Flying Blue announced some pretty major changes to their program today. On the whole they’re bad for anyone looking at making premium cabin redemptions, though there are some benefits for those that like to redeem their miles for coach travel (yes, those people do exist).
The changes are kind of complicated, so let’s tackle them by cabin.
So the good news involves coach awards (and savor it, because it’s all the good news you’ll get). Fuel surcharges for longhaul coach redemptions are going down substantially to €50 one-way for most routes. For example, New York to Paris one-way presently comes with a €137 fuel surcharges, so those will be nice savings and may at times make coach redemptions through Flying Blue worthwhile.
For premium economy they’re lowering the fuel surcharges (for transatlantic flights to €110 one-way), though they’re substantially increasing the mileage requirements. For example, a one-way premium economy award between New York and Paris used to cost 37,500 miles, while it will now cost 50,000 miles, the same cost that business class used to be. Ouch.
It’s business class awards that are most negatively impacted. There’s no reduction in fuel surcharges for longhaul flights and an across the board increase in the number of miles required. You can see the mileage requirements for all regions and routes here.
For example, between the US and Europe the mileage requirement goes from 50,000 miles each way to 62,500 miles each way.
All these changes kick in this June, though apparently you’ll be able to continue to make bookings by phone at the old rates through the end of the year (though truthfully Flying Blue’s call center is so horrible that I think I may just prefer spending an extra 25,000 miles).
In the past I wouldn’t have personally cared about this, because up until last year I had never redeemed Flying Blue miles (for my clients or for my own travels). However, several months ago Air France began releasing only a subset of their award inventory to their partner airlines. So while previously I’d make all Air France bookings through Delta to avoid the fuel surcharges, as of late I’ve been booking a lot of people through Flying Blue. That’s because they actually have decent award availability over peak dates where you otherwise don’t see much award space. It wasn’t too bad of a deal given that you would pay 100,000 miles roundtrip through either Delta or Air France, and the only difference was the fuel surcharges one has to pay through Flying Blue. While nobody likes paying fuel surcharges, paying a ~$400 premium in order to be able to snag flights that otherwise aren’t available isn’t a bad value. Now having to pay an additional 25,000 miles on top of that sucks…