September 1, 2017
How to Book Air France Business Class Award and Upgrade Flights
Taking a vacation to Europe is fun. Starting off your trip in a reclining Business Class seat with a glass of champagne and excellent French cuisine is even better. I finally flew Air France Business Class across the Atlantic this month and was pleasantly surprised by how good the service was. I want to discuss the best ways to book Air France award and upgrade flights using miles so you can do the same.
Air France Flying Blue and Delta SkyMiles are the two main programs used to book Air France award flights. Since Delta keeps devaluing its frequent flyer program, SkyMiles don’t offer a great value for these award tickets anymore (as of this writing it costs between 70,000-85,000 miles for one-way Business Class awards between the US and Europe). The easiest and cheapest way to book Air France awards is by using its own frequent flyer program, Flying Blue.
No need to worry if you don’t have any Flying Blue miles as they’re very easy to create. First, head over to Air France and create your free Flying Blue account. You can create Flying Blue miles by taking flights on SkyTeam partners and crediting them to Flying Blue, or by transferring miles from American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest, and Citi ThankYou. All four of those programs transfer miles at a 1:1 ratio, but Starwood will give you 5,000 bonus miles for every 20,000 miles you transfer. Also note that AMEX, Chase, and Citi points transfer instantly while SPG points typically take a few days to a week.
Now that you know how to acquire Flying Blue miles, let’s talk about how to find and book award flights. First, I’d check out Air France’s Miles Calculator. This lets you search your flight route and cabin class and will tell you exactly how many miles you need. For this example, we can see that a Business Class award from Boston to Paris will cost 62,500 miles for a ‘classic award’ and a whopping 187,500 miles for a ‘flex award’. Classic and flex awards give you the same Business Class seat, Air France just releases more award space at the flex price so you’re more likely to find availability at those ridiculous prices than at classic award prices. As a general rule, don’t waste your hard earned miles on an overpriced flex award. You want to look for classic award prices.
In addition to class and flex awards, Air France also has promo awards available on specific routes. Promo awards are typically 25%-50% off classic award prices and they change every month. These are the cheapest Flying Blue awards you can book.
Next, you’ll want to search for award space on the days you’re interested in flying. Head over to Air France, click the ‘Purchase Ticket’ tab at the top, then make sure to select ‘Use You Miles’ on the right side, and finally input your flight criteria. I like to make sure the ‘You are looking for a flight around these dates’ tab is checked.
That should give you a five-week award flight matrix around your selected date of travel. Once you have an award flight in mind, click through all the way to the booking screen to be sure that the listed award space is real and there isn’t a glitch in the website showing you phantom space. Then transfer the miles from the four transfer partners mentioned above and book your award!
Another strategy to get into Business Class is to purchase an Economy or Premium Economy ticket and then use miles to upgrade. This has two advantages. First, you’ll earn award miles and elite qualifying miles towards status for the Economy/Premium Economy ticket which you paid for. Second, it costs a lot less miles to upgrade than to book an award ticket outright.
Upgrade prices can vary widely depending on the fare class of the ticket you’ve purchased. For example, if you got a deal on a crazy cheap Economy ticket to Paris, you’ll likely have to spend more miles to upgrade to Business than someone who paid top dollar for that same ticket. Start by heading back to the Air France Miles Calculator. Input your flight details, then click ‘Show advanced options’. This will allow you to enter the fare class of the ticket you’re upgrading from. You’ll find that in our example, it costs between 15,000-60,000 miles to upgrade from Economy to Business Class and between 10,000-30,000 miles to upgrade from Premium Economy to Business Class.
Now you know how much it will cost to upgrade your ticket, but you also have to make sure there is upgrade award space available on your desired flight. Air France uses the same award space for upgrades as it does for ‘classic awards’. So just go back and check for an award flight on your desired day. If there’s classic awards available, you should be able to upgrade your flight as well. You can request upgrades online in the Manage/Modify section of your reservation or over the phone by contacting Air France Flying Blue.
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