Last time Air France/KLM offered a promotion for purchased miles in their Flying Blue loyalty program, I outlined some strategies for avoiding costly fuel surcharges when redeeming your points. Nothing has changed, but I just want to point out again that Flying Blue program really has some great deals avaiable, even when only going to Europe.
When Air France/KLM pulled most of their premium award space from partner availability earlier this fall, the Flying Blue program became the only place you could consistently find award space on KLM or Air France flights from U.S. cities to Europe and back. That remains the case, though you are still looking at high fuel surcharges of about $450 each way.
The beauty of Flying Blue is that you can purchase one-way travel for half the round trip price and you can purchase flights right up until departure--I had no problem recently issuing a same-day ticket from New York to Paris for a client online. But if your dates are flexible, look for Delta award space, which does not carry a fuel surcharge. Take a look at this--
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That's right--only $28 if you fly via Venice compared to $447 if you fly non-stop on Air France.
So even to Europe, you can get some great deals from Flying Blue (and remember that Israel in the Europe zone, so a business class ticket is 50K AMEX miles one-way with taxes under $100 if you fly on Delta).
In directing more clients to Flying Blue of late, I have also discovered a downside to the program--the Flying Blue call center. Folks, it is bad. Just as bad as BA if not worse, merely because the agents are clueless. The agents are kinder than the ones at British Airways, but terribly inefficient, as the whole programs seems to be.
I had to cancel a trip for a client and the website would not allow a cancellation. So I called in, waited 20 minutes on hold, and cancelled the flights. It took the agent about 20 minutes to do, but she said the process was done and a refund was on the way. The taxes were supposed to have been returned to my credit card and the miles re-deposited. A week went by and it never happened, so I called back again yesterday.
After an extended time on hold while an agent consulted with her supervisor, I was instructed to write a letter to Flying Blue requesting a refund and fax it to their office--a 519 area code in Ontario, Canada. I haven't done it yet--I will call again on Monday and see if this can be straightened out over the phone. That's almost as inefficent as booking an award ticket with Korean Airlines..
So the point of this post is that you can get some great deals on Flying Blue even to Europe, but book online and avoid dealing with their inept call center if at all possible.