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Anytime an airline program gives notice of impending award price changes, typically that spells doom for award travelers. Even worse, sometimes these award price hikes, or devaluations, come with no advance notice. But that's not the case with the latest update from Air France/KLM Flying Blue's award program.
Air France/KLM Flying Blue has adjusted the lowest award rates for flights between North America and Europe. But, surprisingly this is to the benefit of its program's members. Standard transatlantic economy class award rates now begin at just 15,000 points. And Flying Blue confirmed that this isn't just promotional pricing.
Good News – With a Catch
Lower award prices should be nothing but good news, right? The blog FrequentFlyerBonuses reports that these changes are permanent, will be communicated to program members, and were made to reflect cash pricing on these routes.
The worrying piece of information is that final part — regarding alignment with actual fare pricing. That kind of language hints at a further shift toward dynamically-priced awards, which could fluctuate based on the price Air France/KLM wants to charge.
Such a change does not mean bad news in all cases. After all, it can mean lower award costs when prices are low. However, it does leave open the possibility that award prices will increase substantially if actual ticket prices do the same. Such a relationship between the cash price and points price limits the possible value of using points, as well.
Examples of New Lower Flying Blue Award Prices
With news of this change, it made sense to investigate all of the routes served by FlyingBlue. Air France serves 19 cities in North America, while KLM offers an additional 20 routes for a total of 39. Searching the FlyingBlue award calendar for each of these routes reveals eight nonstop routes with pricing of just 15,000 miles.
|Air France||New York||Paris||15000|
|Air France||Quebec City||Paris||15000|
|Air France||Washington, D.C.||Paris||17500|
|Air France||Dallas/Fort Worth||Paris||20000|
|Air France||San Francisco||Paris||20000|
|Air France||Mexico City||Paris||21000|
|Air France||Minneapolis/St. Paul||Paris||21000|
|Air France||Los Angeles||Paris||24000|
|KLM||Salt Lake City||Amsterdam||30000|
For example, economy awards from Chicago to Paris are priced at just 15,000 Flying Blue miles each way:
That means with the current 25% off Flying Blue Promo Rewards, you can book economy awards on this route for as few as 11,250 Flying Blue miles:
With the ongoing 25% Membership Rewards transfer bonus, these 11,250 point flights require just 9,000 Membership Rewards points to book.
As is typical with Flying Blue, rates vary depending on city and carrier. For instance, flying from Los Angeles to Paris on Air France costs as few as 24,000 miles, while flying to Amsterdam instead on KLM starts at 27,000 miles. Without any sort of official award chart — or statement regarding the recent changes — it is difficult to know what rates are truly the lowest possible.
The FlyingBlue website Miles Price Estimator still shows the old rates. For example, Los Angeles to Paris economy awards still shows as 27,000 miles. So, it appears an update is still in order there.
Flying Blue Economy Awards Pricing Pattern
Shorter flights from the northeastern parts of North America price out as low as 15,000 miles, while longer flights from the west coast may cost a premium of 10,000 miles or more.
By the looks of the search results, there is a pretty clear pattern that shorter flights in terms of distance equate to lower required miles. However, a few routes buck that trend.
For example, San Francisco to Paris spans 5,583 miles (the fourth-longest city pairing) yet only cost 20,000 miles. Meanwhile, Minneapolis/St. Paul to Paris clocks in at just 4,222 miles and costs 21,000 miles.
The notion that any kind of cash price difference accounts for the mileage cost difference falls flat when examining the costs of these flights, too, as the flight from MSP is actually $50 cheaper:
Flying Blue Transfer Partners
Looking to capitalize on these newly lowered award costs? You are in luck. Flying Blue is one of the few frequent flyer programs that is a transfer partner of all major transferable points programs:
- American Express Membership Rewards — 1:1 transfer ratio, immediate transfer time
- Capital One Miles — 1:1 transfer ratio, immediate transfer time
- Chase Ultimate Rewards — 1:1 transfer ratio, immediate transfer time
- Citi ThankYou Points — 1:1 transfer ratio, immediate transfer time
- Marriott Bonvoy — 3:1 transfer ratio, 1-3 day transfer time
On the surface, the opportunity to redeem fewer miles than before for the exact same flights comes as a very welcome surprise. Lower award prices mean those same miles can be used on additional or more indulgent future travel. That could mean taking a more luxurious splurge redemption, taking an extra travel companion, or even taking an extra trip altogether.
However, any reference to aligning miles costs with cash costs sets off alarm bells for a further shift to dynamic pricing. That kind of award pricing can limit the value travelers realize from their miles, and eliminate program sweet spots.
Still, this news should spark celebration, as a new 15,000-point standard redemption for transatlantic travel means a pair of travelers can fly round trip to Europe for less than many of the commonly-offered credit card sign-up bonuses.
Better yet, since Flying Blue partners with all five major transferable points networks, travelers can take their pick of what points to transfer to take advantage of these reduced award costs.
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