How To Redeem Points For The Great Air France First Class Fares

Yesterday I posted about the amazing Air France first class fares we’re seeing at the moment between the US and Europe, which were shared by zoqfotpik on FlyerTalk. The fares are valid through the end of the schedule with no blackout dates, there’s a 90 day advance purchase requirement, and as of now there’s no end date for these fares (though I imagine they’ll be pulled eventually — if you’re interested I’d book sooner rather than later).

I figured there were a couple of other things worth pointing out about these fares.

The fares aren’t just good to Spain

There are also excellent fares from most US cities to London. For example, you can fly from San Francisco to London for under $4,500 roundtrip.

Or from New York to London for ~$3,500 roundtrip.

Or from Los Angeles to Helsinki for ~$4,250 roundtrip (though note the Paris to Helsinki flight is on Finnair, so I’m not sure you’d get access to the first class lounge on the outbound).

Or if you’re looking for a great first class fare from the West Coast, you can fly from Seattle to Bilbao via San Francisco for ~$3,600. That’s the cheapest fare I see from the West Coast.

If you do take advantage of this fare:

Amex can save you ~$300-500

As I explained yesterday, you can save even more if you have The Platinum Card® from American Express or The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN and call to book through the International Airline Program.

They offer a discount off premium cabin fares on Air France, and the savings seem to be around 10% or so. It varies based on the specific routing, though you can expect it will knock ~$300 off an East Coast fare, or ~$400-500 off a West Coast fare.

For example, the ~$4,250 West Coast fares seem to be running around ~$3,800 if booking through the International Airline Program. To crunch the numbers a bit further:

  • If you pay with The Platinum Card® from American Express you’ll earn 5x points, which I value at a further 8.5% return
  • If you credit to FlyingBlue, you’d earn 300% miles for the first class segments and 175% miles for the business class segments, so a roundtrip would earn you almost 40,000 miles

So you’d earn a total of 60,000 points for the roundtrip between Membership Rewards and FlyingBlue. If you value those at ~1.5 cents, that’s a return of ~$900 in points alone, making the real cost ~$2,900.

Redeeming points for these fares

Now that transferable points can be redeemed towards the cost of airfare at pretty efficient rates, let’s crunch some of the numbers.

If you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Ultimate Rewards points can be redeemed for 1.5 cents each towards the cost of a ticket. That means, for example, that you could book the ~$3,540 ticket from New York to London for ~236,000 Ultimate Rewards points. Then you’d earn almost 30,000 FlyingBlue miles for the ticket. The way I see it, that makes the real cost of the redemption closer to ~200,000 Ultimate Rewards points.

Don’t get me wrong, that’s still a lot of points, but I recently spent 200,000 FlyingBlue miles on a one-way ticket from Europe to the US in Air France first class, plus I had to pay carrier imposed surcharges. That was the cheapest way to book Air France first class on miles, and it required being an elite member with FlyingBlue.

A better value might be redeeming Membership Rewards points. If you have the The Platinum Card® from American Express or The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN you can redeem Membership Rewards points towards the cost of a ticket after getting the International Airline Program discount.

So let’s take that same New York to London fare. The Amex website states it would cost 331,826 Membership Rewards points. That’s based on a fare that’s $200+ lower than the published fare, though it’s possible it might be even cheaper if you call.

However:

If the latter scenario applies to you, that means you’d be paying a total of ~166,000 Membership Rewards points in the end, and you’d be earning about 30,000 FlyingBlue miles.

At that point that’s starting to look really attractive.

Bottom line

Air France first class is an incredible product. This still isn’t cheap, but it is the best deal that I’ve ever seen for Air France first class out of the US. If you’re in a position to book a ticket and have the interest in trying one of the world’s best first class products, I’d hop on this sooner rather than later.

So, who’s taking advantage of this great deal? 🙂

Comments

  1. @Lucky, I just redeemed AMEX MR points with 50% rebate back on JFK-BCN flight and in my FlyingBlue account it shows that I’ll earn 25,590 miles on this trip which is very low. Is that for one-way only or did AMEX book it in a way which doesn’t earn my the full amount?

  2. Great post Ben! This does seem like a really attractive deal. Unfortunately I won’t be able to take advantage of it but others should!

  3. @Katie – You can only book AF F through Flyingblue program and you need elite status. Not only that, Alaska has access to very few AF J seats.

  4. @ Lukas — Sorry, I was a bit off on the numbers. The “F” fare class only earns 300%, while “P” would earn 450%, which this isn’t. Updated the post to reflect that.

  5. @ Katie C — As noted by Luis, Air France only lets elite members of the FlyingBlue program book their first class awards, and only at the “Flex” level. They don’t make the space available to partner airlines at all.

  6. i’ve been 50/50 on this fare since it came out yesterday. I decided to sleep on it. But at the end of the day, I decided not to. I’m trying to stock up and earn AS elite status for 2018. This AF F fare would only earn about 19-21k eqms on AS (from SEA). The 50% class of service bonus is just not enough to purchase a $4k fare. If only AS had better earning rates on AF F. Look at BA F, for example. BA F earns 300% eqms and a whopping 500% RDMs on AS…and that’s without the elites bonus. Earning that much on an AF F fare would make the $4k AF F easier to digest.

  7. I thought of using UR points with CSR for this, but Air France does not even turn up as a search result. It seems strange, because I’m sure I’ve seen it show business seats on AF before. I also tried an exact date and routing posted here.

  8. Thanks for this tempting info! If you have both personal and business Amex Platinum, can you get both 5x and the rebate?

    Also, are open jaws possible?

  9. @Beachfan FWIW, I was able to book my outbound from LAX and inbound to JFK and still got the discount fare. I’d imagine it would work for differing arrival/departure points within Europe, but I”m doing a quick turn so didn’t check.

  10. I’m curious what the business case is to limit mile redemption to their own elites? Is this supposed to be a great perk for them that no one else can do it? Why not get the miles liability off their books if it’s going to fly empty? Does it allow them to charge a premium on the fare since miles cannot be redeemed? I assume if an airline allows its partners to redeem miles the partner airline would pay them, right? Would be interested to see the different strategies of Air France and say Lufthansa when it comes to first class.

  11. For what it’s worth, if you dont have Flying Blue status (or don’t want to spend 200k miles) and really really want to try La Premiere, you can book a biz award ticket for 62.5k and ask about a paid upgrade, which will run you about 2000€.

  12. Honestly don’t see the point in redeeming FB miles for a ticket. Their J seats are fine and they have many F promo fares in the 4-5k RT range.

  13. Gene is 100% correct. You can transfer UR into United and others for much cheaper biz class tix. Why would you blow almost 2x as many points to fly in F? While C is easily 2x better than Y the same can’t be said for F.
    Now the cash fares are not bad though we’ve seen many biz class sales for $2-3k RT for offpeak dates. So really only worth the $$ if you are flying summer.

  14. Hey pals at AF, lets take our fingers from our ???? and make some profit for respective
    governments rather then give them to non revs and mileage geeks.

  15. @ alec: lots of airlines do the same, Swiss notably. I was always under the impression the rewards tickets where much less profitable for airlines than paid tickets so I fully understand restrciting F. Anyways J is getting so good…

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