Can You Redeem Miles For Air France First Class?

Air France offers a phenomenal first class product on their Boeing 777-300ERs. The last time I ranked the world’s best first class products, Air France scored number one on the list (though I think Emirates’ new first class may have kicked them out of the number one spot, so it might be time for an update).

Air France even scored number one for their first class ground experience in Paris.

The catch is that historically Air France first class is one of the most inaccessible products in the world using miles. Air France doesn’t make any first class award seats available to partner frequent flyer programs, and they even restrict availability within their own program. Only Flying Blue elite members have been able to redeem miles for first class, and only at the “flex” award level. Between the US and Europe that will run you 200,000 miles one-way, for example.

In June major changes were made to the Flying Blue loyalty program. With these changes, award redemption pricing became dynamic, where it varies based on all kinds of factors, and Flying Blue began issuing miles based on how much you spend rather than how many miles you fly.

Once these changes kicked in, many people noticed that suddenly “La Premiere” (first class) shows up as an option when trying to redeem miles through Air France’s website.

Furthermore, when you do an award search you’ll see that La Premiere award availability shows up, even if you’re not a Flying Blue elite member.

So I’ve received many questions from readers asking if it’s now possible to redeem Flying Blue miles for Air France first class, even as a non-elite member. You’d actually think it would be possible, since Flying Blue’s website says the following:

Use Miles to book any available seat on the plane with Air France, KLM, HOP!, Joon, and Transavia

Last I checked, a first class seat is a seat on the plane, so it should be possible to redeem miles for it, no?

Well, yeah, unfortunately no. It’s still not possible for Flying Blue non-elite members to redeem miles for Air France first class. If you actually go through the process of trying to book, you’ll get an error message. If you try to book by phone, they’ll tell you the awards are for elite members only. I’ve also confirmed directly with Air France that there has been no policy change regarding award availability in first class.

I’m not sure why they suddenly started listing first class awards online, and couldn’t get an answer on that. For that matter, I’m not sure why they eliminated the award availability calendar from their website, which was a terrible change.

So if you want to fly Air France first class, your best option continues to be either finding a good deal during a fare sale, or going for Flying Blue’s entry level Silver status, and then transferring over enough miles for a ticket.

Comments

  1. There was a lot of partner phantom awards popping up when they upgraded the website and made the program changes too. I went back and forth with them for a week about Delta biz nonstop from JFK to Europe on Delta that kept showing but was never actually bookable.

  2. Thanks. I was an AF elite in prior years but not now, and was starting to look for some AF award flights in the future, and noticed the button for La Premiere, but each time I tried to get a little further in the booking (though I did not intend to follow through, as I am a little short on miles), I got the error message. Now I know. Also, from my looking, the result of the dynamic award pricing has meant almost every route has jumped in number of miles needed. It reminds me of the old joke that AF is going to keep raising their prices until they make a profit.

  3. I just flew AF Business to Tel Aviv and First back. The difference was pretty major. I slept so much better in the F seat with the privacy curtain. Although it may be because I finished the whole bottle of Krug.

  4. The reason this happens is simply because their website and IT has been a total mess since the new Flying Blue implementation, and that’s why they seemingly have no answer. You can check on Flyertalk, there are a few threads about that and a lot of us AF flyers are very very annoyed at all of it. To give you an even more glaring example, they have been participating in TSAPre for months now and there is STILL no way to enter your KTN number when making a reservation online (you have to call or use some other ridiculous tricks). We are all hoping that they will get it together soon because this is all very frustrating.

  5. Talk about dynamic pricing: i just booked 3 people in B on AF LAX to NBO on Tuesday. 85K per person one way. I checked on Wednesday, pricing went up to 200K per person! Cray cray.

  6. It is a shame that their elite status is only good for one year or I could make more use of this.

  7. Two thoughts after reading the comments:

    (1) Re: Paulla’s comment on dynamic pricing: This is reminiscent of my experience with booking a one way business class ticket (March 2016) with Delta Skymiles from JFK-Shanghai-Melbourne for 70,000 miles on China Eastern. I remember clearly that I had to fly on a Tuesday because every other day of the week was like 200,000 miles.

    (2) Re: Lucky’s comment about the disappearance of the award availability calendar: Perhaps this is not so surprising since they are just following Delta’s lead — and I’ll go out on a limb and guess that at least the other major carriers in SkyTeam have or will do similar in the next year or so.

  8. I almost flew Air France for the first time this month, but alas, Jetblue was a better deal. And with no crazy 9 hour overnight layover.

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