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. In this post I wanted to go over the details of that, especially as Air France has added new first class award restrictions as of 2023.
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.
Air France is even planning on introducing a new first class product in the winter 2023 & 2024 season. Details of the product are fairly limited as of now, though.
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 Platinum status:
- You can’t redeem miles for Air France first class if you are a Flying Blue Gold, Silver, or non-elite member
- 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)
- Air France releases at most one first class award seat per flight, so if you’re trying to travel as a couple, you’ll have to pay for at least one of the seats
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, at least Flying Blue now allows stopovers on one-way awards, so you could break up your journey with a stopover in Paris.
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 Copenhagen, 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
In the past I’ve considered going for Flying Blue elite status in order to get access to Air France first class awards, though not anymore. The status isn’t too hard to earn, so that’s not what’s stopping me. Rather the issue is that Gold members can no longer redeem for first class, and on top of that you’re restricted to one first class award seat per flight.
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 Platinum status in the Flying Blue program, and even then redemption rates are high. Furthermore, Flying Blue now only makes one award seat available per flight in first class, so this aspirational redemption isn’t realistic if you want to travel with someone else.
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?