Every month Flying Blue announces special promotional fares called Flying Blue Promo Awards to specific destinations in different regions that offer 20% to 50% off. These fares are mostly for economy and premium economy but you can also find business class fares here and there.
How do they work?
You’ll be given a month to book your promo award flights and then a specific window for the flights to take place, which is usually about a 30 to 60 window set out about 3 months in advance. So for example, if you jumped on a Promo Award for April 2017, you’d have to book the award by April 30, 2017, and the flight would have to occur within the month of June and/or July 2017.
Given the limitations for these promos, many wonder whether or not they are worth it.
The biggest drawback to these awards is that they have to book them within a month and fly them within a 1 to 2 month window in most cases. You’re able to book them about 3 months in advance so there’s still a decent amount of planning time allowed but these awards definitely don’t do much good for folks who like to plan (and book) their adventures close to a year in advance.
Another potential drawback is that I’ve heard you’re not allowed to book stopovers on these awards, which undercuts some of the value. I’m not sure if that’s always true but it’s something to think about.
And finally, note that these awards are typically limited to certain cities. So you’ll have to fly out of a specific airport/city to take advantage of the offer.
The redemption rates and fees
Flying Blue offers some great redemption rates for economy, which means that when you’re able to find economy promo awards, it’s probably offering you one of the best rates you’d be able to find out of any airline.
Business class awards are typically on the higher side compared to other programs. But when they offer 25% to 50% off this obviously changes the equation. With these discounts factored in, Flying Blue becomes a much more attractive option but there’s still the issue of the fees.
I’ll show you what I mean by using a few examples.
Normally, you can avoid high fees with Flying Blue by booking tickets on partner airlines. For example, the standard redemption rate in business class to Europe from North America for Flying Blue is 125,000 points and when you can book partner flights, such as Delta the total fees remain reasonably low at around $165.
It’s not too uncommon to find 25% off business class fares to Europe which brings down the milage requirement to 93,750 roundtrip which is excellent. The only problem is that these special promo awards must be flown on Air France or KLM, meaning that you won’t be able to settle for lower SkyTeam partner fees.
For example, take a look at the fees for a round trip ticket. $541 is pretty steep even with a lower mileage requirement.
Thus, I think a good way to look at the flights between Europe and North America, is that you’re getting a cash discount on the flight by using your miles. For me personally, the fees to Europe are just too high to attract me, but if I were to come across a 50% off business class promo to Europe, I might still consider it even with fees close to $500.
Business class flights to Asia are little more reasonable.
Check out the rate for a one way business class ticket from AMS to XMN (Xiamen, China). It’s only 50,000 miles (50% off) and comes with more manageable fees at $183 for a one way business class ticket. (This is an expired promo.)
This would make it the cheapest redemption out of any airline (25,000 miles cheaper than United or American) for business class on this route although one way fees of $183 might still be a bit much for some. (Fees are about $20 cheaper flying from XMN to AMS.)
The fees can be high even for premium economy fares. For example, I priced premium economy tickets from AMS to HKG and they came out to over $300.
Now, let’s take a look at fees in economy. Here’s a 25% discounted economy award from AMS to DKR (Dakar, Senegal). It’s only 37,500 for a roundtrip which is a superb redemption rate for this route. But the fees are still pretty significant at $278.
Although that’s not suggest that other programs don’t levy high fees. For example, ANA charges even more for this route (nearly $400!) when you fly with partner TAP Portugal.
For short-haul flights in Europe, though, the fees for these promo awards remain pretty low. From AMS to LYS (Lyon, France), it’s only 13,600 miles for a round trip ticket and $70 in fees. That’s probably going to be the cheapest redemption rate you’ll ever find but even though the fees are reasonable you could get a roundtrip paid ticket for under $120, so you’d be better off just paying cash for an award like that. (Using 13,600 miles to save about $50 just isn’t worth it to me at .004 cents per point.)
Flying Blue promo awards can offer ridiculously low redemption rates for both economy and business class. The issue with these cheap mileage requirements is that they often come with pretty heavy fees. For that reason, it’s really important to always compare your savings to cash prices and to other award programs because in many instances the savings in miles won’t be worth it due to high fees.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, and CNBC. Read my bio.