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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
Now through May 31, 2013, American Express is offering a targeted 35% bonus on transfers of Membership Rewards points to Air France/KLM’s loyalty program, Flying Blue. If you’re not yet a member of Flying Blue, you can join here. This offer is targeted and you might notice that when you log into Membership Rewards normally it doesn’t populate for you, but this link it seems to work fine for some people using Safari.
The normal ratio is 1:1, but during the promo, if you were to transfer 1,000 Amex points, you’d end up with 1,350 Flying Blue miles. Note: Flying Blue charges huge fuel surcharges and taxes on most transatlantic awards, though Delta domestic flights and many intra-European awards have reasonable fees. They also allow one-way awards on Delta, so this bonus could be a decent way to get Delta flights at a discount, though only low-level awards are bookable with Flying Blue miles.
In this example, you’d need just 12,500 Flying Blue miles to book a one-way transcontinental flight on Delta in economy from JFK-LAX, and with this promo, you’d need to transfer just 10,000 miles for it.
If you wanted to book a roundtrip business-class award redemption from North America to Europe, which requires 100,000 miles, you’d need to transfer 75,000 miles to get a total of 101,250 miles.
Also remember to check out Flying Blue’s Promo Awards, which are half-price discount awards which the program runs all year long, but be aware that the gateway city pairings change 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’s current Promo Awards from North America include Chicago, Montreal and New York JFK:
The current list of awards runs until June 31, 2013. Just beware, Flying Blue charges hefty taxes on awards so even though you could book a coach roundtrip award ticket for 25,000 miles, the taxes on it could be in the $450 range. In this case, if you can buy that same ticket for $650 it’s probably not worth spending $200 less and using 25,000 points since it’s less than a cent per point in value – plus you don’t earn miles on award tickets.
It would be smart to take advantage of this bonus now since there will be a major Flying Blue Air France/KLM devaluation starting in June 2o13. The changes that will be taking place will affect intercontinental award tickets and will be raising the number of miles for premium awards on Premium Economy, Business and First Class awards while also reducing surcharges on Economy and Premium Economy awards.
Economy (decreased surcharges)
Before: 137 euros ($180) each way
After: 50 euros ($65) each way
Premium Economy (decreased surcharges)
Before: 188 euros ($245) each way
After: 110 euros ($143) each way
Before: 50,000 miles + 180 euros ($235) each way
After: 62,500 miles + 180 euros ($235) each way
100,000 miles + 180 euros ($235) each way
162,500 miles + 180 euros ($235) each way
Luckily, you will still be able to book awards at the old rates until the end of 2013 by calling Flying Blue’s service center: “For your convenience, when the new award structure is implemented, you will still have the possibility to book an award under the current conditions, using the current Award Miles structure and carrier-imposed international surcharge amounts. Available until the end of 2013, this option will only be possible by contacting our Flying Blue Service Centre.”
In other changes from Air France, the airline recently announced that First Class awards will be available to non-elite members of Flying Blue for the first time. In the past, First Class awards could only be booked by Flying Blue members with elite status and Air France blocked all other SkyTeam partners from booking them. Despite the high mileage and surcharge prices, I think this is a net positive since it gives flyers an additional option and Air France First Class comes with some good perks like access to the La Premiere lounge at Charles de Gaulle and new onboard Biologique Recherche products in the First Class amenity kit, not to mention food and wine that’s generally better than what you’ll find in business.
There are a lot of things to consider here, but if you have a bunch of Amex points and want to fly across the Atlantic in style, this is just one more option to have and the current 35% transfer bonus will make it more worthwhile.
Know before you go.
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