Best use of Flying Blue miles

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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 — some of the best, in fact, to Europe, Hawaii, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, 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 U.S. (51,000 miles round-trip).

Flying Blue is an exciting program that partners with every single transferable points program:

That means you can earn a few bonuses with pretty much any of the best travel credit cards and immediately have hundreds of thousands of Flying Blue miles! This is a gem of a program.

Here’s everything you need to know about Flying Blue.

You’ll be surprised where the loyalty program of Air France and KLM can take you — for surprisingly few miles. (Photo by Pol Bacquet/Getty Images)

Flying Blue award chart

Flying Blue removed their award chart, so I decided to make one of my own. The problem is that prices vary from one city to the next, and the possible “region” grouping is too big to show all prices accurately in a chart.

However, this mostly affects the U.S. Most regions are smaller and relatively accurate. If you’re looking for a ballpark estimate of your desired trip, it doesn’t get better than this award chart.

This is not a perfect award chart, but it’s the only Flying Blue award chart. Otherwise, you just have to search using Flying Blue’s award search or “Miles Price Estimator” calculator.

Region definitions

This is not conclusive, and again, it’s the best grouping I could come up with, but there are still a lot of variations.

Therefore this is an oversimplified grouping of countries for an award chart’s “region definitions.” It’s the best I’ve got for now. 

Screen Shot 2018-12-12 at 3.53.19 PM

I left out the Americas for now, because it’s more self explanatory. Everything else is confusing, to say the least.

Also, note that India is in “Southern Africa”. It’s just simplified the groupings. The only real difference between the Central Asia area and Africa, in terms of prices elsewhere, is to east Asia – like Japan. India is a lot cheaper. But from the U.S. or Europe, it’s usually the same.

Loosely defined regions are a win for you

Once upon a time, Flying Blue priced their award flights by region.

Those were the good old days — the loyalty program now uses “dynamic pricing” similar to legacy U.S. carriers. That term basically means the airline will charge whatever it wants whenever it wants.

However, those regions that once existed still play a factor in these dynamic award prices. For example, Flying Blue considered Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and even Israel as part of Europe. Therefore, flights to these countries would price far lower than their nearby African/Middle Eastern neighbors.

Flights to these areas are still much cheaper, even though the official award zones are gone. I’ll talk more about this in just a bit.

Best uses of Flying Blue miles

Let me first say that while the best use of the majority of airline miles is for business class, this isn’t the case with Flying Blue. The program almost always incurs very expensive fuel surcharges in business class. For example, KLM and Air France flights that pass along 58 euros in coach are now 188 euros each way, greatly increasing the price of a round-trip. 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 — if you’re actually looking for “free” travel, this isn’t the way.

Okay, on to the best uses!

French Polynesia

Tahiti is a sought-after destination because it’s the airport you’ll enter when heading onto Bora Bora. And miles and points enthusiasts love Bora Bora because it’s got some of the most aspirational points hotels on the planet.

(Photo by Brian Biros/Million Mile Secrets)

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.

Flying to Tahiti is a burden for a couple reasons:

  1. It’s really far away
  2. Award prices aren’t cheap
  3. Award seats are hard to find

United operates nonstop service to Tahiti from San Francisco a few days per week for 35,000 miles one-way in coach, but other than that you’ll be flying SkyTeam out of Los Angeles to reach French Polynesia.

You can book this ticket from Los Angeles to Papeete, Tahiti, for just 25,500 Flying Blue miles in coach, or 64,000 miles in business class. That is a steal.

Fly to Israel for 25,000 miles one-way

As I stated above, you’ll find that Israel and Northwestern Africa prices as though it was Europe. That’s ridiculous, and you should be taking advantage of it. We’re talking 11,000+ miles of flying for just 50,000 miles total.

Let’s compare prices beside other popular loyalty programs. A one-way flight from New York to Tel Aviv costs:

  • Flying Blue = 25,000 miles in coach, 53,000 miles in business class
  • United = 42,500 miles in coach, 93,500 miles in business class
  • American Airlines = 40,000 miles in coach, 70,000 miles in business class (both potentially cheaper with an Economy Web Special)

As you can see, Flying Blue’s prices are a no-brainer. This has to be the cheapest flight to the Middle East, period.

Plus, award availability is (again) great and the fuel surcharges aren’t crippling, though they’re certainly noticeable depending on who you fly. Here are daily one-way flights from New York to Tel Aviv. On this particular date, flights cost as little as 25,000 miles on Air France — but you’ll pay 83 euros, as well. Look to the very bottom, and you’ll see a Delta flight (which doesn’t pass along fuel surcharge) for 29,000 miles and 23 euros.

50% off Flying Blue award tickets

The big noticeable thing with FlyingBlue is their “Promo Awards” list which can be found here. These are flash sales for certain dates 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 you’ll have a swallowable but annoying cash fee added to the regular airport taxes when you book. Not a free flight by any means, but still a great deal.

Right now I don’t see any 50% off awards on North America to Europe (hopefully these will pick back when coronavirus is long in the rearview, but when there are, that means you can get a flight to Europe starting at just ~11,000 miles in coach. And remember, that includes Israel and Northwest Africa!

Sometimes it’s coach that’s on sale, sometimes it’s Premium Economy, and sometimes it’s business class. Most often we see 25% off, but there are occasionally 50% discounts. Keep an eye out!

Skiplagging/website glitches (airlines don’t like this, FYI)

I was going to leave this out, but what the heck: A way to get a one-way to Sydney or Tokyo for 34,500 miles instead of 46,000+ miles. Just set your destination as New Caledonia. Here’s why.

Looking at flights from the U.S. to New Caledonia, you’ll be forced to have a connection in either Australia or Japan. You could just stay in one of those countries (provided you don’t have any checked luggage!) instead of continuing on to New Caledonia. It would save you 10,000+ miles! Getting to Sydney for under 35,000 miles is a nice deal for sure. And yes, this also works in business class.

Let’s not use big headlines about this kind of thing. 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?

How to earn Flying Blue miles

As stated at the top of the post, you can transfer any of the following points currencies to Flying Blue:

That means you could potentially achieve well over a million points with welcome bonuses alone! For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card comes with 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

And The Platinum Card® from American Express comes with 100,000 points after spending $6,000 on purchases within the first six months of card membership. Read our post on the best travel credit cards — and bookmark our BonusTracker page — to see which cards have the biggest, fattest welcome bonuses to help you achieve your free travel goals the fastest.

Bottom line

Any time so many countries are lumped together by an award chart, de facto though it may be, you get some sweet spots. For example, the close link between Europe and the Middle East and Northern Africa is unignorably juicy. I know flying from Europe to Egypt, there just weren’t a lot of great redemption opportunities, but Flying Blue has reasonable prices.

Let me know your favorite way to use Flying Blue miles! And subscribe to our newsletter for more posts like this delivered to you once per day.

Drew founded the points and miles site in 2011 and has also worked with The Points Guy. He and his wife spent years traveling nomadically until they sold Travel is Free in 2019.

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