Flying Blue is an exciting program that is now transferable from Citi ThankYou points, Amex MR points, and SPG points. But little did I know just how awesome this program is. So I’m very excited for this post.
I’m very proud of this research. Not only is this a “best use” post, I created the first complete Flying Blue award chart, defined regions, discovered some odd pricings, made a list of which partners do/don’t have fuel surcharges and which partners can be booked online. In many ways, this post will be the first (that I know of) to stumble upon a lot of things.
I was a little down on Flying Blue early on because of their passing on fuel surcharges. But the reality is that they don’t pass on full fuel surcharges on all partners and there are some great cheap redemptions. In fact, some of the best redemptions to Europe, Hawaii, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Tahiti and many places in the Middle East. That’s quite a list to be the best at. Oh, and it’s one of the cheapest ways to get to Tahiti from the US (60k roundtrip).
This is a gem of a program and a couple gems in this post. 😉
Also, one of the best parts of this program is the sheer availability to Europe, or anywhere. While they and Delta haven’t had as generous award programs in the past, today they are closer in price, and they don’t have super successful partners taking away all their award availability. Looking at flights to Europe on United.com can be depressing, and most of the routes I checked with FlyingBlue were wide open with daily availability.
How Loosely Defined Regions Work In Your Favor
One thing that is really confusing is their definition of regions. They don’t define regions well at all, and their regions aren’t intuitive. For example, Tel Aviv is considered Europe but Amman is not. This works out really well if you need a flight to Tel Aviv. Just compare…
US to Tel Aviv with different mileage programs roundtrip:
- US Airways = 80,000 miles
- United = 85,000 miles
- AA = 90,000 miles
And what is Flying Blue? 50,000 miles to Tel Aviv roundtrip! Not only do they have one of the best award prices to Europe, they include a ton of stuff in Europe. Get it while it lasts, as this may be the cheapest flight to the Middle East, period.
Plus, award availability is (again) great and the fuel surcharges are actually very low, or non existent depending on who you fly. Here are daily oneway flights from NYC to Tel Aviv on Delta for 25,000 miles and $23 USD (or 18 Euro).
What is North America?
Another example is the “North America” region, which excludes Hawaii and includes Alaska… Okay, I saw that coming. But it also includes “Mexico”, which is technically true, but most award charts consider Mexico as “Central America” or specifically prices it the same as Central America.
Thus, you can get a flight to Mexico for 12,500, plus the stupid Mexican taxes (which can be $100 roundtrip).
That’s not too odd, but you would think Puerto Rico would be in the “Caribbean” region, and it’s not, it’s in the North American region. Thus, a trip to Puerto Rico can be 12,500 miles (instead of 17,500 miles with most airlines).
And my next test, is obviously the US Virgin Islands, which are also North America. Gold.
Although, I should note that US to the Caribbean is only 15,000 miles each way anyways. So not only are you saving 10,000 miles roundtrip over other airlines, but you’re also saving 5,000 miles roundtrip using FlyingBlue on the rest of your Caribbean destinations.
The Hawaii-Caribbean Region?
Why Hawaii and the Caribbean sometimes get lumped together by foreign rewards program, I do not know, but it’s a huge gain for us. First, I must call attention to the fact that mainland US to Hawaii is only 15,000 miles each way. That’s 30,000 miles roundtrip! Compare that to other programs:
- US Airways = 40,000 miles
- AA = 45,000 miles
- United = 45,00 miles
- Air Canada = 45,000 miles
And Air France / Flying Blue is 30,000 miles! The other airlines are nearly 50% more.
Although, that’s not the really odd part.
What’s odd is that you can fly from Hawaii to the Caribbean for 12,500 miles each way. This obviously benefits someone in Hawaii more than us mainlanders, but it’s interesting. However, I couldn’t make it price out online, but it should be possible.
The oddness continues and despite them never explaining that Europe is actually three different regions, I’ve been able to figure most of it out. However, I’ll explain a bit more about that in a minute.
The Complete Flying Blue Award Chart
Unfortunately, if you go to the FlyingBlue website, there is no parnter award chart. Well, there is one award chart completely based out of Europe. So I decided to make a complete award chart by using their semi-broken calculator. Thus, a little present to the miles community.
It’s actually slightly more complicated than it appears at first, but I want to continue with the good stuff before getting into the nitty gritty details.
But just to highlight that French Polynesia is its own region, that’s 60k roundtrip. Air France has a direct flight from LAX to PPT, and it’s some of the best availability around for Tahiti.
50% Award Tickets
The big noticeable thing with FlyingBlue is their “Promo Awards” list which can be found here. These are like the PointBreaks of flights (actually it’s just like Lufthansa’s Mileage Bargain) – flash sales for certain times and certain routes. It’s not always what you want but they are amazing deals for whoever does book them.
It’s all KLM and AirFrance, which means for a long haul you’ll always have a $63 fee each direction, on top of the airport taxes. Not free by any means, but still a decent deal. So you’re giving up $63 to fly on KLM/AF instead of Delta and gaining 12,500 miles, each direction.
Right now I don’t see any 50% off awards on North America to Europe, but when there are that means you can get a flight to Europe for 12,500 miles.
Still, for December and January there are flights to Chicago for 18,750 miles, instead of 25,000 miles. That’s 37,500 miles roundtrip to Europe! I see the same deal for Boston, Chicago, Houston, Miami and DC.
Sky Team Fuel Surcharges When Using Flying Blue Miles
My main problem with Air France was that they pass on fuel surcharges, but as you’ll see in a minute, that’s not always true. And even when it is true, it isn’t always true.
The best example is pretty much any flight to/from Europe. KLM and Air France can have fuel surcharges as high as 200 Euros each direction, and the actual charged rate is 50 Euros ($63 USD). Some of the Asian airlines follow suite and charge 50 Euros when coming from Europe but then charge more from flights to the US.
I tried to base everything on long haul flights from the US. However, for airlines that don’t go to the US, I just looked at various long hauls. Prices are per direction (not roundtrip). I also included if that airline is bookable online, and most are.
|Fuel Surcharges in $||Book Online?|
|Alitalia||25 – 63||Yes|
|Delta Air Lines||None||Yes|
|Middle East Airlines||?|
Why Flying Blue isn’t great for business class
Business Class almost always has more expensive fuel surcharges. For example, KLM and Air France flights that are $63 in economy, are now $228 per direction, greatly increasing the price of a roundtrip. Plus, as you may have noticed, business awards are well over double the economy price most of the time. And, award availability isn’t too great on many business class flights. Worth looking, but still not great.
Definition of Award Regions
I never went over the basic definitions of a region, and I’ll just expand to what they call each region… Which isn’t always a lot of info. But since I shortened some, here are the full region names:
- North America
- Central America, Caribbean, Hawaii
- Latin America 1: Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela
- Latin America 2: Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Uruguay
- Middle East, Central Asia, Central Russia
- Central, East, & West Africa
- South Africa
- Indian Subcontinent
- Asia 1: China, South Korea, Japan, East Russia, Mongolia
- Asia 2: Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand
- Oceania (my name for it, which includes all of the Pacific including Australia and New Zealand).
- French Pacific (my name): New Calcedonia, French Polynesia
Also, it says “North America, Netherlands Antilles”, this isn’t because it’s one region, but because it’s the same price from Europe, 25,000 miles. But from the US to St. Maarten (for example) would be 15,000 miles.
Now is as good of a time as any to explain the Europe award chart. The award chart and calculator officially say 25,000 miles roundtrip, and that’s just not true. It can be true, but it’s an over simplification.
First, let me split up Europe into sub-regions:
- Western Europe
- Central Europe
- Eastern Europe + Countries that aren’t actually Europe
To go from 1 region to another within this region has different pricings. Odd, but I’ll do my best to explain.
- 1 region = 8,500 miles
- 2 regions = 10,500 miles
- Eastern Europe + Non Europe = 12,500 miles
How does this play out? For example:
1 Region: Amsterdam and London would be one region, I’m calling Western Europe. Since it’s one region it’s 10,000 miles. Same with a flight from Italy to Romania, for whatever reason, they are considered part of the same region and are thus 10,000 miles.
2 Regions: London to Rome (Western to Central) would be two different regions and therefore would be 12,500 miles.
Eastern Europe + Non Europe: The problem is when going to/from any eastern European country, you will be the higher intra-Europe price of 15,000 miles each way. Even Romania (Western Europe for whatever reason) to Athens (Eastern Europe) is a tiny flight that is 15,000 miles.
So no matter where you are flying from, if you’re flying to Eastern Europe, or the Non-Europe countries, it prices at 15,000 miles.
Adversely, if you’re flying from anywhere not Eastern Europe and Non-Europe, to Spain or Scandinavia, it will be 12,500 miles.
I can’t say all this makes sense, but it’s how it seems to work.
The Extra Non-Europe Europe
So the thing that makes me think the Tel Aviv being priced at 25k is an error is the fact that the neighbors are not also priced at 25k. Oneways to Amman or Beirut are 40k. However, it doesn’t only generously add Israel to the Europe award pricing, it adds Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya… which I guess is no further from the US than Istanbul.
Canary Islands is also a part of this region, however, it’s hard to find award availability from the US. But from Spain it’s 12,500 miles, and from the rest of Europe it’s 15,000 miles. And on Air Europe via Madrid it’s very low taxes.
Again, this has to be the lowest award prices to Israel, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and the Canary Islands. 50,000 miles roundtrip is a steal!
What is the Middle East?
The “Stans”, Georgia, down through the Middle East, all the way to Egypt.
I feel like the rest is clear enough.
Flying Blue Stopover and Routing Rules
- Stopover is allowed.
- You can only open-jaw on the destinations and within the same award region.
- You can’t book a stopover online.
That’s pretty boring and basic, although it never specifies the number of stopovers, just says “there may be a break in the journey (stopover)” and little else. Mostly it talks about how flights have to be direct, which isn’t remotely true.
I’m not going to claim to know all the Flying Blue routing rules, I haven’t been focusing on that much at all. In some ways they seem logical, and if the computer tries to boomarang you through some crazy region it charges for both tickets… most of the time.
There are odd exceptions but none so far that work in my favor. I checked Dubai to Mauritius and it routed me through France for no extra cost. Now it’s no benefit as a ticket to France would be 20,000 miles and a ticket to Mauritius would also be 20,000 miles. So in this case it’s no real trick, but it’s odd that this is one example where they don’t charge both ways.
Okay, I was going to leave this out and save it for a newsletter… but what the heck.
I discovered this today when searching for a ticket.
A way to get a oneway to Sydney for 30k miles instead of 50k. Let’s not use big headlines about this, but instead backlink here if we need to talk about this. 😉 Really, this is an interesting trick, and I’m sure there are more like it. Routes that would be a great price in theory, but can’t be flown. However, some I’ve tried jack up the price, and some don’t. I tried one Intra Africa flight and when it routed through Paris, it charged for the flight to Europe and back. I wonder if it was because there were often direct routes available or if the good ones are glitches?
Best Uses & Conclusion
We’re already over 2,000 words, so I’ll end it hear and highlight a few things.
First, some details I’ve yet to cover:
- There are no close in fees for booking last minute.
- Stopovers need to be booked by phone.
- You can see the list of their non-alliance partners here, which includes Alaska.
- To search for award availability just create an account and log in, on flyingblue.com
- Citi ThankYou points, Amex MR points, and SPG points all transfer 1:1
Now, some best uses:
- US to Tel Aviv for 50,000 miles roundtrip
- US to Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands and Mexico for 25,000 miles roundtrip.
- US to Hawaii for 30,000 miles roundtrip.
- US to North Africa for 50,000 miles roundtrip.
- US to Peru for 35,000 miles roundtrip.
- US to Tahiti for 60,000 miles roundtrip.
- US to Sydney for 30k miles oneway.
- Hawaii to the Caribbean for 30,000 miles roundtrip.
- Promo Awards for 50% off. Like US to Europe for 25,000 miles roundtrip, or Madrid to Canary Islands for 15,000 miles roundtrip.
Wow. These are all amazing awards. Even the least ordinary on this list, US to Peru for 17,500 miles is above most, it’s even better than AA’s off-peak! Everything else is phenomenal.
This post is in my top 10 for sure. :-p