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My theme this week is maximizing award discounts and one of the best values for discounted transatlantic travel is the ever-changing Flying Blue Promo awards.
Flying Blue, the frequent flyer program of SkyTeam partners Air France and KLM, runs 50% off promo awards all year long, but changes the gateway city pairings every two months. That 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 on Air France, KLM and Air Europe – each of which have different cities and cabins they discount.
Flying Blue is also an instant 1:1 transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, so this promo could be a great value for using those Amex points.
The one caveat: Flying Blue charges hefty taxes on awards. For instance, even though you book a free coach ticket for 25,000 miles, the taxes on it could be in the $450 range, meaning that if you can buy that same ticket for $650, it’s worth it just to purchase it and earn miles on the flights.
However, in my opinion the real value lies in finding those particularly expensive routes and scoring business class awards. Different carriers have different fuel surcharges – I recently flew one-way on a promo award from Madrid to Miami on Air Europa for 25,000 miles and $258.
The January/February promo awards can be booked now through February 27, 2012, for travel between now and February 29, 2012.
North America Awards
Though you can also book awards within Europe, and from Europe to South America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and more.
All awards are priced one-way:
Air France: Washington DC, Detroit, Toronto and Montreal to Paris and beyond in Europe for 12,500 in Voyageur (economy), 14,500 in Voyageur Elite (economy plus), 15,750 in Premium Voyageur (premium economy) and 25,000 in Affaires (business).
KLM: New York JFK, San Francisco and Los Angeles to Europe via Amsterdam for 12,500 Economy and 25,000 World Business Class.
Air Europa: None this time around.
Booking the Promo
Don’t go transferring all those Amex Membership Rewards points just yet. First, find out if the flights you want have award availability. Don’t worry, though, even now there seems to be a lot of availability at the promo award thresholds.
To find your award ticket, first you need to enroll in Flying Blue. Once you are logged in click the “Show” button to get a drop down menu and then select “Book my award ticket.” Then follow the simple steps in the screenshots below. For the purposes of our example, we’re going to keep it simple and try to book a business class flight from Detroit to Paris on Air France.
The total cost came to 50,000 points and $808.73. That’s pretty expensive … until you consider that this exact itinerary would cost $12,131 (seriously, I didn’t make that up, it’s as expensive a business class fare as I’ve ever seen on a comparable route).
To figure out the value you’ve reaped, we’ll take $12,131-$808 = $11,323 saved for using just 50,000 points. That means each point was worth an unbelievable 22.6 cents! Even a coach fare on this route and dates would run $1,820, so you’re paying less than half of that to fly business class.
Just to make things interesting, I checked Delta’s (a SkyTeam partner) site and found the same exact itinerary for 100,000 miles and $149.50, a significant reduction in taxes and fees. In this case, each SkyMile would be worth just 11.9 cents. So unless you are short on cash and have a ton of miles to spare, the Flying Blue promo might just be your way to go for a last-minute jaunt to Europe in the next month.