Air France Increases The Cost Of First Class Awards & Makes Them Harder To Book

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Air France’s La Première First Class product is widely considered to be one of the best (if not the best) First Class experiences you can have, and it has long been one of the harder and more expensive First Class products to book if you’re looking to use points.

Well, it just got harder and more expensive.

A Bit Of Background

Generally speaking, if you want to book an international First Class award it’s just a matter of having enough miles in your account and being fortunate enough to be able to find First Class award availability, but with Air France things aren’t quite so simple.

Firstly, Air France doesn’t release First Class award space to partner airlines so there’s not much point in trying to book Air France La Première with SkyMiles or Korean Air miles.

Secondly, Air France has historically only allowed Flying Blue elite members (Silver, Gold & Platinum) to book La Première awards so even if you could build up a large stockpile of Flying Blue points via transfers from AMEX Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards or Citi ThankYou, you still couldn’t book La Première awards without some kind of frequent flyer status with Air France/KLM.

Thirdly, even if you have Flying Blue status it’s not just a matter of having a lot of miles in your account if you want to book Air France First Class – you need a colossal amount of miles.  Historically, a one-way First Class awards between Paris and the US (for example) has started from 200,000 miles.

Air France La Première – Image courtesy of Air France

What’s Changing?

From 15 October 2010 two changes are coming to Air France La Première award bookings:

  1. Flying Blue Silver elites will no longer have access to La Première First Class award availability.
  2. The cost of La Première awards will be increasing.

Because Flying Blue doesn’t publish award charts and because Air France hasn’t been helpful enough to say just exactly by how much First Class award costs are increasing, I’m going to use historic information that OneMileAtATime has posted and Air France’s Miles Price Estimator Tool to try to figure out what the increases look like.

Paris – Dubai (one-way): Was 160,000 miles, Now 175,000 miles (increase of 9.4%)

Paris – New York JFK (one-way): Was 200,000 miles, Now 220,000 miles (increase of 10%)

Paris – Los Angeles (one-way): Was 200,000 miles, Now 230,000 miles (increase of 15%)

Paris – Hong Kong (one-way): Was 320,000 miles, Now 350,000 miles (increase of 9.4%)

Paris – Beijing (one-way): Was 320,000 miles, Now 350,000 miles (increase of 9.4%)

So, it looks like the cost of most Air France First Class awards is about to go up by approximately 10% with some increasing by as much as 15%.

Quick Thoughts

The increase in the cost of Air France’s First Class awards isn’t exactly great news but it’s probably the lesser of the two evils here.

Flying Blue Silver status currently requires a flyer to earn 100 Experience Points (XP) while the lowest Flying Blue elite level that will be able to book La Première awards going forward (Gold status) requires a flyer to earn 280 XP….and that’s a big jump.

If you’re someone who frequently credits their trips to the FlyingBlue program this is a big devaluation but not a disastrous devaluation – you’ll just have to fly your preferred SkyTeam airline more.

If, however, you’re just someone who’d like to use miles to experience the La Première cabin but who doesn’t usually credit their flights to Flying Blue, you’ll now find it a lot harder to keep crediting your flights to your primary airline program (to maintain your primary airline status) while also crediting enough flights to the Flying Blue program to earn Gold status.

Air France La Première – Image courtesy of Air France

Bottom Line

I think I can see what Air France has done here – most flyers who want to book La Première First Class awards will now probably have to make Flying Blue their primary loyalty program or they’ll never earn a Flying Blue status that opens up First Class award availability.

Sure, if you fly 200,000 – 300,000 miles a year you’ll probably be able to earn Flying Blue Gold staus and maintain another airline’s top-tier status as well, but travelers for whom this is an option are in a very small minority.

If you’ve been saving up Flying Blue miles in the hopes of booking a La Première award and you’re not a Flying Blue loyalist already, things just got a lot harder for you.


  1. Well I guess I’ll cancel my plans to get the BofA Flying Blue credit card. That was going to help me obtain miles and silver status.

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