If you’ve read Ben’s piece on this month’s Flying Blue Promo Awards, you probably noticed his frustration with the first round of Promo Awards under the new award program. Not only was promo award space between the U.S and Europe easier to find previously, the new program has implemented some near-nonsensical pricing logic once you go beyond Paris and Amsterdam.
That being said, whenever a program changes their rules new opportunities are created. In this case, it seems the variable origin/destination pricing may have some potential value, particularly with these promo awards. As a reminder, this month’s Flying Blue promo awards for travel starting in North America are as follows:
- 25% off Air France or KLM economy awards between San Francisco (SFO) and Europe for travel July 31 through September 29, 2018
- 50% off Air France or KLM economy awards between Chicago (ORD) and Europe for travel July 31 through September 29, 2018
Combined with a transfer bonus, there are some interesting award options out there.
Book a Flying Blue Promo Award to Paris for 9,000 Membership Rewards points
Now, if you book economy awards and live in Chicago, pay attention! An economy award to Europe booked by June 29 with travel between July 30 and September 29 will only cost you 11,000 Flying Blue miles and just under $70 in fees.
“But, I thought you said 9,000 Membership Rewards points!”
Settle down, now.
You can transfer 11,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points, Citi ThankYou points or SPG Starpoints. Technically, you could transfer 15,400 Premier points — did anyone actually get the new Barclays Arrival Premier? — but, we can do better than that.
Anyway, Membership Rewards! You probably forgot that Amex launched a transfer bonus to Flying Blue at the beginning of May. I know I did — at first! If you transfer Membership Rewards by June 15, you’ll only need to transfer 9,000 points to get your hands on 11,000 Flying Blue miles.
Lots of award space to Paris on some dates
For those traveling with friends or family, I’ve even seen some dates with space for 4 people at the promo rate.
Look at that! 44,000 Flying Blue miles — 35,200 Membership Rewards points for those counting — for 4 people to fly from Chicago (ORD) to Paris (CDG). If you’re feeling generous, maybe you’ll use your miles for your friends and have them pick up the taxes and fees.
Flying Blue’s new variable pricing can work in your favor
Flying Blue is doing some weird things right now, which I’m guessing is a result of the program update. Like this one: Chicago to Casablanca (CMN) with economy awards pricing out at 63,000 miles one-way while premium economy and business class are both 61,000 miles (but with different fees).
None of these are saver level awards, but it’s good for a laugh.
What seems to not be a glitch, however, is that each European destination has different and variable pricing. So as Ben mentioned, awards between Chicago and Frankfurt are a ridiculous 48,000 miles:
But, you can also book one-way flights to Amsterdam (AMS) for 13,750 miles — that’s 11,000 Membership Rewards points. And economy awards to Copenhagen (CPG) and Prague (PRG) can be had for 10,750 miles.
That’s two more city options for just 9,000 Membership Rewards points. I realize this isn’t earth-shattering savings but why waste points when you don’t have to?
Does this mean the Promo Award situation to Europe isn’t so bad?
Yes and no. I’ve just mentioned 4 cities with Promo Award space. That’s not exactly a ton of options. If Air France and KLM still allowed calendar searches, I might have done a more extensive search. As it is though, it’s pretty frustrating to search individual dates and city pairs in order to find a routing combination that has the promo pricing.
I’m sure this was just another move to “enhance” the customer experience because, ya know, customers like when it takes longer to figure out their options.
But, I digress.
While it’s nice to see a 50% off promo award option from the U.S. and improved award rates on some routes to Europe, the unpredictable nature of which cities are included and the lack of a calendar search option are serious negatives.
Don’t forget the San Francisco promo option
Now, for the sake of being thorough, Flying Blue also has a Promo Award to/from San Francisco (SFO). This promo provides a 25% reduction in the mileage requirement.
- San Francisco to Dublin: 17,625 Flying Blue miles (14,100 Membership Rewards points)
- San Francisco to Paris: 21,750 Flying Blue miles (17,400 Membership Rewards points)
- San Francisco to Amsterdam: 19,500 Flying Blue miles (15,600 Membership Rewards points)
Not quite as exciting, but still some great economy rates from the west coast, especially with the Membership Rewards transfer bonus.
Transferring points and booking with Flying Blue
If you call Flying Blue, they will place flights on hold for you, though keep in mind you will then need to call to have the tickets issued.
Transfers from Amex are almost instant so you can pretty much transfer and book immediately. I’ve found that, if I’m logged into my Flying Blue account, I need to log out and log back in before my mileage balance will refresh so I can book.
Speaking of instant transfers, Ultimate Rewards have been slower to transfer recently. I just heard one report of a transfer still not processing after 72 hours.
Once the miles are in your account, the booking process is pretty simple. Which doesn’t really make up for having to search one day at a time in hopes of finding award space — did I mention how much the decision to ditch calendar searches annoys me?
How bad are the fuel surcharges?
Flying Blue passes on carrier-imposed surcharges, and in premium cabins they can get quite steep.
For economy, however, they’re not as high, and a round-trip economy award to Paris will include $206.03 in taxes and fees per person. At 22,000 Flying Blue miles — 18,000 Membership Rewards points — that might still be a great deal for you, but it makes checking cash fares a must.
It could also make sense to book the Flying Blue award as a one-way (fees will be ~$70), and use points from a different program for the return.
Alternative: Chase travel portal for Sapphire Reserve cardholders
While you’re checking cash fares to compare your options, make sure you check the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, especially if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. While you won’t be getting mind-blowing cents per point redemptions, you might find that using Ultimate Rewards points at 1.5 cents per point in the portal is better than a Promo Award.
During this Promo Award period, most cash fares I looked at from Chicago were too high for using the Chase travel portal to make sense. However, I did see an option on Icelandair for $469.61 which would require 31,307 Ultimate Rewards points.
When you consider that this includes the cost of taxes and fees, you might decide you’d be better off booking through the portal rather than using 22,000 Flying Blue miles plus $206.
Other dates during this promo period had cash fares over $1,000 which clearly make using points the ideal way to go.
Look, I’m not going to say that the changes being made to Flying Blue are going to be all sunshine and rainbows. The mileage increases on some awards have been awful and limiting Promo Awards to a few European cities is clearly a negative change. Never mind the fact that the website is having all kinds of issues.
However, we’ve also seen a reduction in miles required to destinations such as Israel. Previously, business class was 62,500 miles and economy was 25,000 regardless of departure city. Now, business class is sitting at 53,000 miles while economy varies from 23,000 to 29,000 miles.
As with any program, I’ll continue to use it when it provides value and ignore it when it doesn’t.
If anything, it’s the loss of the calendar search that bothers me most. If you don’t expect devaluations you haven’t been paying attention, but the removal of the calendar search is unnecessary and so blatantly bad for customers.
I don’t know where Flying Blue is going and there are plenty of quirks in the system right now — I couldn’t even log in this morning — but I’m not quite ready to toss it in the trash heap with Air New Zealand Airpoints.
Has anyone found any other cities with good Promo Award pricing?