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Guide to Flying Blue Award Flights

Flying Blue has some stand-out redemptions that you definitely need to know about. If you’re okay with flying economy, Flying Blue can present you with some tremendous value when going abroad to places, such as Israel, Africa, South America, and several tropical areas. Here’s what you need to know about how to make smart redemptions with Flying Blue Award Flights.

What is Flying Blue?

flying blue LOGO

Figuring out Flying Blue can be a little confusing for starters. When I first got into the game I wasn’t sure what is was. An airline? An alias for KLM and/or Air France? An alliance?

First, do not get Flying Blue mixed up with jetBlue  — they are two entirely separate entities! This mistake has definitely happened to people before so make sure it doesn’t happen to you.

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Flying Blue is not the same as jetBlue!

Flying Blue is actually the frequent flyer program for several airlines. Most notably, it’s the frequent flyer program for KLM and Air France but it also includes:

  • Air Europa
  • Aircalin
  • HOP!
  • Kenya Airways
  • TAROM
  • TwinJet

Air Europa, Kenya Airways, and TAROM are part of the SkyTeam alliance and the other airlines are mostly smaller, regional airlines.  Flying Blue is thus represented in the SkyTeam Alliance, which consists of the following airlines:

SKY TEAM ALLIANCE PARTNERS
The SkyTeam Alliance

In addition, Flying Blue has many non-alliance partners. Here’s the complete list of those partners with a brief description of where those partners serve for your future reference.

  • Air Corsica – flights between Corsica and numerous destinations in France and between Corsica and Rome and Venice in Italy.
  • Air Mauritius –  offers flights to and from Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa.
  • Alaska Airlines –  offers low airfares on all airline tickets to destinations throughout the United States, western Canada and Mexico, and is a great option for Hawaii.
  • Bangkok Airways – flights from Suvarnabhumi Airport to places such as Samui, Phuket, Trat (Koh Chang) and the Maldive Islands.
  • Chalair Aviation – Has a network of domestic regular lines in France.
  • Comair – South Africa’s longest operating airline after the national carrier; cooperates with two brands: British Airways and the low-fare kulula.com.
  • Copa Airlines – Offers flights through South America
  • Czech Airlines – Operates from the Czech capital, Prague, and flies to most European capitals and major North American destinations.
  • GOL – offers extensive and convenient routes in South America and the Caribbean
  • Japan Airlines – one of the largest airlines in the Asia-Pacific region
  • Jet Airways – India’s premier international airline – flies to India, North America, Europe, Asia, Africa and the Gulf.
  • Malaysia Airlines – one of Asia’s largest carriers.
  • Middle East Airlines –  the national carrier of Lebanon.
  • TAAG – Angola’s national flag carrier, operating long-haul and domestic flights.
  • Transavia – a low-cost airline that offers charter flights and scheduled flights to summer and winter holiday destinations, mainly in Europe and the Mediterranean.
  • Ukraine International Airlines – Ukraine’s leading airline

As you can see, Flying Blue has a broad partner network, which is one of the reasons why finding routes all over the globe is fairly easy for Flying Blue.

How to get Flying Blue Miles

Flying Blue is a transfer partner of four of the major rewards programs:

  • American Express Membership Rewards
  • Chase Ultimate Rewards (new)
  • Starwood Preferred Guests
  • Citi Thankyou Points

MEMBERSHIP REWARDS LOGO

Thus, it’s very easy to accumulate miles for this program in a hurry if you need to. If you’re looking to rack up some points in a hurry, I’d recommend looking into the American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card, Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, and the Citi Thankyou® Premier card.

Flying Blue booking policies

Flex, classic, and promo rates

There are three different rates that Flying Blue charges for their award tickets

  • Flex – These offer you the most flexibility, hence their name. You can change them without cost and they often have more availability. The issue is that they usually cost two to three times more than Classic awards to redeem.
  • Classic – These are the standard award fares and while fairly consistent, they can vary depending on certain factors.
  • Promo rates – These are offered temporarily and can reduce the redemption rates from 25 to 50%. Some of them can be absolute steals if the timing is right for you.

Some other policies to be aware of:

  • International first class airfare is only available with Flex awards and is only available to Flying Blue members with elite status. Thus, those amazing new Air France first class cabins are not available to newcomers.
  • Unless you book a Flex award, you must pay €45 to cancel your tickets.
  • The promo deals are announced at the beginning of each month and usually apply to travel a couple of months out. Keep a constant eye on the Flying Blue promo page for the best deals, like 50% off to Europe! Most of the deals are for economy fares, which is another reason why I feel this program is well-suited for those who don’t mind economy.

Zones

Flying Blue does not release a full reward chart. Because of that, I ultimately suggest just playing around with the Flying Blue mileage calculator to figure out mile requirements. However, if you want to get a general idea on the different zones, see below:

  • Middle East, Central Asia, Central Russia
  • North America, Netherlands Antilles, Mexico
  • Central America, Caribbean, Hawaii, Bermuda
  • Africa 1 (Central, East & West Africa)
  • Africa 2 (South Africa, Indian Ocean)
  • Indian subcontinent
  • Latin America 1 (Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela)
  • Latin America 2 (Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Uruguay)
  • Asia 1 (China, South Korea, Japan, East Russia, Mongolia)
  • Asia 2 (Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwain, Thailand)
  • Pacific 1 (New Caledonia, French Polynesia)
  • Pacific 2 (Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Guam)

Europe is a bit confusing. It is apparently divided into three zones and one zone includes countries from Africa and even one from the Middle East:

Europe 1

  • Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Switzerland, Luxembourg

Europe 2

  • Austria, Denmark, Spain, Balearic Islands, Finland, Italy, Malta, Norway, Portugal, Sweden

Europe 3 (+North Africa & Israel)

  • Albania, Algeria, Belarus, Bosnia Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, Canary Islands, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, IsraelLibya, Lithuania, Latvia, Macedonia, Moldova, Morocco, Poland, Czech Republic, Romania, West Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Turkey, Tunisia, Ukraine.

(Europe breakdown courtesy of Flyertalk.)

The redemptions rates will change as you depart and enter different zones of Europe, so again, play around with the mileage calculator to figure out what your requirements will be.

Stopovers and open jaws

  • Allowed an open jaw on your destination so long as you remain in the destination zone
  • Allowed one stopover (you must book over the phone)
    • Stopover must be different from country of departure
    • Maximum of three segments allowed to get to destination

Fuel Surcharges

Flying Blue bookings often do incur fuel surcharges. To give you an example of the kind you can expect, take a look at this sample booking from New York to Paris (JFK -> CDG) with Air France.

Business Class

This business class route with Air France requires $575 in total fees!

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Air France charges $575 in total fees

But take a look at the same route but flying Delta instead… only $164 in total fees.

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Delta charges $164 in total fees

That’s a $411 difference.

Now, maybe you’d much prefer business class in Air France over Delta so it would be worth the extra fees to you, but if you’re being very price conscious, you may want to go with the better deal.

Economy

The total fees for economy are much more reasonable across the board but again, you’ll usually save booking with Delta.

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Delta charges about $120 in total fees for economy bookings
Air France/KLM charges about $225 in total fees for economy bookings

As you can see the total fees are twice the price when you book KLM/Air France.

So I’d recommend finding Delta availability or some other partner airline if you’re wanting to avoid large fees.

Same fees, different redemption rates?

Another thing to keep your eye on when booking is the different redemption rates. Take a look at the image below. Both of the flights are direct flights from JFK to CDG and on the same type of aircraft. Yet, one requires an additional 10,000 miles!

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Make sure you seek out the lowest fares when redeeming

Sometimes you’ll see a lot of different redemption rates for a route that vary drastically but sometimes there’s a cheap award that’s a bit of hidden. The green “Lowest fare” tab should help you not to miss these low fares, however.

Always look for the green!

Flying Blue sweet spots

I tend to focus on business class when searching for sweet spots, but I think that most of valuable sweet spots with Flying Blue are with economy seats. Here’s a rundown of what are some of the most valuable redemptions for Flying Blue.

1) North America to Israel and North Africa

The wailing Wall and the Temple Mount

Photo by Neil Howard via Flickr.

Probably the most valuable redemption Flying Blue has to offer is the 50,000 economy award to Israel.

This rate kind of stumps me as to how it make sense but it is absolutely a bargain! At 50,000 miles, that means with one credit card sign-up bonus from a card like the American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card, you could accumulate enough points to take you round trip all the way to the Middle East! Pretty wild.

Here’s what you’d pay flying Air France and KLM:

via Air France and KLM

You can get an even better bargain flying via partner airlines like Russian’s Aeroflot and Delta.

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Via a combination of Aeroflot, Delta, and Air France

If you snagged the cheapest paid fare for the JFK to TLV flight you would pay $2,267.99, which means that a 50,000 redemption would come out to a value of approximately 4.2 cents per mile for this trip which is excellent and honestly a somewhat conservative valuation given how much those tickets can cost.

Furthermore, when compared to the rates of other rewards programs you see how much of a steal this award is.

  • Aeroplan: 80,000
  • American Airlines: 80,000
  • ANA Partner: 65,000 (high surcharges likely)
  • Delta: 70,000
  • United: 85,000

Compared to most other airlines, business class to TLV is a steal, too (ANA can’t really be beat by anyone with their routes to the Middle East).

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 10.48.41 AM
Business class via Alitalia and Delta.

Compare:

  • Aeroplan: 165,000
  • American Airlines: 140,000
  • ANA Partner: 104,000 (high surcharges likely)
  • Delta: 170,000
  • United: 160,000

Remember, other African countries fall into the same Europe category, so tickets from North America to Algeria, Libya, Morroco, and Tunisia, should all also fall into the same 50,000 redemption rate. For example, New York to Casablanca, Morocco, would also go for 50,000 miles as seen below.

Flying via Delta and Alitalia

Combining Middle East/North Africa locations with Europe?

Combining a trip to Europe with Israel/North Africa is a great way to maximize value with Flying Blue. By combining these destinations, you can get to Europe and the Middle East for a mere 50,000 points!

Since Flying Blue includes Israel with its Europe region, you’re allowed to open jaw or stopover anywhere in Europe on your way back from Israel (or vice versa). Thus, you could hit up two spots in Europe in addition to the Middle East and only have to pay for a one way ticket to get to your European open jaw destination.

In this case your route might look like:

  • JFK -> TLV
  • TLV -> FCO [paid ticket]
  • FCO (Rome) [open jaw]  -> CDG (Paris) [stopover]
  • CDG -> JFK

(This could also be done backwards where your destination and stopover are somewhere in Europe but your open jaw inbound departure is in Israel.)

This means you would only have to pay out of pocket to get a one way ticket from TLV to somewhere in Europe or vice versa. My suggestion would be to not use points to book this flight because one way trips can easily be under $200. If you did use points, chances are your redemption value would be sub-par.

2) North America to Mexico, Netherlands Antilles (Aruba, Bonaire, etc.) and the U.S. Virgin Islands

United States Virgin Islands

Photo by Robert Pittman via Flickr

I don’t know of any other program that lumps all of these countries and territories together but this is another sweet spot because it will only cost you 25,000 miles for a round trip to these destinations with Flying Blue.

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Getting to Cancun Via Delta and Aeromexico

Compare:

  • Aeroplan: 40,000
  • American Airlines: 30,000
  • ANA Partner: 30,000
  • Delta: 35,000
  • United: 35,000
Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 2.04.06 PM
Getting to Aruba Via Delta

Compare:

  • Aeroplan: 40,000
  • American Airlines: 30,000
  • ANA Partner: 55,000
  • Delta: 55,000
  • United: 35,000
Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 2.39.14 PM
Getting to Bonaire via Delta

Note: finding availability at these low rates for some of these destinations like the Netherlands Antilles can be a little difficult so search far ahead of your booking date if possible. And don’t forget, Southwest Airlines is a contender for many of these destinations now. 

3) North America to Hawaii

https://flic.kr/p/DwBkwu Hawaii
Na Pali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii

Photo by Dhilung Kirat via Flickr

Getting to Hawaii via Flying Blue is pretty easy and I found a lot of availability when I ran a lot of searches.

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 2.46.16 PM
Only 30,000 miles and $5 via Delta!

Compare:

(I added other competitive airline programs that I know offer great deals to Hawaii in economy.)

  • Aeroplan: 45,000
  • American Airlines:  45,000
  • British Airways Avios: 25,000 Avios from the West Coast
  • ANA Partner: 40,000
  • Delta: 45,000
  • Korean Airlines: 25,000 miles
  • United: 45,000
  • Singapore Airlines: 35,000 

30,000 miles to Hawaii is very competitive compared to most airlines and would be a great redemption if you couldn’t take advantage of any of the better deals.

4) North America to South America

The required mileage to South America 1 is 35,000 and for South America 2 it’s 50,000. Both of these redemptions are among the best for economy.

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35,000 miles to South America 1

Compare:

  • Aeroplan: 60,000
  • American Airlines: 35,000
  • ANA Partner:  55,000
  • Delta: 60,000
  • United: 40,000

American Airlines ties but they don’t even allow stopovers.

50,000 miles to South America 2

Compare:

  • Aeroplan: 60,000
  • American Airlines: 60,000
  • ANA Partner:  55,000
  • Delta: 60,000
  • United: 60,000

Even going to South America 2 is one of the best redemptions in economy. Unfortunately, I had some trouble finding the bargain rates for places like Rio but with enough patience you could probably get lucky.

These are some of my favorite redemptions. To find out more about some other great Flying Blue redemptions, check out this article by Travel is Free for a thorough review of the program.

Final Word

Flying Blue has some very valuable redemptions, as unexplainable as some of them are. If you’re heading to Israel, this should be your top choice. And even if you’re heading out to Mexico, Hawaii, South America, or some tropical locations, Flying Blue might be a solid option for you.

Cover Photo by Can Pac Swire via Flickr

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