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Flying Blue, the frequent flyer program of Skyteam partners Air France and KLM runs 50% off promo awards all year long, changing them every two months. This means you can fly roundtrip from certain North American cities to Europe and beyond for as low as 25,000 miles in coach and 50,000 miles in business class roundtrip. Flying Blue is a 1:1 instant transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, so it’s a great way to stretch the value of your Amex points. Note: Flying Blue taxes on awards are pretty high – for example a 25,000 roundtrip award to Europe may have $450 in taxes. If you can buy that same ticket for $650, it makes sense to just purchase it and earn miles. However, there are some expensive routes – especially in business class, that can be unbelievable values.
The November/December awards can be booked until December 29, 2011 and are valid for travel November 1 – December 31, 2011. KLM, Air France and Air Europa each have different cities and cabins that they discount.
KLM: Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Chicago to Amsterdam and beyond in Europe for 25,000 roundtrip coach or 50,000 business class.
Air France: Orlando (coach only), Seattle (Premium Economy and Business), Washington DC (coach and business), Detroit (economy, premium economy and business) via Paris to Europe.
Air Europa: Miami via Madrid to Europe (Economy and business)
Tip: Flying Blue classifies Tel Aviv as part of Europe, so you can route all the way there for only 25,000 miles in coach / 50,000 miles in business class roundtrip, plus fees (see below).
Before you get too excited and start transferring Amex points, make sure your awards are available. To check award availability, create a Flying Blue account and then once you are logged in click the “Show” button to get a drop down menu and then select “Book my award ticket.”
$747 in fees is pretty steep, but it’s not so bad considering this exact itinerary would cost $5,082 to purchase. So $5,082 – $747 = $4,335 saved for using a measly 50,000 points. Thus, each Amex point saves you 8.7 cents. Granted, you should factor in the fact that you wouldn’t earn any miles on the award redemption, but the point is that Amex points can save you a ton of money and allow you to book into business class for half of what you’d pay for coach (I checked and the coach fare for these flights was $1,515 total roundtrip).
Since Delta and Air France are in the same alliance and these are classic awards, I knew this same flight would be bookable using Delta miles as well, so I pulled up delta.com -> Skymiles -> Use miles -> Award ticket reservations and entered in the same search criteria. With no hassle whatsoever, the exact flights popped up, albeit at 120,000 miles for business class because Delta does not consider Israel part of Europe.
Delta’s fees are much lower; coming in at $181. So let’s do the math – if you go the Flying Blue route, you are getting 8.7 cents per point, whereas Delta gives a return of $5,082 – $181 = 6.1 cents per point. Not bad, but I’d still go the Air France route unless I was short on cash and flush with points.