Air France First Class awards were never for the parsimonious, but were still reachable and in some cases valuable. With new restrictions and increased pricing on La Première awards, is there any value proposition left?
Effective October 15, 2019, Air France is making first class awards even more restrictive:
- Only Flying Blue Gold and Platinum members will have access to award space
- Currently, Flying Blue Silver members also have access
- Mileage prices will go up for first class awards
- Upgrade prices will remain unchanged
Currently, a one-way first class award between North America and Europe starts at 200,000 Flying Blue miles. That’s steep, but can still represent acceptable value, especially in instances where business class is even higher.
Take, for example, a round-trip between Los Angeles and Paris in November. Look at the difference in pricing:
400,000 for first class or 750,000 for business class with identical fees…that’s not a very hard choice, is it?
And perhaps that is the overlooked additional advantage to first class awards on Air France. In many cases, they turn out cheaper than business class. Now I don’t think there would ever be a case where you’d ever actually spend so many points for business class. But in the era of award chart inflation, I know some do…even some of my
asinine “busy” clients.
According to the Miles Price Estimator, first class awards between Europe and the USA will start at 230,000 miles one-way. That represents an inflation of 15% over present lowest levels.
Note that unlike business class, where (for example) a Los Angeles to Paris to Tel Aviv ticket may turn out significantly cheaper than just flying from Los Angeles to Paris on the same flight on the same day (due to married segment fare logic), La Première awards will not drop below 230,000 one-way.
Still Worthwhile, But Only In Limited Circumstances
As nice as Air France First Class is — and it truly is lovely — I see very few situations where a La Première award makes sense. Maybe for a very special occasion. Maybe for a very regular Flying Blue traveler with a huge stash of miles.
But the barriers to entry are great – who wants to earn Gold status in Flying Blue and then burn through so many miles? If you’re just dying to try it, wait for a fare sale or look toward China for more reasonable fares.
I paid 200,000 Flying Blue miles for my one-way ticket from Los Angeles to Basel via Paris for Christmas last year. That was nearly 3x what I would have paid had I flown Lufthansa instead (70,000 miles). It was worthwhile, but only because I had never flown Air France La Première before and was able to write about it and enjoy a six-hour layover on the ground.
As much as I’d still love to get on the A380 in first class before it is retired, I just don’t see it happening…