flying Blue through September 16, 2012

Through Sunday, September 16, 2012, American Express Membership Rewards is offering a 35% bonus on points transfers to Air France’s Flying Blue program. The bonus is coded into the transfer ratio, so you can take advantage of the offer as many times as you’d like during the promotion period.

Now I don’t actually find Flying Blue miles especially useful for travel on Air France/KLM, since they levy huge fuel surcharges for those award redemptions.

For example, the taxes and fuel surcharges on a one-way business class award from Los Angeles to Paris are a whopping $447.20.

However, there are plenty of other great redemption options that could make this promotion lucrative, including:

Travel to Europe/Israel on Delta

Flying Blue charges 25,000 miles for a one-way ticket to Europe in coach (50,000 miles in business class one-way), and if you fly on Delta there aren’t any fuel surcharges. For example, a one-way ticket from New York to London on Delta would cost just 25,000 miles plus $19.20 in taxes.

Or in business class it would cost just 50,000 miles plus $19.20 in taxes and fees.

Even more exciting is that Flying Blue charges the same number of miles for travel to Israel, so you could fly Delta’s service between New York and Tel Aviv roundtrip for 50,000 miles in coach or 100,000 miles in business class.

With the transfer bonus, this means you’re potentially looking at 38,000 Membership Rewards points for a roundtrip ticket to Europe/Israel in coach, or 75,000 Membership Rewards points for a roundtrip ticket to Europe/Israel in business class.

Domestic travel on Delta

Air France Flying Blue charges just 12,500 miles for a one-way domestic award on Delta, with the added advantage of allowing one-way awards at half the price of a roundtrip, which Delta doesn’t. Now the big challenge here is that Delta domestic award availability is rare. Very rare.

That being said, if you can make it work, it’s a smashingly good deal (though be sure to price out a ticket on American using British Airways Avios as well, as they’re running a 40% transfer bonus at the moment). You’d potentially be looking at paying just 19,000 Membership Rewards points for a roundtrip domestic ticket.

Travel to Australia, Africa, and Asia on Delta

While not quite as good of a deal, I suspect this could be useful in some instances. Flying Blue charges 40,000 miles for one-way awards to Asia/Africa (or 80,000 miles in business class), and 50,000 miles for one-way awards to Australia (or 100,000 miles in business class). When factoring in the 35% transfer bonus to Flying Blue, this works out very close in cost to booking directly with Delta, except with Flying Blue you have the option of booking one-ways.

Travel to South America on Aeromexico

Back in April I wrote a post about the great opportunities for redeeming SkyMiles for travel on Aeromexico. While Delta’s award space to South America is virtually non-existent at the low level, Aeromexico has plenty of award space and doesn’t impose fuel surcharges. For example, a one-way from New York to Buenos Aires in business class would run you just 50,000 miles plus $20.49 in taxes.

In other words, a roundtrip between the US and South America would cost you just 38,000 Membership Rewards points in coach or 75,000 Membership Rewards points in business class. That’s an amazing value, especially given how much award space is available on Aeromexico’s flights.

Other Info

  • You need to register for a Flying Blue account before you can search for award space on their website.
  • Points transfers to Flying Blue can sometimes take up to 24 hours, and there’s no way (to the best of my knowledge) to hold the tickets in the meantime.
  • See this post and this post for tricks on how to use the Air France website to search for award space on partner airlines efficiently.

What tempts me

I’m very tempted to book an award ticket on Delta to Tel Aviv for only 75,000 Membership Rewards points. I’ve been meaning to visit Israel, and this is about half of what any other airline would charge for travel to Tel Aviv. Besides, I believe Delta has their new business class product on the New York to Tel Aviv route, which makes this all the more tempting.

Comments

  1. Xandrios says

    Do not forget that Flying Blue has their “Promo awards” at half price. A handful of routes are being offered for half the miles, and the routes ‘on sale’ change every 3 months.

    Even with the fuel surcharges those often still are a great deal. NYC-Europe for 25K miles roundtrip for instance. Or Europe-BKK for 80K miles roundtrip in business.

  2. Michael says

    Does Flying Blue impose surcharges on other carriers to Asia? E.g., would this be a good idea for a one way on China Southern to SE Asia?

  3. Lively says

    Thanks for the info. I will have to play around with this when I get off work. We’re thinking about Asia next summer.

  4. Lantean says

    obviously when you transfer 74k amex points you’ll get 99,900 miles… you’d be exactly 100 mile short NA-EU award… kinda silly.
    do they have a shopping portal or something to earn those 100 extra miles?

  5. vincentb89 says

    totally agree with Xiandros. Flying blue awards are generally not interesting cost wise (standard mileage chart for Y and C class and don’t even consider first + hefty taxes).

    However Promo awards are the real deal, with destinations changing each 2 months and a 50 per cent rebate in Y, Y+ and C class.
    Doing Europe to Dubai in C class is 40 000 miles instead of 80 000 (so only 30 000 miles from Amex once you factor in the transferbonus).
    Europe – NAmerica is only 50 000 miles in C and 25 000 in Y, and Asia is only 80 000 in C from Europe.

    The miles needed to get premium economy over economy (and AF new Y + long haul fleet has a good product for day flights ) is also a really good option cost wise (something like 31 500 miles RT for a Promo Award for a transatlatic flight).

    I made good use of them last year and booked for 100 000 miles 2 round trip tickets on AF from CDG to NYC in business class, with about 1000 dollars of taxes / fuel surchages.

  6. lucky says

    @ Michael — For Asian airlines they impose the same fuel surcharges that the airline directly imposes. Fortunately those surcharges are fairly mild, under $200 one-way.

  7. lucky says

    @ Lantean — I don’t think there’s an easy/quick way to do that, so you’re best off just transferring the extra 1,000 points.

    @ gomike — Working on figuring that out, though can’t seem to get one of those awards to price and there’s not really an easy to use Flying Blue award chart.

    @ Xandrios @ vincentb89 — Great points!

  8. Rami says

    You should definitely visit Israel and please make sure you spend more time seeing the country and the sites than moving around from one hotel to another or enjoying the Club

  9. lucky says

    @ Serion — You should be able to, though in many cases it requires calling to book. Not sure why their system is so glitchy with displaying domestic award space.

  10. Allen says

    Also do you have to call Delta if its partner airline’s availability cannot be searched on delta.com? any phone booking fees? thx!

  11. lucky says

    @ Allen — Miles expire after 20 months, and you have to actually fly in order to keep the miles active (as opposed to just accruing miles).

    @ Allen — Yes, and the booking fee is $25.

  12. Allen says

    thanks! to keep account active, do i have to fly Air France or just its partners?

    Does Flying Blue allow stopovers?

    I search flight from US to PEK, but found it does not show any availabilities of China Airlines, China Eastern and China Southern. Do you know if it can search those airlines?

    thanks.

  13. joe says

    Hi,

    I just tried to transfer points and I got an error saying, “The ability to transfer points to a frequent flier or frequent guest program is not available in the Membership Rewards Express(R) program.”

    Am I doing something wrong?

  14. lucky says

    @ Allen — I believe it can be with one of their partners. They do allow stopovers, though I believe you have to call to book that. The website also usually displays China Southern and China Airlines in my experience (though not sure about China Eastern).

    @ joe — How far did you get in the booking process?

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