Air France offers one of the world’s most exclusive first class products. It’s not only exclusive in terms of the size of the first class cabins, but also in terms of how few ways there are to get into these cabins with miles. So in this post I wanted to go over the details of that.
Basics of Air France La Premiere first class
Air France’s first class, known as La Premiere (“the first” in French), is one of the world’s best first class experiences. Personally I rank the inflight product as being the second best in the world, while I rank the ground experience as being the best in the world.
Currently Air France only offers first class on select Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, which fly to high yield markets (like Dubai, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, etc.). Each of these planes is configured with just one row of four first class seats, in a 1-2-1 configuration.
Air France has innovative first class seats, as each has a curtain that goes all the way from the ceiling to the floor, giving you utmost privacy. The only other first class product in the world offering this level of privacy is Emirates’ new first class.
Everything else about the inflight experience is incredible as well, from the consistently great service, to the top notch food, to the amenities.
The awesomeness of the Air France first class experience doesn’t end in the air, as Air France offers an unrivaled first class ground experience. You’ll be driven to & from the plane, you can receive a complimentary spa treatment, and you can enjoy an amazing meal in the lounge. Note that you can also independently buy the first class ground experience, though there are many restrictions associated with that.
Redeeming miles for Air France La Premiere first class
Here’s the catch — of the world’s best first class products, Air France La Premiere is the product that’s most inaccessible with miles.
You can only redeem miles for Air France first class directly through the Air France-KLM Flying Blue program, and only if you have Flying Blue Gold or Platinum status:
- You can’t redeem miles for Air France first class if you are a non-elite or Silver member of the Flying Blue program
- You can’t redeem any partner loyalty program miles for travel in Air France first class
- Note that similar restrictions exist for upgrades with miles
- There are carrier imposed surcharges on these award tickets, but they’re fairly mild (at least compared to airlines like British Airways and Lufthansa)
Even if you are eligible for these redemptions, award costs are steep. How much should you expect to pay? You can use the “miles price estimator” on the Flying Blue website to get a sense of how many miles would be required. Just to give some examples:
- A one-way first class ticket from New York to Paris would cost 220,000 Flying Blue miles
- A one-way first class ticket from Los Angeles to Paris to Frankfurt would cost 230,000 Flying Blue miles
- A one-way first class ticket from Miami to Paris to Singapore would cost 320,000 Flying Blue miles
- A one-way first class ticket from Washington to Paris to Dubai would cost 350,000 Flying Blue miles
As you can see, these are really steep redemption rates. If it’s any consolation, these awards book into the “Flex” award level, meaning that award availability is typically pretty easy to come by. Inventory should generally match up with however many seats in the “F” fare bucket show as being for sale.
For example, in a four seat cabin you’ll usually find that in advance the inventory shows “P4F2,” with “P” being the highest fare class, and “F” being the lower fare class. Typically at least two first class award seats will be available per flight.
Are there tricks to booking Air France La Premiere first class?
While I wouldn’t say there are any “tricks” to booking Air France La Premiere, there are a couple of other things to consider:
- Sometimes Air France has reasonable(ish) paid first class fares, though they’re rarer than in the past; you’ll usually find the best fares originating in Europe, especially departing from places other than Paris, like Frankfurt, Geneva, Madrid, Stockholm, Zurich, etc.
- Air France will sometimes sell paid first class upgrades at check-in, and prices vary; for example, from Paris to Dubai it might cost as little as ~$1,000, while from New York to Paris it typically costs ~$2,200
Lastly, I’ll just throw this out there. In the past I’ve considered going for Flying Blue Gold status in order to be able to redeem for Air France first class. I could probably earn this status by crediting my Delta flights to the program.
Since Flying Blue partners with virtually all major transferable points currencies, I could then transfer over points for redemptions. We often even see transfer bonuses of ~25%. So if an award would usually cost ~220,000 miles each way, you could book it for “just” 176,000 transferable points.
Is that a bargain? Of course not. But when you consider the lack of alternatives for transatlantic first class, and the ability to lock in awards as soon as the booking window opens, it’s not quite as bad as it may initially appear.
This isn’t something I’m really considering right now, but I don’t think it’s the worst strategy for someone who wants easy access to Air France La Premiere.
Air France La Premiere is one of the world’s best first class experiences. Unfortunately it’s also one of the toughest experiences to secure with miles.
You can only redeem miles for Air France first class if you have at least Gold status in the Flying Blue program, and even then redemption rates are high. The good news is that award availability is quite good, which is otherwise a struggle with transatlantic first class.
Some might find it to be worthwhile to earn status with Flying Blue to redeem for Air France first class. Alternatively, Air France does sometimes sell first class upgrades at check-in, which is otherwise the best strategy for booking Air France first class.
Have any OMAAT readers redeemed miles for Air France first class?