Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. UponArriving has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. UponArriving and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.
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?
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.
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
- Kenya Airways
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:
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
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.
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:
- Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Switzerland, Luxembourg
- 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, Israel, Libya, 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
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.
This business class route with Air France requires $575 in total fees!
But take a look at the same route but flying Delta instead… only $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.
The total fees for economy are much more reasonable across the board but again, you’ll usually save booking with Delta.
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!
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.
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
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:
You can get an even better bargain flying via partner airlines like Russian’s Aeroflot and Delta.
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).
- 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.
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
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.
- Aeroplan: 40,000
- American Airlines: 30,000
- ANA Partner: 30,000
- Delta: 35,000
- United: 35,000
- Aeroplan: 40,000
- American Airlines: 30,000
- ANA Partner: 55,000
- Delta: 55,000
- United: 35,000
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
Getting to Hawaii via Flying Blue is pretty easy and I found a lot of availability when I ran a lot of searches.
(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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
UponArriving has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. UponArriving and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.
H-Town based Attorney turned credit card rewards expert. Founder of UponArriving.com.