How To Redeem Points For The Great Air France First Class Fares

3 years ago
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Yesterday I posted about the amazing Air France first class fares we’re seeing at the moment between the US and Europe, which were shared by zoqfotpik on FlyerTalk. The fares are valid through the end of the schedule with no blackout dates, there’s a 90 day advance purchase requirement, and as of now there’s no end date for these fares (though I imagine they’ll be pulled eventually — if you’re interested I’d book sooner rather than later).

I figured there were a couple of other things worth pointing out about these fares.

The fares aren’t just good to Spain

There are also excellent fares from most US cities to London. For example, you can fly from San Francisco to London for under $4,500 roundtrip.

Or from New York to London for ~$3,500 roundtrip.

Or from Los Angeles to Helsinki for ~$4,250 roundtrip (though note the Paris to Helsinki flight is on Finnair, so I’m not sure you’d get access to the first class lounge on the outbound).

Or if you’re looking for a great first class fare from the West Coast, you can fly from Seattle to Bilbao via San Francisco for ~$3,600. That’s the cheapest fare I see from the West Coast.

If you do take advantage of this fare:

  • Make sure you plan a long layover in Paris, given how fantastic the Air France first class lounge is
  • Book the 777 rather than the A380, since the first class product is much better

Amex can save you ~$300-500

As I explained yesterday, you can save even more if you have The Platinum Card® from American Express or The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN and call to book through the International Airline Program.

They offer a discount off premium cabin fares on Air France, and the savings seem to be around 10% or so. It varies based on the specific routing, though you can expect it will knock ~$300 off an East Coast fare, or ~$400-500 off a West Coast fare.

For example, the ~$4,250 West Coast fares seem to be running around ~$3,800 if booking through the International Airline Program. To crunch the numbers a bit further:

  • If you pay with The Platinum Card® from American Express you’ll earn 5x points, which I value at a further 8.5% return
  • If you credit to FlyingBlue, you’d earn 300% miles for the first class segments and 175% miles for the business class segments, so a roundtrip would earn you almost 40,000 miles

So you’d earn a total of 60,000 points for the roundtrip between Membership Rewards and FlyingBlue. If you value those at ~1.5 cents, that’s a return of ~$900 in points alone, making the real cost ~$2,900.

Redeeming points for these fares

Now that transferable points can be redeemed towards the cost of airfare at pretty efficient rates, let’s crunch some of the numbers.

If you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Ultimate Rewards points can be redeemed for 1.5 cents each towards the cost of a ticket. That means, for example, that you could book the ~$3,540 ticket from New York to London for ~236,000 Ultimate Rewards points. Then you’d earn almost 30,000 FlyingBlue miles for the ticket. The way I see it, that makes the real cost of the redemption closer to ~200,000 Ultimate Rewards points.

Don’t get me wrong, that’s still a lot of points, but I recently spent 200,000 FlyingBlue miles on a one-way ticket from Europe to the US in Air France first class, plus I had to pay carrier imposed surcharges. That was the cheapest way to book Air France first class on miles, and it required being an elite member with FlyingBlue.

A better value might be redeeming Membership Rewards points. If you have the The Platinum Card® from American Express or The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN you can redeem Membership Rewards points towards the cost of a ticket after getting the International Airline Program discount.

So let’s take that same New York to London fare. The Amex website states it would cost 331,826 Membership Rewards points. That’s based on a fare that’s $200+ lower than the published fare, though it’s possible it might be even cheaper if you call.

However:

  • If you have the Amex Business Platinum Card you’d get a 35% refund of those points after the fact, meaning you’d get ~116,000 points back
  • If you had the Amex Business Platinum Card a while back, you may still be eligible for the 50% refund, which would get you ~166,000 points back

If the latter scenario applies to you, that means you’d be paying a total of ~166,000 Membership Rewards points in the end, and you’d be earning about 30,000 FlyingBlue miles.

At that point that’s starting to look really attractive.

Bottom line

Air France first class is an incredible product. This still isn’t cheap, but it is the best deal that I’ve ever seen for Air France first class out of the US. If you’re in a position to book a ticket and have the interest in trying one of the world’s best first class products, I’d hop on this sooner rather than later.

So, who’s taking advantage of this great deal?

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