Air France Adds Restrictions To First Class Awards

Filed Under: Air France/KLM, Awards

Air France La Premiere is one of my favorite first class products in the world, and it looks like they’ve just added even more restrictions to booking awards in this cabin.

Redeeming Miles In Air France First Class

As it stands, Air France first class awards can exclusively be booked by Flying Blue Silver, Gold, and Platinum members. So not only are first class redemptions restricted to Flying Blue elite members, but the redemption rates are also outrageously high, as they need to be booked at the “Flex” level. On the plus side, this means that availability is easy to come by.

For example, a one-way first class award ticket from New York to Paris costs 220,000 Flying Blue miles, plus taxes and carrier imposed surcharges.

Air France first class

Flying Blue Adding More First Class Award Restrictions

As of October 15, 2019, redeeming miles for Air France first class will become even more challenging and expensive:

  • Flying Blue Silver members will no longer have access to La Premiere awards or upgrades, so these will be restricted to Gold and Platinum members
  • Mileage prices will be increased for first class award tickets, though the cost to upgrade will remain unchanged

Flying Blue already has just about the most restrictions and highest costs for first class awards, so these developments seem extreme.

I know some people went for Flying Blue Silver exclusively so they’d be able to redeem miles for La Premiere, so this will be a negative development for those people. I also can’t imagine how much higher they can jack up the prices.

Dining in Air France first class

Air France La Premiere Is Great, But…

Air France La Premiere is spectacular, at least on the 777. The service is excellent, and I love the intimacy of the 777 first class cabin. Conversely, the A380 has a really outdated first class product.


Air France first class

What really makes the Air France first class experience so spectacular, though, is the ground experience in Paris, which is the best first class ground experience in the world.


Air France first class lounge

All that being said, these added restrictions seem over the top:

  • A majority of the first class seats in Air France’s fleet are on the A380, which features what I’d consider to be the most outdated A380 first class seat out there
  • Air France already had the most expensive and restrictive first class awards of any airline, so to see them jack those rates up even more is rough

Bottom Line

As of October 15, Flying Blue will increase first class award redemption rates, and will also block Silver members from redeeming for the cabin. The reality is that redeeming miles for Air France first class wasn’t a great deal before, and I think the way to go is still to try to find a decent discounted first class fare.

For example, right now I see a sub-$4,700 first class fare roundtrip from London to Shanghai. I’ve seen better fares in the past (closer to $4,000), but all things considered that’s a better deal than having to go for status, redeem 450,000+ miles roundtrip, and pay surcharges.

Will anyone be impacted by these Flying Blue changes?

(Tip of the hat to InsideFlyer)

Comments
  1. @ Ben — You specifically show an A380 on your example paid F ticket. Are similar prices available for routings on the 777? And even better, what are some sample best prices for routings with two first class legs in each direct (like the JFK-CDG-JNB you flew with your Dad)?

  2. I completely agree with your last paragraph, Lucky. With the CSR, you would be paying a little over 300k in points for that cash ticket. You already pointed out, that you obviously don’t need elite status or have to pay surcharges to get this ticket. However, do not forget that you would also earn a significant chunk of miles along the way. For example, with Delta you would earn 300% in redeemable miles, 200% MQM and 60% MQD. The MQD would not quite get you Delta Silver, but I am sure there are other programs where you could earn instant SkyTeam Elite status if that’s more beneficial to you.

  3. I still can’t believe I scored JFK-CDG-BCN round-trip in F on 777 for $1,500 2 years ago. What a steal that was!

  4. Not sure this should surprise many it’s more common place with all the carriers and hotels these days. Having said that it is disappointing AF front cabin is a treat for me it’s the best in the sky other than a few carriers in Asia and ME. Of note though is the new business configuration on the 777’s it’s just fine with me.

  5. @Gene – a couple of years ago I found LAX-CDG-BCN-CDG-JFK for about $3,500. I specifically chose the 777 one way and the A380 the other to compare both products, but that fare was available with a 777 both ways. Prices at that level aren’t exactly common but do pop up occasionally. You just have to keep your eye out for them.

  6. I was purposely crediting all my SkyTeam flights this month to AF so I could redeem for AF F as a Silver.

    So, yes this impacts me and I’m pretty jaded. Well, I guess I will change where I credit all my future flights to DL.

  7. I spent an entire year on Delta domestic for work—mainly in paid F—back in 2015 to get gold FB status to redeem la premier. Gold was required back then. I topped off my FB account with AMEX to get it to 200k one way and redeemed LAX-CDG-OSL-LYR. This was with LAX-CDG in F on the A380 with almost a full day in the lounge for the layover. There were times that year with butt in seat effort I questioned what I was doing. In the end it was absolutely worth the effort and one of my best trips. Really the CDG lounge, escorts, and service are just flawless. I have a model AF A380 on my desk as a memory of the trip.

  8. I’m currently Flying Blue gold and I tried redeeming a La Premiere ticket just now and for some reason can’t find any availability at all (I have enough miles in my account.) I think AF may be tinkering with their award reservations at the moment. I was able to search a week ago with no issues.
    I agree with you though that after these changes it’s best to simply find a discounted La Premiere ticket and credit to Delta.

  9. The best way to fly AF first is definitely with a mexican Citi card. 280,000 points for first class roundtrip from Mexico to Europe. It’s a fixed value award chart. It counts as a paid ticket and you accumulate miles. Plus, we still have the 4th night free without restrictions.

    https://www.loyaltygateway.com/banamexPrestige/rewards/DisplaySitePageServlet?site_page_name=SPN_DISPLAY&display_source=tsAndCsSrc&source_id=tsandcs&source_type=typeFileSrc&file_ext=htm&bank_id=10352&i18n=es_US&csrf_token=hobqn4e1abt1

  10. This simply reaffirmed my conclusion that airlines loyalty programs are no longer valuable. Miles are being devalued as we speak, and premium award seats are virtually non-existent. My wife and I are now collecting only Ultimate Reward points.

  11. Most blogs aren’t reporting this yet, but to add extra insult to injury, you can now only redeem miles for AF FC if your first name is either Pierre or Colette. And you can’t change it, it has to read that on your birth certificate. 😉

  12. The hardest first class award is Swiss. Since you have to be M&M elite at SA Gold level which requires a lot more than AF Gold.

    I’ve been AF Gold/Platinum the last 5 years and redeem AF F every years, 200k miles maybe high but the process is easy and award is available almost every day. That’s much better than award on most airlines that finding availability is a tough bottleneck part of the process.

    AF Gold status is so easy to make. While LH/LX miles and more status require much more to attain just to redeem LX F.

  13. Yeah I switched most of my spending on a 2% cash back card this year. If anything AF is doing exatly what SWISS did some years ago. Insteed of trying to sell 10-20k F tickets and allowing everyone to book with miles, they have a much more agressive pricing and limit the awards to elite memebers (senators+ for M&M). I think for people paying for J in the first place it can make more sense to pay slighly more for F one half the trip (the return for example).

  14. For everyone saying they are switching to 2% cash back – you may still be better off with cards like Chase Sapphire Reserve (3% cash back for dining/travel spend when redeemed as cash back or 4.5% when redeemed via travel portal) or Amex Gold + Charles Schwab Platinum (6.25% pure cash back on flights, 5% pure cash back on dining and groceries) depending on your spending patterns.

  15. @concorde02 I agree with you that Swiss F is hard to get using miles. My friends who have flown it recently do so by upgrading to Swiss F from business class (business class paid through their company’s dime.)
    BTW, am able to search for La Premiere awards again. Not sure what happened earlier. My AF gold will end in Dec and I plan to redeem one more AF La Premiere flight. Will need to decide when and where.

  16. AF wants a unique product and maintain the aura around it. This post is evidence they’re succeeding. Lucky is basically saying AF first is good enough that its worth paying for. Not the listed price for most routes, but a significant amount of cash none the less.

  17. I think that Air France needs an intervention. 220K already was ridiculous, when Emirates is charging 85K for a better first-class transatlantic product — and to two cities (Milan and Athens), not one. Air France must be embarrassed by the new mileage price — the link says to see below, and there’s nothing below. Well, at least it’s “La Premiere” in terms of price.

  18. I am with Steve above. I am a sliver who has never redeemed points for a flight for AF, but have paid for 2 LaP flights and other flights with AF. I was saving to be able to do a LaP flight on points in the future, but won’t be able to now. I don’t live anywhere near the AF network, and not near a skyteam hub, so it took me a good bit of work to maintain silver status. So I am disappointed in the change. I have a hard time believing that silvers were flooding the LaP cabin given the high points requirements. On the 2 flights I paid for, my wife and I were alone on one, and on the second there was one person that was upgraded. Not the end of the world, but I was looking forward to “getting something back” for all the flights I paid for.

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