The ultimate guide to earning and redeeming with Air France/KLM Flying Blue
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In 2004, Air France and KLM Royal Dutch came together to form the Air France-KLM Group. One of the products of this merger is the airline’s combined loyalty program: Flying Blue. This has quickly become one of the most well-known airline loyalty programs because of its massive list of credit card transfer partners, lucrative Promo Rewards and a massive list of earning and redemption partners.
All of this makes Flying Blue a super attractive programs for many travelers, especially those of us that focus on earning transferrable points. But if you’re new to the program, it can be a bit daunting — especially given its unpredictable dynamic award pricing. You’re not alone, though, because today I’ll take you through the ins and outs of the Flying Blue program.
I’ll start by giving you an overview of the loyalty program and then moving onto earning and redeeming Flying Blue miles. Let’s get started!
An overview of the Flying Blue program
As stated earlier, Flying Blue is the joint loyalty program of Air France and KLM, but these aren’t the only carriers that use Flying Blue as their default loyalty program. In fact, quite a few airlines — both inside and outside of Europe — use the program for mileage earning and elite status. Here’s a look at all the airlines that use it:
- Air Calin
- Air France
- Kenya Airways
So if you’re a Flying Blue member and are flying one of these airlines, you can add your Flying Blue member number to earn miles, Experience Points (XP) for elite status qualification, and more. Once you reach elite status, you’ll be able to use your benefits on these airlines and reciprocal benefits on other partner airlines.
But just because these airlines use Flying Blue as their default program doesn’t mean you can’t earn Flying Blue miles with other airlines. I’ll dive deeper into this in the next section, but since a majority of these airlines are in the SkyTeam alliance, you’re able to earn Flying Blue miles with all SkyTeam airlines and an assortment of non-alliance partners.
Flying Blue elite status tiers and benefits
Like many airlines, Flying Blue offers elite status to its most frequent flyers. The airline currently offers three different elite status tiers: Silver, Gold and Platinum. Each of these offers varying benefits, and while they’re not as lucrative as many of the U.S. airlines, the benefits are helpful for European flyers or anyone who frequents Air France or KLM.
Flying Blue Silver
Silver is the lowest tier of Flying Blue elite status, but it includes some key benefits that can make a difference for frequent travelers. Benefits include free standard seat selection, priority check-in and boarding, and other SkyTeam Elite benefits. One of the most notable SkyTeam Elite benefits is a free checked bag on all Flying Blue and SkyTeam partner flights.
Flying Blue Gold
Gold, on the other hand, includes more premium benefits. With this status tier, you and a guest can access SkyTeam lounges when flying on an international flight operated by a Flying Blue or SkyTeam airline, as well as on flights operated by China Southern Airways or Virgin Atlantic. Likewise, you’re eligible for SkyTeam Elite Plus benefits like SkyPriority boarding, fast track immigration and more.
Like Silver, you’ll get free standard seat selection, but you’re eligible for a 50% discount on preferred seats and Delta Comfort+. While not as good as free, you may find that it’s worthwhile to upgrade on long-haul economy flights where you’d otherwise be stuck in a cramped economy seat.
Another interesting benefit is free access to Le Bus Direct that runs between Paris (CDG) and Paris-Orly (ORY). This is helpful when your itinerary requires transit between the two airports, and can save you 12 euro (~$13.15) on a one-way ticket.
Finally, Gold (and above) Flying Blue members can book Air France La Premiere first class using your Flying Blue miles. These award tickets are restricted to Flying Blue Gold and Platinum members, and though they come at a pretty hefty cost, La Premier is one of the best first class products on the market. La Premiere tickets often cost more than $10,000 when flying from Europe to North America, Asia or Africa, so being able to book with miles makes an otherwise unattainable ticket possible for many flyers.
Flying Blue Platinum
Flying Blue’s top-tier Platinum status includes all of the Gold benefits we mentioned earlier, but sweetens the deal by upgrading some benefits and adding others. Platinum members get access to free Economy Comfort and extra legroom seats on all SkyTeam flights, and can access Delta Comfort+ seats for free.
Qualifying for Flying Blue elite status
You can qualify for Flying Blue elite status by earning Experience Points (XP). Each tier requires a specific number of these points, and you can earn them by flying and through credit card spending. All Flying Blue (except Transavia) and SkyTeam partners are eligible for earning XP, as well as some non-alliance partners like Qantas.
|100 XP||180 XP||300 XP|
The chart above shows how many XP is required to earn each elite status tier. You need to reach this number of XP within a year of earning your first XP. So if you take a paid flight in May, you have until May of the following year before your XP counter resets. Current Flying Blue elites must re-qualify by earning enough XP to maintain or upgrade their status tier within the one-year period.
How to earn Experience Points (XP) by flying
(0-2,000 miles, international)
(2,000-3,500 miles, international)
(3,500-5,000 miles, international)
(5,000+ miles, international)
|Economy||2 XP||5 XP||8 XP||10 XP||12 XP|
|Premium Economy||4 XP||10 XP||16 XP||20 XP||24 XP|
|Business Class||6 XP||15 XP||24 XP||30 XP||36 XP|
|First Class||10 XP||25 PX||40 XP||50 XP||60 XP|
XP earning is surprisingly simple, but it isn’t without its quirks — I’ve posted a copy of it above. You can see that you earn XP based on distance tiers and the class of service you’re flying, and miles are earned regardless of your ticket’s fare class. This means that a discount economy ticket earns the same XP as a full-fare economy ticket.
Easy enough, right? Yes, and this chart does have its upsides: if you’re taking international flights within Europe, it’s easy to earn points in the Medium XP tier. Per the award chart, a quick 211-mile flight from Paris (CDG) to London (LHR) would earn 5 XP in economy class or 15 XP in business class.
But things get weird when it comes to earning in larger countries like the U.S. or Canada. A 2,994-mile flight from Salt Lake City (SLC) to Honolulu (HNL) would earn 2 XP in economy class as — per the above chart — it’s a domestic flight. So if you fly within the U.S. or to Hawaii often and are chasing SkyTeam elite status, it’s in your best interest to credit your mileage elsewhere.
Thankfully, U.S. to Canada flights are considered truly international, so the 214-mile jaunt between Detroit (DTW) and Toronto (YYZ) would earn 5 XP in economy class. Better yet, you can earn XP on these routes when flying Delta or WestJet, so there’s plenty of opportunities for U.S.-based Flying Blue elites to top-up their XP balances.
Another interesting quirk of Flying Blue is that you earn points based on segments. So if you fly Frankfurt (FRA) to New York (JFK) via Amsterdam (AMS) on KLM in business class, you’ll earn 15 XP for the FRA to AMS leg and 30 XP for the 3,643-mile AMS to JFK segment. This equals 45 XP total for the one-way trip, already getting you almost half-way to Silver status.
Earning XP with a credit card
This may come as a surprise to some, but Flying Blue actually has a cobranded U.S. credit card with Bank of America. I’ll go more in-depth on the Air France KLM World Elite Mastercard® in the next section, but one of its standout benefits is the ability to earn XP via credit card spending.
You’ll earn 60 XP right off the bat when you’re approved for the card and 20 XP every year that you pay the card’s annual fee. Plus, you can earn an additional 40 XP on your account anniversary if you spend at least $15,000 during the cardmember year.
This means that you can earn more than half the XP needed for Silver status every year without stepping foot on an airplane. This is an excellent deal for U.S.-based flyers that want to achieve Flying Blue status and is by far one of the most generous elite status benefits of all the cobranded airline credit cards. Granted, its usefulness is minimal for many U.S. based flyers.
How to earn Flying Blue status on the cheap
U.S. flyers can earn Flying Blue status pretty easily with a combination of XP earned with the Air France KLM World Elite Mastercard and flying. If Silver is your goal, you can simply apply for the card and take a couple of short-haul hops to Canada to earn status quickly.
Gold or Platinum, on the other hand, will take a little bit more work. Gold requires 180 XP. You can shave this down to 120XP with the cobranded credit card and earn those through a mix of short-haul international hops and flights to Europe.
For example, the remaining 120 XP could be earned by taking two round-trip business class flights to Canada from the U.S. for 60 XP, one round-trip premium economy flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to Paris (CDG) for 48 XP, and six one-way domestic flights on Delta for the remainder. And since there’s no set spend requirement, you can book cheap fares to earn the required XP.
The same goes for Flying Blue Platinum status — if you plan your flights right, it’s pretty easy to obtain status. Regardless, though, you will need to spend quite a bit of time on a plane in order to earn the status, but the cobranded credit card helps by taking a couple of flights out of the mix.
Earning miles with Flying Blue
So, Flying Blue elite status is great, but what about earning miles?
Thankfully, there are a ton of awesome ways for U.S. travelers to earn Flying Blue miles by flying, through credit cards and more. Below are a list of the best ways to earn Flying Blue miles — use these methods in-tandem and you’ll be well on your way to earning enough miles for your next Flying Blue redemption in no time.
Earn miles by flying with Flying Blue airlines and SkyTeam partners
Naturally, you can earn Flying Blue miles by flying. How you actually earn these miles varies by airline, though. When you book a flight on Air France or KLM, you’ll earn miles based on how much you spent on the ticket (sans taxes). This is also the case for tickets booked on a Flying Blue airline website but operated by another carrier.
The number of miles you’ll earn per dollar also depends on your Flying Blue status tier. Flying Blue members without status earn 4 miles per euro spent, while Silver, Gold and Platinum members earn 6, 7, and 8 miles per euro spent, respectively. This earning doesn’t include taxes charged on the ticket, but does include the rest of the purchased fare.
For example, a Flying Blue Platinum elite member would earn 3,200 miles on a ticket operated by KLM that costs 400 euro (~$437.50) before taxes. On the other hand, a Flying Blue member without elite status would earn 1,600 miles. These miles will be deposited into the traveler’s account within a few days after travel has been completed.
Earning Flying Blue miles with partner airlines
Earning with SkyTeam and non-alliance Flying Blue partners is a different story, though. So long as you didn’t book the ticket through a Flying Blue partner website, you’ll earn miles based on distance flown, fare class and your elite status tier. Each airline partner awards a different number of miles for each fare class — you can find how many miles your partner flight earns on the Flying Blue partners page.
Once you’ve found your partner, take a look at your ticket and find the fare class you’re booked in and match it to the mileage earning rate on the Flying Blue website. Then, multiply the length of your flight (in miles) by the percentage next to your fare class. For example, if you’re flying Delta Air Lines from New York (LGA) to Chicago (ORD) — a 733-mile flight — in I fare domestic first class, you’d earn 1,099 Flying Blue miles, as the fare class earns 150% miles flown. The math looks like this: 733 * 1.50 = 1,099.50.
This is the same process for SkyTeam and non-alliance partners, so you can earn Flying Blue miles based on distance flown for a number of different airlines. There are some interesting non-alliance partners, including Copa Airlines, Japan Airlines and Qantas.
Spend on the Flying Blue cobranded credit card
Another way to earn Flying Blue miles is with the previously discussed Air France KLM World Elite Mastercard®. This card earns 3 Flying Blue miles per dollar spent on SkyTeam airfare purchases, and 1.5 Flying Blue miles per dollar everywhere else. This is a pretty solid return for purchases that don’t fit a bonus category covered by a transferrable points card.
The card also has a solid welcome bonus of 25,000 Flying Blue miles and a $100 statement credit after spending $1,000 on the card in the first three months of account opening. TPG values Flying Blue miles at 1.2 cents each, so this bonus alone is worth at least $300.
Additionally, you’ll earn 5,000 Flying Blue points on your card anniversary date so long as you spend at least $50 on your Flying Blue credit card each year. According to TPG’s valuations, this covers $60 toward the card’s $89 annual fee.
Transfer in miles from any major transferrable points currency
The best way to earn Flying Blue miles is by using a transferrable points card. You can transfer points from American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One miles, Citi ThankYou, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy to Flying Blue. Amex, Citi and Chase transfer at a 1:1 ratio, Capital One transfers at a 1:1.5 ratio and Marriott transfers at a 3:1 ratio, with a 5,000-mile bonus awarded for every 60,000 Marriott points transferred.
More often than not, you’re better off putting your everyday purchases on a transferrable points card than the Flying Blue cobranded card we mentioned earlier. This is because cards that earn these points often earn bonus points in specific spending categories like travel, dining, groceries and more.
One of my favorite transferrable points cards is the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. This card has a $95 annual fee, but earns 2x Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on all travel and dining purchases and 1x point everywhere else. Plus, the card’s welcome bonus is nothing to scoff at either — it offers 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 on the card in the first three months after account opening.
Alternatively, the more premium variant of the card — the Chase Sapphire Reserve — has $550 annual fee, but it includes a variety of premium benefits. This includes Priority Pass lounge access (which includes many Air France lounges), a Lyft Pink membership and other various perks. Plus, it earns 3x points per dollar spent on travel and dining purchases, making it even more rewarding for everyday spending.
Stay at Accor hotels and earn bonus points
Flying Blue and Accor Hotels — a French hotel group that includes brands like Fairmont, Novotel and ibis — recently launched a partnership called Miles+Points that lets Flying Blue members earn Accor points when flying on member airlines. Likewise, you can use the program to earn Flying Blue miles when staying at Accor properties. These points are earned in-tandem, so you’re able to double-dip.
Make sure to link your Flying Blue and Accor Live Limitless accounts on the Flying Blue Miles+Points website to earn these bonus points. Earnings start immediately, so be sure to do it before your next Flying Blue member flight or Accor hotel stay.
Book other hotels through Flying Blue
Not staying at an Accor hotel? You can still earn Flying Blue miles when you book hotels. Flying Blue has a hotel booking platform called Hotels for Points. Using this portal, you can earn up to 10,000 Flying Blue miles per night booked through the portal, with promoted and more expensive stays generally earning more miles.
For example, a 110 euro per night hotel room at the Tremont Chicago Hotel at Magnificant Mile earns 300 Flying Blue miles per night. On the other hand, a 599 euro per night room at the Waldorf Astoria Chicago earns 6,300 miles per night.
Just note that you may not always get the best deal when you book through this portal, so compare the listed rate with the price of booking your hotel direct. Further, you won’t be able to use hotel elite status benefits or earn hotel points on these stays; generally, you need to book directly to use these benefits.
Additionally, all hotels are charged in euros, so make sure to use a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. If you don’t, you could pay up to 5% in fees on your booking, offsetting the value of any miles earned.
Additionally, you can earn 1 Flying Blue point per 1 euro spent on Booking.com if you go through Flying Blue’s Booking.com portal. While you’re still unable to use elite benefits and earn hotel points, Booking.com sometimes has excellent deals on boutique hotels and bed and breakfasts.
Redeeming miles with Flying Blue
Now it’s time for the fun part: redeeming Flying Blue miles!
While there are a variety of different ways to redeem Flying Blue miles, I highly recommend sticking to award flights. This will give you the most value for your miles and let you see the world on the cheap — and let’s be real: what’s better than that!?
There are a couple of things you should be aware of before redeeming your miles, though. The first is that all Flying Blue award tickets are priced dynamically. This means that there’s no set award chart and that some tickets can be extremely expensive — think 200,000 miles for an economy class flight from New York-JFK to London (LHR).
But for every insanely overpriced ticket, there’s solid value to be found. Flying Blue often has the best pricing for many SkyTeam awards, beating out Delta, Korean Air and other major programs. The key to finding these awards is being flexible and keeping an eye out for great deals.
The second thing you should be aware of is that Air France charges moderate fuel surcharges on some tickets. You can expect to pay $200 to $350 on a one-way business class award ticket. While this isn’t terrible compared to British Airways, is still something to keep in mind as you compare pricing across loyalty programs.
Thankfully, the program doesn’t pass on fuel surcharges for all airlines. You can redeem Flying Blue miles on Air Europa, Delta Air Lines, and Copa Airlines and pay just the attached taxes and fees. For example, a business class flight from New York-JFK to London (LHR) via Boston (BOS) on Delta only has $10.10 in taxes and fees attached.
Regardless, you can still score a great deal when booking airlines that do tag on fuel surcharges. Paying $250 (on top of your miles) to redeem for a $2,500 Air France ticket from New York-JFK to Paris (CDG) is still an excellent deal, especially if you’d otherwise pay for the flight out of pocket.
So with all that out of the way, let’s take a look at the best Flying Blue redemptions!
Book Air France business class to Europe
While Flying Blue prices its awards dynamically, I’ve found that you can usually score a ticket from the U.S. to Europe on Air France or KLM for 53,000 miles in business class if you’re flexible. This includes nonstop flights and one-stop connecting flights — in the screenshot below, I found Washington D.C. (IAD) to Prague (PRG) for 53,000 miles and $223.93 in taxes and fees.
This is a very reasonable price for a flight from the U.S. to Europe in business class, so it’s always worth checking Flying Blue when you’re planning trips to Europe. Plus, both Air France and KLM have solid business class products that will get you to Europe in comfort.
Fly Delta between the U.S. and Europe, South America and beyond
As mentioned earlier, Delta doesn’t charge fuel surcharges, so you can use your Flying Blue miles to book Delta tickets with low fees. For example, an economy class flight from New York-JFK to Dublin (DUB) can be booked for just 22,500 Flying Blue miles and $10.10 on many dates in late 2020. Alternatively, you can book the same flight in business class for 56,500 Flying Blue miles with the same low taxes.
Remember though, these awards are priced dynamically, so you may be able to find cheaper flights on some dates. Further, you may be able to score a better deal by booking this award with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, so if you have transferrable points, make sure to cross-check other airlines and book with whoever is offering the best price.
Keep an eye out for Promo Rewards
Every month, Flying Blue releases a batch of Promo Rewards. These are deeply discounted award tickets that can only be booked within the same month that they’re released. Further, they’re more restrictive than standard Flying Blue award tickets — they can’t be changed or canceled, so make sure your plans are finalized. But if you’re willing to risk it, these promotions can provide an excellent deal on tickets to Europe and beyond.
You can view an up-to-date list of Promo Rewards on the Flying Blue website. While new Promo Rewards are usually released at the beginning of each month, the program is currently on pause due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Some of my favorite Promo Rewards have included economy class tickets from New York-JFK to Europe for 11,000 miles one-way and Toronto (YYZ) to Europe in business class for 32,000 Flying Blue miles.
Be sure to keep an eye on the Flying Blue Promo Rewards page once the promotion restarts later this year — there are some incredible deals to be had.
Fly Copa Airlines to Panama City and beyond
Copa Airlines is a Star Alliance partner, but the airline has a non-alliance partnership with Flying Blue. This means you can earn and redeem miles with Copa, further expanding the reach of Flying Blue’s loyalty program. Pricing usually starts around 17,500 for a ticket from North America to Copa’s hub in Panama City (PTY) and you can tag on connecting flights too.
Copa Airlines flies to major Central and South American cities like Bogota (BOG), Sao Paulo (GRU) and Buenos Aries (EZE).
Just keep in mind that all of Copa’s flights are operated by either a Boeing 737 or Embraer 190, so it’s usually not worth paying more miles to book business class tickets. Consider booking a ticket on Delta Air Lines if you want to fly from the U.S. to South America in a lie-flat seat.
Flying Blue is one of the world’s largest frequent flyer programs. You can earn miles with all Flying Blue airlines and their SkyTeam and non-alliance partners, meaning that you can book thousands of different routes with your miles. While its elite status program isn’t the most rewarding out there, earning status is easy enough with the loyalty program’s U.S. credit card, and includes full SkyTeam elite status benefits when you reach Platinum status.
I think that the best way for most people to earn Flying Blue miles is with transferrable points credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Not only will you earn more points on most purchases, but you’ll have flexibility to redeem your points with other partners too.
Feature photo by Nick Ellis/The Points Guy
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