Can You Redeem Miles For Air France First Class?

Reader Blake asked the following question in the “Ask Lucky” forum:

Can you redeem Flying Blue points for Air France first class or is this restricted to elite members?

As long time readers know, I flew Air France A380 first class a couple of years ago between Los Angeles and Paris.

Air-France-First-Class-1

Their product really impressed me, in particular the ground experience in Paris, at Charles de Gaulle, which might just be the best first class ground experience in the world.

Air-France-First-Class-Lounge-Paris

The problem is that Air France first class is one of the toughest products in the world to book on miles. So how did I do it?

Air France changed their award chart in June 2013

Air France changed their award chart in June 2013, whereby the cost for many redemptions changed significantly. Air France doesn’t offer any saver level first class awards.

Instead all first class awards can only be booked at the “Flex” level, which has last seat availability. In other words, if there’s a seat available for sale you can also redeem miles for it. And it’s priced accordingly.

Before the devaluation, a one-way first class award between the US and Europe cost 125,000 FlyingBlue miles, while after the devaluation it cost 162,500 miles. The catch is that first class redemptions were limited to elite FlyingBlue accounts. So if the account out of which the award was booked didn’t belong to an elite member, you couldn’t redeem miles for first class.

Air-France-First-Class-2

How did I book Air France first class?

When the award chart changes were made, there seemed to be a bit of confusion. It seemed at the time as if first class awards were no longer restricted to elite members. So while the cost of awards went up, all members could redeem miles for first class. Or so we thought.

It seemed to very much be a case of “hang up and call again,” but a lot of agents (and supervisors) agreed that you could finally redeem for first class as a non-elite. That’s how I finally managed to book it, though the whole experience was a rigamarole.

Unfortunately it seems like that wasn’t actually the policy, because for subsequent tickets which were booked, Air France went so far as to downgrade non-elite passengers who managed to ticket the awards (which definitely wasn’t legit on their part).

So unfortunately we’re now back to the original rules. Only Air France FlyingBlue elite members can ticket first class awards out of their account (and it’ll cost an arm and a leg).

Air-France-First-Class

Bottom line

I’d love to try Air France’s new first class product, though barring some sort of a mistake fare, I doubt that will happen anytime soon, unfortunately.

Air-France-First-Business-Class-43

I guess I’ll have to settle for (maybe) paying for their first class ground experience in Paris, which you can “buy up” to if in business class.

Air-France-First-Class-Lounge-Paris-5

Anyone know of any other creative ways to fly Air France first class?

Comments

  1. There are certain routes where Air France heavily discounts the La Première (first class) product. Miami tends to be one of them. Also, markets ex-Germany to Asia (Singapore) can sometimes be had for €4000 or under roundtrip all-in. (my gut tell me, they are trying to compete with LH first markets).

    My Miami price example was splitting first/business on an ex-AMS itinerary.
    Air France to Miami.
    AF1241 12FEB Amsterdam – Paris CDG 0930 1045
    AF 90 12FEB Paris CDG – Miami 1350 1805
    AF 99 20FEB Miami – Paris CDG 2055 1120
    AF1740 21FEB Paris CDG – Amsterdam 1235 1350
    Airline: Air France
    Price: first class outbound, business class inbound: Euro 3699 per person including taxes

    Added “bonus” on the above, is that you also get the VIP CENTRE at Amsterdam-Schiphol for the AMS-CDG departure.

    While these prices are not “cheap,” they are also not wildly expensive. In addition, if you credit to Flying Blue the bonus for La Première towards status is 300%, IIRC.

    I also am a huge fan of the Air France CDG ground experience, which is also dog friendly. (including designer dog bowl!)

  2. There is a way to get a first class ticket on AF from an obscure airport for under $1350 ai. There is one overnight transfer in Paris on the way and routes through another airport on the way back. The origination and arrival continents are also different.

  3. @WorldWingedExporer: Can you share any more information? I can give you my email address if you don’t want to post publicly.

  4. Oh, I so hope you aren’t going to follow VFTW into the quagmire of endless clickbait articles that lure us into reading a post that turns out to be useless.

    If you want to post this without making it irritating click bait, don’t title it: “Can You Redeem Miles For Air France First Class?”, because that implies the article will say ‘yes you can’, and of course you can’t.

    An honest title for this post would be: “You Cannot Redeem Miles For Air France First Class”. Then those of us who already know this won’t waste our time clicking and reading, but those who want to know why that’s true are free to do so.

    Gary’s blog was the first travel blog I discovered, and it used to be my first read every morning, and I’d probably check back a couple times a day to see if anything new was posted. Now I rather reluctantly check it every second or third day, knowing that most of the intriguing post titles will lead to post that is a total waste of my time.

    I love this blog, please don’t go there……

  5. I always wonder why people complain when Ben has posted something they don’t like. I don’t know Ben and never met but he seems like a genuinely nice guy. I don’t fly unlike most of you but I enjoy reading about all the convolutions you have to go through to use miles. It is an amazing hobby and way over my head. I don’t know how Ben does it but he seems to have a great time doing it and I really like reading about his adventures . After reading the Blog my one wish is to fly Emirates first class some day to anywhere in the world. That would be fun! To the guy complaining about the post I see nothing wrong with Ben asking if anyone else could HELP figure out hot to book AF first class. OOOH we might learn something

  6. There’s no mystery here, really.

    There’s a current Flyer Talk trip report specifically about the whole ultra-discounted AF first class thing from the redoubtable SFO777, who also has his own blog — with better pictures. (Truly great blog, for those who haven’t seen it.)

    To be fair, his bottom line advice is to use a good travel agent since, as implied above by WorldWingedExplorer, the mechanics here evidently can get somewhat involved.

  7. Ben, what’s your take on the underlying logic of this policy? Is it that restriction to elites makes it more viable to keep last-seat availability, or is it to make elite status more valuable?

    @Robert Hanson: “An honest title for this post would be: “You Cannot Redeem Miles For Air France First Class”.

    I don’t see why the current title is dishonest. The question is “can you?”, and given that there has been some confusion since the award chart devaluation where, for a time, it looked like the elite-member requirement had been lifted, it is a legitimate question. The answer, which is clearly stated, is “no, unless you’re an elite member of Flying Blue”, along with some history and background on the situation.

    There seems to be a definite trend toward comments on this blog being harshly critical of topic choice and/or writing style. Constructive criticism is one thing, but the undercurrent of “my time is so valuable that spending two or three minutes on an article that turns out to be of no interest to me is a horrific crime against humanity” that so many of these comments carry undermines any actual value from the criticism.

  8. @Tom

    Nowhere in his writing does SFO777 mention the 1350 USD rate WorldWingedExplorer seems to have found.

    SFO777 did start a tread on Flyertalk about cheap AF F out of Germany, MAD and TUN to SIN, but lowest mentioned there is about 4K USD out of TUN and possibly MAD. Germany seems to be 5,5K USD these days.

    SFO777 did advice using a travel agent yes, but again mentioned noting about the low price WorldWingedExplorer found. Infect when somebody ask SFO777 about how much he paid and something about miles he did not answer the question about the price and only replayed to the miles part of the question.

    So WorldWingedExplorer we are still waiting.

    If I claimed to have found a herd of Unicorns that shits gold bricks, but they way there is difficult and passes true a obscure village that is just as true as WorldWingedExplorer claims unless he can prove it.

    And NO I have not found a herd of Unicorns that shits gold bricks, sadly.

  9. @No Name – I tried to find that fare just for fun but couldn´t. If SFO777 indeed booked this fare, at least we know the first leg (OSL-CDG-JFK). Per WorldWingedExplorer, the return would have to be to another continent from (or through?) a different airport. At least with Matrix I don´t think it´ll be possible to find it. Maybe we will need for the next TR from SFO777. 🙂

  10. Sounds like our friend WorldWIngedExplorer is having some fun at everyone else’s expense. WWE also posted (twice) on TravelisFree about the British Airways Companion Pass:

    WorldWingedExplorer on September 22, 2015 at 11:41 am
    There is a way to use the companion pass without any extra added YQ(even on First class). Its a little trick buried in the Trick it thread on FT. I am going for the 30k for the companion pass

  11. (Con’t)

    As with the above post, WWE never provided any specific–just trying to get folks to waste time looking for those elusive unicorns . . .

  12. All – not sure if it is true or not but i believe SFO777 redeemed miles for his trip…..as about a year ago he flew a ton of delta flights just to becoming a FB elite.

  13. Wonkachocolat is right. There was a devaluation earlier in the summer but if you called the FB call center before aug 31st, you could have still gotten the old rates. For example, CGK-SIN-CDG-SFO all in La Prem cost 260k flying blue miles before aug 31st (now it costs a lot more.) Given two legs will be in the new La Prem seat and one leg in the a380, I found this to be a great deal. I specifically flew AF and skyteam airlines last year to be FB elite this year and am excited to fly La Prem. If asked whether it is possible to redeem miles for Air France first class, the answer is a simple yes as long as you’re an FB elite. 😉
    I agree with Baccarat guy that the cheapest out of pocket expense is roughly $4k, which is not cheap at all, at least for me. Who knows? We may very well see a mistake fare or something else in the near future.
    When I flew AF in J twice earlier this year, the new la Première cabin was always full. Then again, there are only 4 seats. What’s nice about AF’s flex awards despite the crazy high price is as long as AF is selling a La Prem seat for $$$, you can redeem your miles for that seat, presuming you’re an FB elite. 😉

  14. You can only redeem 1st class when you are an elite member of FB, but you only need to have 30k miles or 16 flights in a year to be a silver elite.

  15. You can just book a cheap ex-DUB to Singapore; either book a roundtrip for 5.6k USD or have a cheap throwaway return.

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