Ugh: I Just Redeemed 200,000 Miles For A One-Way Ticket

I’ve never simultaneously been so excited and so frustrated by an award redemption. I’ve flown just about every one of the best international first class products in the world. Not only that, but for each of those products I’ve also flown the most recent versions, with one glaring omission. I’m talking about Air France first class.

Back in 2013 I flew Air France’s A380 first class, and was very pleasantly surprised. I was expecting to be disappointed, but actually found the soft product to be exceptional, while the seats were outdated. Sadly Air France still hasn’t announced plans to update their A380s, which is long overdue.

What really blew me away, though, was the ground experience in Paris. The Air France first class ground experience in Paris is the best in the world, bar none.

Air-France-First-Class-Lounge-Paris - 80

Since then, Air France has introduced a new first class product on their 777-300ERs, which looks incredibly elegant.

Rather than having a fully enclosed suite, Air France has curtains around the first class seats. As someone obsessed with reviewing these products, I knew I needed to try this product eventually.

Air-France-First-Business-Class-43

The catch is that Air France is one of the most restrictive airlines when it comes to international first class awards. Air France only allows Flying Blue elite members to redeem for Air France first class, and the cost of a one-way award ticket between Europe and the US is 200,000 miles. That’s a lot of miles.

On the plus side, availability is excellent, since Air France uses the same fare class for awards as they use for discounted first class fares.

I’ve been putting off flying Air France’s new first class, since it’s just so damn many points, but I figure it’s about time. I was trying to decide how to get back from Europe to the US in the coming days. As usual, Lufthansa first class was open, and could be booked with 70,000 Aeroplan miles, which is a great deal. However, I’ve reviewed Lufthansa first class a countless number of times, and thought there would be more value in reviewing something new.

So it pained me, but I pulled the trigger. I earned FlyingBlue Silver status a while ago by crediting some paid SkyTeam tickets to FlyingBlue. Just this morning I transferred some points to FlyingBlue from Amex Membership Rewards to make up the difference in points.

The second I hit “book” on the ticket I was simultaneously so excited, and also bummed about how many points I used.

On the plus side, after that flight I think I can create a pretty definitive ranking of the world’s top first class products. I’m very curious to see where Air France’s new first class ranks.

Stay tuned!

Comments

  1. Ben,

    I sure hope that you booked it going to LAX so you can at least get a solid flight time on that route for those amount of points! Vs. flying to New York where the flight would be relatively short for 200k miles. Anyways though, have fun!

  2. We flew AF business on the 777-300 in April for 62,500 one-way and were offered an upgrade to first at the airport check-in counter for around $1,500. They told us it was a fixed amount/offer that’s always available when there’s space. If you’d rather part with $1,500 than 137,500 additional miles, I’m sure that would be an option for you.

  3. I look forward to your review.

    I’m looking to book some paid first class flights, and have been considering Air France, but once again I can’t bring myself to give them cash when their service in the air is so hit-and-miss, and always has been over the years. I agree their ground game is remarkable, but in the sky? Not so much. What got me thinking about it was this review I came across last week.

    https://www.businesstraveller.com/tried-and-tested/air-france-la-premiere-first-class-b777-300er/

    That said, I’m eager to read your thoughts on it, though considering the popularity of your blog (and congratulations on that!) they may pull out all the stops if/when they realize it’s you. But still, I’m glad you’re trying it. And yeah, 200,000 points is EXPENSIVE!

  4. YES!!! Can’t wait to hear your thoughts. I would say AF and GA are the top two first class products. EY F on the A380 is great in air but the service is inconsistent and the ground services suck.

  5. As much as I understand your pain, I’m so excited ! I really like your reviews more than other bloggers (maybe because i understand your mindset) and I’ve been dying for you to review that one !

    Really looking forward to it 😉 (do Etihad 787 First after please 😀 )

  6. I also will be interested to learn your thoughts on this AF F product on the 77W. I’ve always wondered whether I should credit my SkyTeam spend to AF for no other reason than to get AF Elite status to allow me to book this AF F award. Hearing what you think versus the other top F award in/out of Europe will help tell the tale for me.

  7. Tough call. One way AF la Premiere isn’t economical and awards are ugly. 77W hard product is among the best. CDG lounge bar and food are tops in my book. Door to door service also ranks right at the top. Onboard Wine and champagne rock solid. Unfortunately In my experience onboard food is some of the ‘Worst in First’.

  8. So they’re essentially all Standard/Regular/Anytime (or whatever a particular FFP calls them) awards. That’s straightforward. You don’t need so many words to say it, it’s nothing special.

  9. Hi Lucky, for what I’m aware with, you could redeem AF F using JAL miles. For example SFO-CDG one-way AF F costs 90K JAL miles. Why don’t you take a look on that option?

  10. Flew it RT to and from Spain earlier this year on a (relatively) cheap paid fare. Phenomenal product start-to-finish. My wife and I lucked out in both directions in that we had the cabin to ourselves.

  11. “Availability is excellent”. Well, no wonder why. At 200,000 miles one way I don’t think many people will redeem miles to fly that.

  12. Ben? Did you book from CDG to LAX/SFO? Because otherwise that’s an unfortunate use of 200,000 miles for Paris to anywhere on the east coast. Also for when did you book this flight?

  13. You could have booked Norweigan from Edinburgh on a 737 Max back to the USA….

    That would have been an experience.

  14. @Santastico Spending 200,00 miles is a secondary problem. The first problem is that they won’t even let you spend those miles unless you are an elite with them.

    I wonder if they would let me do an AF status match to my Hilton Honors Gold? 😉

  15. Of course he booked CDG-LAX. Why wouldn’t he; we all know that’s where he’ll eventually go? And award availability is decently good on all routes.

  16. Not to worry, you’ll earn enough back from the ad revenue generated from the review post to cover it
    !!

    Enjoy the flight!

  17. Looking forward to read your review! However as Robert said (and I think I emailed you about this too), you could have booked a business class ticket with points, and paid the $1500 upgrade to First at check in in Paris. You would be very unlucky if there wasn’t at least one seat available, especially during the summer.
    I also hope you’ll have a great crew, as much as I love Air France and really really really enjoyed my flight in the new La Premiere a few months ago, the FAs can still be a bit hit or miss.

  18. Let’s see… 200k membership rewards at 1.5 cents/point puts you at $3,000 for this one way redemption. Since this is your job and if you think that review will generate about that amount of revenue from referrals and click-through, I would say that’s just a good business decision. Not sure where the issue lies?

  19. Expensive AF but Im SO EXCITED!!!!!! Please make this like the Residence. Separate detailed reviews for ground service + vip lounge, the on board experience, any other interesting things, and of course, Instagram stories!

    YES!!

  20. Not related. But I just blew up “200,000” Amex Memership reward points for a 5 night Christmas stay with SPG!

  21. @Robert What route were you flying when they offered you an upgrade from an award business class ticket to first class? LAX?

  22. @Robert Do you have to be an AF Elite to do the paid upgrade from a business award ticket to first?

  23. THIS IS THE ONE… that I would splurge to fly. That video of the seat alone not to mention what you have mentioned regarding ground experience is well worth the free cost of 200K miles. I would love to do this flight. Looking forward to living my life vicariously ….. good post, looking to read more.

  24. It’s not that tight. Flown plenty of paid AF First from LAX to CDG/rt on 777w and I was not all that impressed. I sort of found the small F cabin clostrophobic. I actually prefer the a380 to the 777w. It’s just like new Singapore 777 F with worse food and worse wine (but you can recline your seat). Ground service in Paris is great, LA, decent. Lots of personal escorts/cars. For point of reference, I would fly Emirates or Qatar any day of the week.

  25. *if I were flying blue elite, I would 100% redeem 200k miles for it though, given great availability. Lufthansa two week game gets old.

  26. @Tom: No. I have zero status on the airline. My husband and I checked our bags at the counter and we inquired about an upgrade. The agent pulled out a laminated document, studied it for a moment, and showed us the cost to upgrade. For what it’s worth, there were zero people in first. The only issue was arranging catering had we chosen to upgrade at the last minute.

  27. I’m sorry I know I sound like a broken record, but I’m not an AF fanboy. If “First Class” does not include a suite with doors that close, I’m not interested. 🙂

  28. @Daniel @Tom I also don’t have any status (anymore) with Air France and was also able to pay $1500 for my upgrade. Except that they didn’t suggest it to me but i knew it was an option, so I went straight to the ticketing desk before my flight and bingo. And it was the last seat (the 3 others were booked) so I don’t even think it has anything to do with that. Although I believe business class might have been oversold…

    They also have OK paid fares to Tokyo every now and then, for the ones who feel like splurging. Much cheaper and longer flight than Paris to the east coast.

  29. I think fuel surcharges is roughly $200? If you think of this as similar to an AAnytime First award or non-Saver First award or DeltaOne award then 200k miles isn’t that bad really. 😉 Have a great time!

  30. A friend and I booked an AF 77W F award in 2015 before the devaluation and it was substituted for an old 777 a few hours before departure. To add insult to injury, my friend’s F seat wouldn’t recline (and it was full). He got the difference in miles between first and business (saver) and a 600 EUR voucher. Hope that doesn’t happen to you!

  31. Yes 200k points is expensive BUT when I flew it I paid cash ….ouch ! You got a better deal 🙂

  32. I have flown AF First class 10 times, all of which were paid where I found the more reasonable fare ($5-6k instead of $10k). Me along with a few others (e.g. sfo777.com) think that this is the best overall first class in the world, with the new seat on 77W of course.

    I’ve flown LH, CX, SQ, TG, BA, QF in F around 20 times each and EK, EY, QR, LX, KE, OZ, NH, JL in F about 5 times each (90% with miles), a few times on AA, UA, and once on JJ, AI, CA. definitely not all, but try to collect data by doing repeats across the board. While my experiences flying J is a lot less, rather do Y if not F (I know I am not mainstream on that).

    The first reason I like AF First class the most because I think the food in the lounge and on the plane (out of Paris -direction) is so much better than other airlines in first class. On most other airlines, even out of their hubs where they get better catering, it always still feels like an airplane food, even on NH or QR they are great but still not that great. And for the food in the F lounge, AF is the best .. end of story 🙂 (runner ups for lounge food worth mentioning are QF, LX)

    A big note that if you do NOT fly out of Paris, then the food in the air is just like other airlines in F, we know the reason why. I saw a comment above that the food in the air is not good, I guess this is the case?

    Second reason is I think I like the balance of being professional, polish, but at the same time, do a small talk, engaging, and give you more personalized service. I found the French culture give the balance that I like most. The mixed crews that are imported from S/SE Asia in ME3 carriers could vary and have inconsistent service.

    I like how relax and using common sense the AF crews (and the French overall) are. As a AF F passenger, and a Boeing engineer in Autopilot, flight control and navigation, I have been invited to the flightdeck mid flight a few times. Never once that FAs policing me to turn off electronics devices or to fasten seatbelt. They let me hold on to the champagne during take off every times. In some case I saw them left the teacup for other F pax even. The last time my companion was in J but the FA let him come sit on my ottoman during boarding, delay on tarmac, and desert course. They served him all the First Class drinks and desserts (after the pax next to us already put the curtain up, but we kept quiet anyway). Imagine all these on Lufthansa or BA?? no way.

    The rest are the obvious reasons you can see, the door to door experiences, nice stylish design of the cabin, color choices, etc

  33. Ben, I was hoping for you to fly this flight out of Paris instead of out of LAX though.

    Though in LAX you could use QF lounge but the food in the air will be just average out of the US.

  34. @concorde02 I think he did book it from Paris : “I was trying to decide how to get back from Europe to the US in the coming days….”
    I do agree though that this review would be lacking if he doesn’t go through the lounge experience at CDG, and the food from Paris.

  35. @ben, AF has recently released to the press that they will be upgrading their F hard product on their A380s starting at the end of 2019 through 2020. 🙂

  36. Seriously Lucky, quit the complaining about spending so many miles. It’s like the rich man who complains “I had to spend 200000 usd to geT this car.
    You got a review out of it, which many of your customers (readers) have wanted you to cover. You could also have flown Lufthansa, but chose not to.

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