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Fantastic business-class award space for 4+ passengers to Paris and beyond — including West Coast cities

May 17, 2020
14 min read
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At TPG, we paused traveling to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Local and federal governments around the globe are now debating the appropriate levels of isolation and distancing. Before booking that next trip, we recommend you talk to your doctor, follow health officials' guidance and research local travel restrictions. TPG is continuing to publish deals, reviews and general travel news to inform and prepare you for that trip, whether it is next month or next year.

The fall can be a fantastic time to visit Europe, with fewer crowds, still-mild weather and lower prices for lodging. While the coronavirus pandemic may impact this trend, now could be a great time to book a future trip — especially with many airlines offering flexible change and cancellation policies. And if you live in (or near) a city that offers service from Air France, your journey across the Atlantic this fall may be in comfort, as we're seeing widespread award availability in business class from virtually every U.S. gateway to Paris (CDG) and beyond.

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Read on for details on this inventory, including the currently-available dates and how to book.

Should I book travel now?

As noted above, the coronavirus pandemic continues to restrict travel around the world, and unless it's absolutely necessary, you shouldn't be looking to book trips that depart in the next few weeks now. And with many airlines slashing capacity due to decreased demand, this may not even be an option.

That being said, planning future trips may be a great option at this point, as we've found several premium routes (like the U.S. to Tokyo) with terrific award availability, and a number of flights have excellent cash fares. Many airlines are also waiving change or cancellation fees for new reservations in an effort to spur new business.

There are some risks to booking travel now, though. For starters, there's no way to know for sure when travel restrictions will ease and flights will resume operating. It's entirely possible that one (or more) of the below itineraries won't operate on the given dates of travel — which is why it's critical to review the change and cancellation policies of the program through which you're booking.

Further, many airlines are facing unprecedented financial struggles. While we believe that most of the major carriers will survive the coronavirus travel downturn, there's always the chance of the airline you book with going under. If this happens, your tickets may be rendered worthless, and you could be out of valuable points, miles and/or money.

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As a result, keep the financial position of both the airline with which you're flying and the airline with which you're booking in mind. For example, if you're booking an Air France ticket through Delta SkyMiles, make sure you have confidence in both airlines making it through the current environment.

Current award availability

(Photo by Nick Ellis/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Nick Ellis/The Points Guy)

Now let's dive into the flights on which we're seeing outstanding award availability. For the purposes of this article, we only looked at flights from or to U.S. airports served by Air France, and the below dates all had at least four business-class award seats open at the time of writing. However, there were several dates that had up to eight business class awards.

READ MORE: Air France A350 business class review

Note that this inventory is through the Flying Blue program, and prices do vary based on the departure city and final destination. You can use the program's price calculator at this link to see the starting price of your flight, but then play around with the final destination, as connecting through Paris (CDG) to another European city may actually lower your award price.

Bear in mind that partner programs don't have access to all of these dates — though there are still some great options.

Boston (BOS) to Paris (CDG) — 63,500 miles each way

  • Outbound: September 3, 6, 11-12, 16-20, 23, 26 and 29; October 1-3, 6, 8, 10, 13-14, 17-18, 20, 22, 24, 27 and 29-31; November 2, 4-5, 9, 12, 16, 21-22 and 28; December 3, 5, 10, 12, 14, 17, 19, 21-22, 24, 26 and 30-31
  • Inbound: September 6-7, 13-14, 17-18, 20, 24-25 and 27; October 1-2, 4-5, 8, 12, 15-18, 23, 26 and 29; November 1, 6, 12, 19 and 26; December 3, 14, 17, 24, 26, 28 and 31

New York-JFK to Paris (CDG) — 57,500 miles each way

  • Outbound: September 1-22 and 27-30; October 1-31; November 1-30; December 1-20, 23-31
  • Inbound: September 1-30; October 1-31; November 1-17 and 19-30; December 1-14 and 16-31

Washington-Dulles (IAD) to Paris (CDG) — 55,000 miles each way

  • Outbound: September 1-30; October 1-25 and 27-31; November 1, 3-10, 12, 15-22 and 25-30; December 1-27 and 29-31
  • Inbound: September 1-30; October 1-6, 8-20, 22-27 and 29-30; November 1-2, 6-9, 12-16, 19-23 and 26-30; December 1, 3-7, 11-15, 18-22, 24-25 and 27-31

Atlanta (ATL) to Paris (CDG) — 66,500 miles each way

  • Outbound: September 1-30; October 1-27; November 1-4, 7, 9-10, 16, 18, 22-23, 25 and 27-28; December 1-2, 6-7, 12-14, 22, 25-28 and 30-31
  • Inbound: September 2-4, 7-9, 11-14 and 16-30; October 1-5, 7, 9-12, 15-19, 21-24 and 26-31; November 3-6, 8, 10-13, 17-18 and 22-27; December 1-3, 8, 10-15, 17, 19, 23-31

Miami (MIA) to Paris (CDG) — 53,000 miles each way

  • Outbound: September 2-4, 6, 8-10, 12-30; October 1, 3, 5-7, 9-20, 22-23, 25-28 and 30; November 1-14 and 17-30; December 1-17, 18-28 and 30;
  • Inbound: September 1-5 and 7-30; October 3, 6-7, 9, 11-15, 19-23, 25-29 and 31; November 1-30; December 1-19 and 22-31

Chicago-O'Hare (ORD) to Paris (CDG) — 58,000 miles each way

  • Outbound: September 1-13 and 15-30; October 4, 6, 11, 18-21 and 25-27; November 2-3, 8-10, 15-17, 22-24, 26 and 29; December 6-8, 12-15, 21-22, 24, 26-29 and 31
  • Inbound: September 1-30; October 1-3, 6-7, 14-16 and 20-22; November 5, 9, 12, 16, 19 and 21-29; December 1-3, 5, 7-8, 10, 12-16, 19, 21-24 and 26-28

Los Angeles (LAX) to Paris (CDG) — 67,500 miles each way

  • Outbound: September 1-4, 6, 8-13, 15-19, 21-27 and 29-30; October 1-4, 7-9, 13-16, 18 and 20-28; November 1-12, 14, 16-18 and 20-30; December 1-3, 5-6, 10-15 and 21-31
  • Inbound: September 4-8, 12-13, 17, 19-23 and 25-29; October 8, 10, 15, 20, 24, 27 and 29-31; November 3-6, 11, 14 and 16-28; December 1-3, 5-6, 9-21 and 23-30

San Francisco (SFO) to Paris (CDG) — 71,000 miles each way

  • Outbound: September 1-10 and 13-30; October 1-30; November 2-6, 9-11, 16-19 and 21-30; December 1-3, 6-9, 13-16 and 21-31
  • Inbound: September 1-19, 21-26 and 29-30; October 1-17 and 19-30; November 2-4, 10-12, 17-20 and 22-29; December 1-31

Note that some other gateways have more sporadic availability — including Detroit (DTW) and Seattle (SEA) — so if you're looking for flights from other Air France-served cities, you may be in luck.

How to book

(Photo by Nick Ellis/The Points Guy)
You can use many different loyalty programs to book these award flights. (Photo by Nick Ellis/The Points Guy)

Air France belongs to the Sky Team alliance, so you can use any partner program to book award tickets. However, the above dates are through the Flying Blue program — which tends to open up more award inventory to its own members. Regardless of the program you choose, you should have plenty of applicable miles at your disposal thanks to the power of transferable point currencies.

Here's a run-down of three particularly useful options.

Flying Blue

Flying Blue is the loyalty program of Air France, KLM and a handful of other airlines. While it doesn't publish an award chart, it does have an award ticket calculator that allows you to see the starting prices for award tickets between two cities. In the past, we've seen some illogical pricing, and you can often get a lower price by adding a connecting segment within Europe.

For example, here's what you'll find for Los Angeles (LAX) to Paris (CDG):

However, change your destination to Venice (VCE) and the price of a one-way, business-class award drops by over 20% — to 53,000 miles:

Sure enough, a one-way flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to Venice (VCE) via Paris (CDG) on one of the above dates prices at 53,000 miles plus roughly $220 in taxes and fees:

That additional out-of-pocket expense is mainly to cover fuel surcharges that Air France imposes, though if you book a one-way flight from Paris back to the U.S., you'll also be hit with added government-imposed taxes. Booking a connecting flight from Europe through Paris will avoid these added fees.

While it's always frustrating to pay a few hundred dollars on top of your miles for an award ticket, redeeming 106,000 miles and less than $500 for a round-trip, business-class flight from the West Coast to Italy is a solid option.

Note that you can transfer Amex Membership Rewards points, Chase Ultimate Rewards points, Citi Thank You Rewards points and Capital One miles directly to Flying Blue — one of the only programs that partners with all four major, transferable credit card programs.

Delta SkyMiles

Another option for booking these flights is Delta SkyMiles, though availability won't be as widespread. Even though Delta no longer publishes award charts, all partner award flights in business class from the U.S. to Europe (and back) will price at 75,000 miles each way. While this is a notable premium over most of the award rates through Flying Blue, you'll also avoid most of the fuel surcharges that you'd otherwise pay. A round-trip award will incur just $143.65 in taxes and fees per person.

Just be aware that you'll want to avoid booking one-way awards through SkyMiles that originate in Europe. Delta adds its own surcharge to these award tickets, so you'd wind up paying roughly €291 (~$315) on these flights.

Delta loyalists may be sitting on a large pot of Delta miles — especially if you recently opened a new Delta American Express card when they were offering limited-time, enhanced welcome bonuses — but you can also transfer Amex Membership Rewards points directly to your SkyMiles account at a 1:1 ratio.

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

A final option is the newest one, as Virgin Atlantic and Air France just added reciprocal mileage redemption earlier this year. This even prompted us to raise our valuation of Flying Club miles, as it's a great new option for getting from the U.S. to Europe and back. However, my searches indicate that Virgin Atlantic has access to even fewer Air France award seats than Delta does, and you'll still need to pay roughly the same fuel surcharges that Flying Club requires. The award rates are also much higher for West Coach departures.

RELATED: Unlock incredible value with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

The exact award rate will depend upon your origin and destination (per the online award chart) as well as your dates of travel, since Virgin Atlantic uses standard and peak pricing. Most of the above dates are considered standard, though flights prior to Sept. 7 and after Dec. 11 will incur peak rates.

Here's what you'd pay through Virgin Atlantic Flying Club:

  • Eastern U.S. to Central/Eastern Europe: 48,500 miles (standard) or 58,500 miles (peak)
  • Western U.S. to Central/Eastern Europe: 77,500 miles (standard) or 87,500 miles (peak)

You can transfer points from Amex, Chase and Citi directly to your Flying Club account. Just be sure to compare the award rates to other options above.

Earning transferable points

If you don't currently have any of the aforementioned transferable points, you may want to consider adding one of the following cards to your wallet so you can jump on deals like this in the future:

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express: Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards points after you use your new card to make $6,000 in purchases in your first six months of account opening, though be sure to check the CardMatch Tool to see if you're targeted for a 125,000-point offer (offer subject to change at any time).
  • American Express® Gold Card: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases on your new card in your first six months, though be sure to check the CardMatch Tool to see if you're either targeted for a 75,000 -point offer (subject to change at any time).
  • Citi Premier® Card: Earn 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.

You can also review our guide to choosing the best Amex and our post on the perfect Chase quartet to see if another card might be a better fit.

Bottom line

While most worldwide travel has ground to a halt due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, we are seeing some terrific options for booking trips using points and miles for later this year. If you're looking to book a European getaway this fall — and hoping that steps to reopen spots like Italy and Greece bodes well for the future of travel — now may be a great time to do so, as we're seeing great business-class awards on Air France from multiple U.S. cities.

Featured image by (Photo by Nick Ellis/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.