Well, this one came out of the blue!
American Express Membership Rewards has today added a brand-new airline partner to its ranks: Air France/KLM Flying Blue.
Transfer MR Points to Air France/KLM Flying Blue
Flying Blue is the loyalty program of the Air France/KLM airline conglomerate. The program joins American Express Canada as its seventh airline partner, alongside Aeroplan, British Airways Avios, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, Delta SkyMiles, Etihad Guest, and Alitalia MilleMiglia.
Flying Blue has already been added to the online transfer portal, and you can go ahead and convert your points. You’ll need to link your Flying Blue account to your MR account, and the transfer process is estimated to take three days to complete.
The transfer ratio is 1,000 MR points = 750 Flying Blue miles, making it a less prominent transfer option behind Aeroplan and British Airways Avios, which offer a 1:1 ratio. Still, Flying Blue offers some unique sweet spots compared to the other MR transfer partners, so transferring your points could make a lot of sense in certain scenarios.
The following Membership Rewards credit cards all allow you to earn points that you can convert into Flying Blue miles:
|Credit Card||Best Offer||Value|
|90,000 MR points||$1,646||Apply Now|
|75,000 MR points||$1,561||Apply Now|
|85,000 MR points||$1,503||Apply Now|
|Up to 77,000 MR points||$1,419||Apply Now|
|52,000 MR points||$1,197||Apply Now|
|10,000 MR points||$220||Apply Now|
Previously, the Flying Blue program was only accessible to Canadians by converting Marriott Bonvoy points or getting into US credit cards, so the new Membership Rewards transfer option is certainly a very welcome development.
Air France/KLM Flying Blue Sweet Spots
The Flying Blue program offers its fair share of sweet spots. In particular, the program is well-known for offering Promo Rewards on a regular basis, which are monthly discounts of 20–50% off the usual cost of economy or business class flights.
Each month, Flying Blue rolls out new Promo Rewards for different short-haul and long-haul routes with varying discounts in both economy and business class.
The airlines’ Canadian destinations are often featured in Promo Rewards, and indeed, right now there are 25% discounts on points bookings for both Air France and KLM’s routes to Montreal, Vancouver, and Calgary, for travel to anywhere in Europe.
Prior to the pandemic, it wasn’t uncommon to see frequent discounts for Air France business class from Air France and KLM’s Canadian destinations to Europe as well, sometimes up to 50%!
In addition to Promo Rewards, Flying Blue offers a couple of new redemption opportunities that might be worth your attention.
For travel to Europe in general, Air France and KLM’s strong route networks in Canada will represent an especially worthwhile diversification option from Air Canada and Aeroplan. If you live in Vancouver, Calgary, or Edmonton, you now have a couple of new direct routing options en route to Europe rather than sticking with Air Canada.
One potential sweet spot is for travel to Israel, which Flying Blue treats as part of the overall Europe region. A flight from the West Coast would only start at 53,000 Flying Blue miles in business class (equivalent to 70,667 MR points), which is a steal compared to the 85,000 points that, say, Aeroplan would charge!
Some of Flying Blue’s airline partners are unique to the program, and you won’t have many other options for redeeming points on these particular airlines.
Examples include Air Mauritius for anyone headed to the picturesque Indian Ocean island, or Aircalin for anyone dreaming of a trip to New Caledonia – their Tokyo–Nouméa route for 86,500 miles one-way in business class (equivalent to 115,333 MR points) has long intrigued me, and now it’s a much more realistic possibility with MR points transferrable to Flying Blue).
And finally, if you’re headed to Bora Bora, you’ll want to pay special attention to this new transfer possibility, since redeeming Flying Blue miles for Air France business class on Los Angeles–Papeete for 64,000 miles (equivalent to 85,333 MR points) is one of the few ways to book business class flights to French Polynesia and kickstart your overwater villa journey in style.
Air France/KLM Flying Blue Award Pricing
Flying Blue uses dynamic award pricing without a published chart, but instead offers a Miles Estimator to give users a sense of the base pricing for any given route.
From Canada to Europe, you can expect award rates starting at 21,500 miles in economy or 53,000 miles in business class one-way (and as mentioned above, “Europe” stretches as far east as Israel).
If we were to apply the current Promo Rewards of 25% off economy class redemptions, we’re looking at 16,125 one-way from Canada to Europe. Then, factoring in the 1:0.75 transfer ratio, we’re back to 21,500 Amex MR points for the one-way economy class journey.
Looking at business class, once we factor in the 1:0.75 ratio, we see that it takes at least 70,667 MR points to fly from Canada to Europe. That’s fairly competitive compared to transferring MR points to Aeroplan!
Keeping in mind that both Aeroplan and Air France/KLM Flying Blue have dynamic award pricing, and the new transfer possibility represents at least another diversification option: in case Aeroplan’s dynamic pricing is sky-high, you can fall back on Flying Blue, and vice versa.
One drawback of the Flying Blue program? It does pass along fuel surcharges to the tune of about $100 in economy class or $250 in business class.
Combined with the inferior 1:0.75 transfer ratio compared to Aeroplan’s 1:1, and it means that Flying Blue will most likely be a very useful, albeit secondary, transfer option for most Canadian travellers.
It’s wonderful to see American Express Canada finally adding a new airline transfer partner after so long. I must say, the existing roster of transfer partners was getting a little stale, and I’m very excited to see a new SkyTeam partner joining the ranks as a useful way to diversify our redemption strategy beyond the Air Canada and Star Alliance route networks.
We’ll be delving deeper into Flying Blue sweet spots in due time, and I look forward to covering the program’s rotating Promo Rewards, which I’m certain will offer significant value to Canadian travellers as the world gradually opens up again.