It’s now possible to redeem Air France-KLM Flying Blue miles for travel in international first class on some partner airlines, which is a pretty cool development! This was first quietly rolled out a few weeks ago, but has now been officially announced by Flying Blue.
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SkyTeam generally doesn’t allow reciprocal first class redemptions
I consider SkyTeam to be the weakest of the “big three” alliances when it comes to reciprocal elite recognition, mileage earning opportunities, and mileage redemption opportunities. That’s not a judgment of the member airlines as such, but rather a reflection of the restrictions in place regarding reciprocity.
Just to give one small example, SkyTeam Elite Plus doesn’t offer lounge access on domestic itineraries (even if you have status with a non-US program), and heck, Delta even restricts its own SkyTeam Elite Plus members from accessing Sky Clubs on most international itineraries. You don’t see restrictions like that in oneworld or Star Alliance.
When it comes to redeeming miles, SkyTeam is the only alliance that doesn’t consistently offer first class award redemptions on at least some partners. Most SkyTeam frequent flyer programs don’t let you redeem miles for travel in first class on partner airlines, but rather this only sometimes seems to be offered based on an individual agreement between two airlines.
It’s worth noting that it didn’t used to be this way. I remember back in the day redeeming Delta SkyMiles for Air France first class. I mean, nowadays I could redeem that many SkyMiles for a trip to Wichita… if I’m lucky.
Air France-KLM Flying Blue is the most useful SkyTeam frequent flyer program, in my opinion, both in terms of redemption opportunities, and in terms of opportunities to rack up miles.
However, historically the program hasn’t really offered many first class redemption opportunities. It hasn’t been possible to redeem Flying Blue miles for travel in first class on any partners. Furthermore, redemptions for Air France’s La Premiere first class are restricted to Flying Blue Platinum members.
There’s a positive update when it comes to first class awards with Flying Blue…
Flying Blue’s partner first class awards
Flying Blue has announced that it has rolled out first class award redemptions on three partner airlines — China Eastern, Garuda Indonesia, and Xiamen Air. Admittedly these are pretty niche opportunities and the value isn’t amazing, but still, I’m sure this will interest some.
If you go to the Flying Blue website, you can redeem miles for Garuda Indonesia first class, at the rate of 275,000 Flying Blue miles one-way, plus around $200 in taxes and fees. There seem to be up to three first class award seats available per flight.
It’s also possible to redeem miles for China Eastern first class, which is admittedly not quite as amazing of a product.
For example, if you go to the Flying Blue website, you can redeem miles for China Eastern first class between Frankfurt and Shanghai, at the cost of 130,000 Flying Blue miles one-way, plus around $300 in taxes and fees. There seem to generally be two first class award seats per flight.
Xiamen Air first class redemptions are also possible in theory (according to Flying Blue), but I haven’t actually been able to find any first class redemptions that are available. Xiamen Air only has first class on some Boeing 787-8s, and much like on China Eastern, the product isn’t much to get excited about.
Flying Blue states that it plans to roll out first class redemptions on more partners, which is great. Then again, of the remaining SkyTeam carriers, I think Saudia is the most likely to be available next, and that’s about it. It sure would be nice if Flying Blue made the award calendar easier to use for first class redemptions, since it doesn’t currently seem to work well for that.
The China Eastern redemption rates are pretty attractive, while the Garuda Indonesia redemption rates are steep. Keep in mind that Flying Blue miles are easy to earn, as the program partners with Amex Membership Rewards, Capital One, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Citi ThankYou.
Furthermore, we frequently see transfer bonuses of around 25%. So with a 25% transfer bonus, you’d be paying 220,000 transferable points for Garuda Indonesia first class. That’s not some amazing deal, but given the limited first class award options out there nowadays, that’s also not terrible for such a long flight.
The Air France-KLM Flying Blue program is allowing award redemptions in first class on select partner airlines, including China Eastern, Garuda Indonesia, and Xiamen Air. China Eastern redemption rates are quite affordable, but the product also isn’t much to get excited about. Meanwhile Garuda Indonesia redemption rates are higher, but it is a spectacular product.
It’s nice to see the Flying Blue program improving in this way, and I’m sure some people will see value in this. It’s certainly more effort than Delta SkyMiles is putting in. This is only the latest Flying Blue improvement, as we also recently saw the introduction of stopovers on one-way awards, plus improved award pricing in many regions.
What do you make of Flying Blue’s partner first class redemptions?