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Several readers have emailed me this week asking my opinion on the latest Buy Miles bonus offer from Flying Blue (the frequent flyer program of Air France and KLM), so I wanted to take a closer look. In short, the answer is no, but if you care to know why, or see how it may make sense for you, continue reading.
As part of this offer, those who buy Flying Blue miles between now and March 31, 2013, can receive a bonus of 10 – 40% on purchased miles, as follows:
- Buy 2,000 – 8,000 Miles = no Bonus
- Buy 10,000 – 18,000 Miles = 10% Bonus
- Buy 20,000 – 28,000 Miles = 20% Bonus
- Buy 30,000 – 38,000 Miles = 30% Bonus
- Buy 40,000 Miles = 40% Bonus
Normally, purchasing miles with this program would cost approximately 3.5 cents per mile. As part of this promotion, they’d get incrementally cheaper, costing you:
- Buy 10,000 miles, receive 11,000 = 3.1 cents per mile
- Buy 20,000 miles, receive 24,000 = 2.8 cents per mile
- Buy 30,000 miles, receive 39,000 = 2.5 cents per mile
- Buy 40,000 miles, receive 56,000 = 2.3 cents per mile
Per the terms and conditions of this promo Ivory Members (standard) may only purchase or receive up to 40,000 Award Miles in any one transaction and up to 40,000 Award Miles in any calendar year, unless a promotion is active in which case it is possible to either purchase or receive Bonus Award Miles on top of 40,000 Award Miles. For elites, Silver, Gold and Platinum members may purchase up to 100,000 Award Miles in any one transaction and an unlimited number of Award Miles in any calendar year. In addition, Silver, Gold and Platinum members can gift or receive up to 40,000 Award Miles per calendar year. If a promotion is active, it is possible to purchase Bonus Miles on top of the 100,000 Award Miles, or to gift or receive Miles on top of the 40,000 Award Miles. Looks like this particular promo is capped at a purchase of just 40,000 miles, though. Also remember that you can withdraw your purchase within 7 days without penalty, so if you change your mind, there’s a handy little loophole.
Now even if you maxed out this promo and got your miles for about 2.3 cents each, I still wouldn’t say that’s a tremendous value, especially considering other recent promos like this American one from back in December where you could have bought miles for as low as 1.87 cents each, or the US Airways 100% buy miles promo from September, where miles only cost 1.8 cents each. If you have American Express Membership Rewards points, you could also consider waiting in the hopes that there might be another transfer bonus to Flying Blue like this past fall’s 35% one.
When it comes to the question of whether this is worth it, let’s say you wanted to buy enough miles to fly one-way business class from North America to Europe, which would require just 50,000 miles, and use other airline miles for your return. With this promo, you’d basically have to max out at 40,000 miles to receive 56,000 total (if you bought 38,000 miles you’d only end up with 49,400). That would cost you 1,000 EUR, or about $1,300 at the current exchange rate.
A ticket, on the other hand, let’s say from Los Angeles to Paris, in March would cost a crazy $8,800 (you’d be better off just buying a roundtrip business class ticket for closer to $6,000-$7,000).
However, there were five dates from mid-March to mid-April with low-level one-way award availability from Los Angeles to Charles de Gaulle:
So in this case, your out of pocket cost would be just under $1,800 for a one-way ticket to Europe in business class. Not that great considering we’ve seen fares around the $2,500 mark from other airlines including British Airways and Delta this spring.
However, if you found award availability for your dates and the tickets were insanely expensive as they were in this case, it could still be worth it (in this case, you’d still be saving $7,000!).
Where this could get really lucrative, however, is if you were able to snag one of Flying Blue’s currentPromo Awards, which are half-priced awards between certain city pairs, for 50,000 miles for roundtrip business class between New York JFK or Toronto and Europe zones 1, 2 and 3, which can be booked starting yesterday, February 27 – April 28, 2013, for flights between March 1 – April 30, 2013.
Availability tends to be pretty limited, although since booking just opened up today, there seem to be plenty of open dates on the JFK-Paris route
So if you know for sure that there’s a European jaunt in your future this spring and you think you’ll want to take advantage of the Promo Awards, you could always preemptively purchase the 56,000 max miles with this promo and book your award after. Especially because of the promotional miles return policy: “You have the right to withdraw your purchase in whole and not in part within 7 working days of the date of purchase without penalty and for any reason, provided that the purchased Award Miles are capable of being retrieved in full from your account or the person whom you purchased them for. After this period, Points.com has no obligation to refund any purchase of Award Miles.”
Let’s say you were able to snag a Promo Award ticket from New York JFK-Paris CDG from April 6-14 for a total of 50,000 miles and $658 in taxes, you’d be spending a total of about $1,958 by purchasing miles with this promo.
That same ticket, however, is priced at $4,078: $2,995 in base fare plus $1,083 in taxes. So you’re saving about $2,120 – however, you’re still putting down a fair amount of cash to do so.
As I always recommend with these sorts of buy miles promotions, make sure you do your due diligence to ensure that the numbers add up and that it’s truly a value based on other ways you could potentially be earning the miles or what your specific travel plans might require.