Advertiser Disclosure

5 Award Sweet Spots Using AirFrance/KLM Miles

Aug. 27, 2019
Loyalty Programs, Reward Optimization, Travel
At NerdWallet, we strive to help you make financial decisions with confidence. To do this, many or all of the products featured here are from our partners. However, this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

Flying Blue is the frequent flyer program for Air France and KLM (plus several smaller affiliates). Although it’s a Europe-based program, it can be particularly useful for U.S.-based travelers for several reasons.

First, it’s one of the few frequent flyer programs that partners with every major transferable point currency: American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One Miles, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points and Marriott Bonvoy.

Flying Blue also offer a co-branded credit card through Bank of America®. That means Flying Blue gives you a lot of avenues to earn points.

Second, Flying Blue has a lot of useful airline partners. Air France and KLM are both members of the SkyTeam alliance, so you can use Flying Blue miles to book flights on other SkyTeam partners. That includes Delta, Aeromexico, Alitalia, China Eastern, China Southern and Korean Air.

Flying Blue also partners with a handful of non-SkyTeam airlines. These include major carriers like Japan Airlines and WestJet, as well as smaller ones like Bangkok Airways, GOL Airlines (in Brazil) and Air Mauritius.

Here are a few of our favorite ways to use Flying Blue miles for travel:

» Learn more: Air France-KLM launches U.S. credit card

1. Flying Blue Promo Rewards

Every month, Flying Blue announces discounted award tickets for specific routes. The discounts are usually 20% to 50% off of regular award prices, which makes for some great deals. For example, in August 2019 they offered a 25% discount on economy class tickets from Boston and Houston to anywhere in Europe. Business class tickets to Europe from Chicago, Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary were also 25%.

Through Promo Rewards, I’ve found business class tickets from Chicago to Barcelona for 54,000 miles each way (normally 72,000 miles) and an economy ticket from Boston to Paris for just 17,250 miles each way (normally 23,000).

One caveat with Promo Rewards is that they’re only valid on flights operated by Air France and KLM, airlines that impose fuel surcharges on award tickets. Depending on the discount, it may be worth spending a few hundred dollars if it will save you tens of thousands of miles.

2. Flights from the U.S. to Mexico

Flying Blue considers the continental U.S. and Mexico to be in the same award region. Booking award flights to Mexico can be significantly cheaper through Flying Blue than other U.S.-based programs.

For example, a round-trip economy class ticket from Chicago to Mexico City costs just 14,500 Flying Blue miles each way. Booking the exact same flight with Delta miles would cost you a minimum of 18,500 miles each way. Business class tickets offer more modest savings, with Flying Blue charging 36,000 miles each way and Delta charging 37,500.

3. Flights to Hawaii

Flights from the contiguous U.S. to Hawaii on Delta present another useful opportunity to use Flying Blue Miles. Flying Blue charges 17,500 miles each way for economy class tickets to Hawaii. U.S.-based programs, including Delta, typically charge between 28,000-45,000 miles each way for these flights.

However, Delta releases very little award space to partners on flights to Hawaii and flights that are bookable with Flying Blue miles are likely to be relatively inexpensive through Delta. For example, on one available date in February, Delta was charging just 18,000 miles each way in economy class and 15,500 for basic economy). Still, if you can find availability, Flying Blue can be a good option since their miles are much easier to accumulate than Delta miles.

» Learn more: 10 ways to save on an Oahu vacation

4. Flights from the U.S. to Israel

Unlike most frequent flyer programs that place Israel in the Middle East, Flying Blue prices award trips to Israel at the same rate as Europe. Translate: Cheaper award rates. You can fly from New York to Tel Aviv for just 25,000 miles one-way in economy or 53,000 miles in business class.

For comparison, if you book the same trip with SkyMiles, Delta will charge you 42,500 miles for a partner ticket in economy class. If you want to fly on a Delta plane across the Atlantic, you’ll have to pay 54,000 miles in economy class. This is one example where paying an extra $60 in fuel surcharges is definitely worth saving 11,500 miles or more.

5. Flights from the US to North Africa

Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia are also considered part of Europe for Flying Blue’s mileage calculations. But for whatever reason, flights to these countries cost even fewer miles than flights to Tel Aviv. Flights from New York to Marrakech and Tunis are available for just 21,500 miles each way in economy class and Algiers is just slightly more at 22,500 miles each way. Business class tickets to Algiers cost the same as to Israel, at 53,000 miles each way.

If you’re looking to fly elsewhere in the region, it will be a bit more expensive but still cheaper than Delta. For example, economy flights from New York to Cairo cost 34,000 Flying Blue miles, while Delta’s pricing starts at 42,500.

The bottom line

Flying Blue miles are useful for frequent travelers because they’re easy to accumulate and offer some advantageous booking opportunities. The best availability tends to be on flights operated by Air France and KLM, though you’ll have to pay fuel surcharges on those flights.

Delta flights don’t have fuel surcharges, but availability can be very hard to find. Monthly Promo Rewards can offer incredible value and there are some great opportunities at the edges of Flying Blue’s geographical boundaries — especially in the Middle East and North Africa.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2019, including those best for:

Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
Find the best travel credit card for you
How to earn travel rewards using the Air France-KLM credit card
Earn more points and miles with these 6 strategies

About the author