Travelers can now use Air France-KLM Flying Blue miles for first-class tickets on SkyTeam partners, starting with three Asian airlines.
SkyTeam partners are notoriously tight-fisted with reciprocal redemptions. Most of its frequent flyer programs don’t allow travelers to spend miles on first class tickets or upgrades on partner airlines.
Air France guards first class seats on its own aircraft so closely that as of this year, only Flying Blue Platinum members—the highest elite tier—can secure award seats in its La Premiere first class cabin.
But now the airline group is relaxing the rules and will allow members to spend Flying Blue miles on first class seats on three partner airlines: China Eastern, Garuda Indonesia, and Xiamen Air.
Garuda Indonesia has a superb first class product but, unfortunately, only offers it on a single route between Jakarta (CGK) and Amsterdam (AMS).
You can secure an award seat on that flight for 275,000 Flying Blue miles each way, plus around $200 in taxes and fees. Three first-class award seats are available per flight.
China Eastern has a less dazzling first-class service but offers it on more flights, including from Shanghai (PVG) to London (LHR). The redemption rates are more generous than with Garuda Indonesia, but two first class award seats are available on each flight.
Finally, you can also spend the miles on first class seats on Chinese carrier Xiamen Air. However, it only has first class cabins on its six Boeing 787-8s, and each only has four first-class seats.
First class award tickets will always require a mountain of miles, but fortunately, Flying Blue miles are easy to earn. The program has partnered with Amex Membership Rewards, Capital One, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Citi ThankYou to hand out points on credit card spending.
Air France-KLM indicated that it will be extending the first class redemptions to other partner airlines. Earlier this year, the airline group expanded another perk to Flying Blue members traveling with partner airlines: free stopovers on award tickets.
Last year, Air France-KLM added a free stopover to all award tickets, allowing travelers to spend between 24 hours to a year at connecting cities for no additional charge. With Air France and KLM, those connecting cities are usually Paris (CDG) and Amsterdam.
Those European travel hotspots aren’t anything to sniff at, but now you have even more options for stopovers with Flying Blue’s 35 partner airlines. For instance, you could spend Flying Blue miles on a ticket with Delta and stop off in U.S. cities, including New York (JFK) and Los Angeles (LAX), or take a jaunt to Seoul (ICN) on your way to Australia or Thailand with Korean Air.
An award seat on a Virgin Atlantic flight could allow you to spend time in London.
However, you’ll need to call Flying Blue to book a stopover. Flying Blue usually charges €20 ($21.90) to book through their phone lines, but because you can’t book stopovers online for now, you may be able to ask for a fee waiver. Flying Blue says it will introduce online booking for stopovers at a later date.