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Flying Blue–the loyalty program of Air France/KLM, Air Europa, Kenya Airways, and TAROM–has released its newest Promo Awards that let you fly from several US cities to anywhere in Europe for as little as 12,500 miles each way with only modest fuel surcharges.
Flying Blue is a 1:1 transfer partner of Membership Rewards and Starpoints.
Through March 31, 2014, you can fly from Los Angeles, San Francisco, and several other US cities to Europe for only 25k Membership Rewards or 20k Starpoints + $281 out of pocket.
What cities are these Promo Awards good for? How do you book a Promo Award? How do these awards compare to awards with lower fuel surcharges? How can you eliminate the out of pocket cost of the award?
Flying Blue Promo Awards Explained
Every two months, Flying Blue releases a new list of Promo Awards, which allow travel from specified American cities to anywhere in Europe for 25% or 50% off the normal miles price.
The current list of promo awards are available for booking through November 30, 2013 for flights between now and March 31, 2014.
Awards to and from cities with a 50% miles discount cost 12,500 miles each way in economy and 31,250 miles each way in business class. This period’s 50% off cities are:
- Chicago (economy, business)
- Houston (economy, business)
- Los Angeles (economy)
- San Francisco (economy)
- Washington DC (economy)
Awards to and from cities with a 25% miles discount cost 18,750 miles each way in economy, 37,500 miles each way in premium economy, and 46,875 miles each way in business class. This period’s 25% off cities are:
- Atlanta (economy)
- Boston (economy, business)
- Detroit (economy, business)
- Houston (premium economy)
- New York (economy, business)
- Washington DC (business)
Promo awards have the same out-of-pocket taxes and fuel surcharges as normal Flying Blue awards. The taxes are the same as you would pay on any award ticket. The fuel surcharges are listed on this table:
For the US to Europe, the fuel surcharge each way is 50 euros in economy, 110 euros in premium economy, and 180 euros in business or first.
That works out to a modest $136 + taxes out of pocket on roundtrip awards to Europe in economy, but a punitive $488 + taxes out of pocket on roundtrip business class awards to Europe.
To book a Flying Blue Promo Award, go to the Flying Blue Award Search and sign in or create an account. You can search with zero miles in your account, but you need to be signed into an account.
Everything on the form is standard except selecting the number of passengers. You have to manually add each additional passenger by age in the “Who’s going?” section.
In “Where to?”, you can select one-way or return. The promo awards are valid one way or roundtrip.
In “When?”, leave “My dates are flexible” checked to get a helpful calendar.
In “Which class?”, select your cabin and leave “Show Flex options only” unchecked.
In your search results, the discounted promo award prices are already coded into the price displayed on the calendars, which will display the one way price.
Business Class Promo Awards
Here was a oneway business class search from Chicago to Paris. The green dates are days with Promo Award space available for 31,250 miles one way.
As you can see, the Promo Award space is excellent, though the out-of-pocket cost of $290 one way is not.
The return shows award space that isn’t quite as good and a higher out of pocket cost of $350+.
The roundtrip cost would be 62,500 Flying Blue miles + $640 from Chicago to Paris in business class, using Promo Awards.
Most of that is fuel surcharges.
You can save a little bit of money by flying out of a lower aviation-tax country like the Netherlands, but not much. A roundtrip from Chicago to Amsterdam in business class would be 62,500 Flying Blue miles + $592 in business class, using Promo Awards.
That $592 includes $496 in fuel surcharges and less than $100 in taxes!
Economy Class Promo Awards
I promised that the fuel surcharges on economy Promo Awards were much more modest.
Below is a calendar of an economy class award search for March 2014 from Los Angeles to Warsaw–remember that the awards can go anywhere in Europe for the same price.
Award space from Los Angeles to Europe is excellent in early March and costs only 12,500 Flying Blue miles + $115 one way!
The return shows the same strong availability but costs $166 out of pocket.
A roundtrip from Los Angeles to Warsaw in business class would be 25,000 Flying Blue miles + $281 in economy class, using Promo Awards–of which $138 is fuel surcharges.
How Good of a Deal are Promo Awards?
Promo awards are a very good, but not Earth-shattering, deal. Let’s compare Los Angeles to Warsaw for 25,000 Flying Blue miles + $281 to other options.
- You could book the award for 40k American Airlines miles + $238 on a combination of American Airlines and British Airways flights. The out-of-pocket cost is so high because of the LHR-WAW legs on British Airways flights that incur fuel surcharges.
- You could book the award for 60k United miles + $114 on Lufthansa flights.
- You could book the award for 60k US Airways miles + $164 on the same Lufthansa flights. (The extra $50 is the unavoidable US Airways award processing fee.)
- You could book a cash flights on the same approximate dates for $953 (and earn miles from the flights!)
The MileValue Mile Value Calculator page is currently down because of a glitch, but the correct cents per mile calculation is straightforward to determine the best award taking into account the taxes/fees and miles foregone by not buying a ticket.
- The Flying Blue Promo Award gets 1.77 cents per mile worth of value.
- The American Airlines off peak award gets 1.35 cents per mile worth of value.
- The United award gets 1.15 cents per mile worth of value.
- The US Airways award gets 1.08 cents per mile worth of value.
Of the four, the Flying Blue Promo Award is clearly the best deal despite having the highest out of pocket cost. The question becomes: do you want to burn Flying Blue miles when you are getting 1.77 cents of value from them? The answer depends on how you get the miles.
Getting the Miles
Flying Blue is a 1:1 transfer partner of Membership Rewards and Starpoints. And as usual, increments of 20k Starpoints transfer to 25k Flying Blue miles.
You can get the Starpoints from the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express with 25,000 bonus Starpoints after spending $5k in six months.
You can get Membership Rewards from several cards. My two favorite personal cards are the Platinum Card from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz with 50k bonus Membership Rewards after spending $3k in three months. The card has a $475 annual fee that is totally worth paying. I also love the American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card with its 25k bonus Membership Rewards after spending $2k in three months, 3x points for flights booked with airlines, and 2x points at gas stations and supermarkets.
The drawback for the Promo Awards is the out-of-pocket cash needed to book them. You can eliminate the out-of-pocket cash needed by paying for the Promo Award with your Barclaycard Arrival(TM) World MasterCard® – Earn 2x on All Purchases (waived the first year.)
The Arrival card comes with 40,000 bonus miles after spending $1k in three months, and the Arrival miles can be used for 1.11 cents off of any flight, hotel, car rental, cruise, or other travel expense.
Remember the $281 out of pocket for the roundtrip award from Los Angeles to Warsaw? That could turn into zero out of pocket by redeeming about 25,300 Arrival miles.
- Named ‘Best for Travel Rewards’ Money Magazine, October 2013
- Earn 40,000 bonus miles if you make $1,000 or more in purchases in the first 90 days from account opening. 40,000 bonus miles equates to $400 off your next trip!
- 0% introductory APR on purchases for the first 12 months after account opening. After that, variable APR, currently 14.99% or 18.99%, based upon your creditworthiness.
- Earn 2X miles on all purchases
- No mileage caps and no foreign transaction fees
- Get 10% miles back when you redeem for travel (i.e. redeem 25,000 miles for travel and get 2,500 miles back)
- Easily redeem your miles for statement credits toward flights, cruises, car rentals, hotels and more
- Complimentary subscription to TripIt Pro mobile travel organizer — a $49 annual value!
Application Link: Barclaycard Arrival(TM) World MasterCard® – Earn 2x on All Purchases (waived the first year)
Book by November 30 and fly by March 31, 2014 and you can enjoy half price awards from select US cities to all of Europe with Flying Blue miles.
Roundtrip economy awards are only 25k miles + $138 + taxes. Roundtrip business awards push $600 out of pocket.
Get Flying Blue miles by transferring points earned on the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express or American Express® Premier Rewards Gold Card and avoid the out of pocket expenses with Arrival miles from the Barclaycard Arrival(TM) World MasterCard® – Earn 2x on All Purchases (waived the first year).