News of Air France’s First Class fare sale has been making the rounds lately. A couple of days ago, Lucky at OMAAT detailed the promotion and sample routings. You could cobble together some routings for between $3,000 and $4,000. While certainly not cheap, that seemed like a good price for one of the world’s best First Class products. I’m not normally one for impulse buys, but in this case, I couldn’t help myself. I took advantage of the sale, and I now have a trip in Air France La Première booked!
Choosing My Air France La Première Routing
I decided that if I took advantage of this, I’d have four main objectives for the trip:
- Fly a long enough outbound sector to fully enjoy the onboard service.
- Fly both the 777-300 and A380 to compare and contrast the products.
- Book a long layover one way so I could experience the Air France La Première lounge at CDG.
- Book a short layover the other so I could test out a tight connection ground experience.
Once I started seriously looking, the cheapest fares were for a New York (JFK) to Barcelona roundtrip, pricing out around $3,400. But this presented a couple of problems. First, the eastbound redeye is too short for my tastes, not giving me enough time to truly relish the experience. Second, in order to fly the 777 eastbound, I’d have to leave home really early in the morning to make the connection. That’s because there’s a real dearth of flights from DFW to JFK (LaGuardia is far more popular). Helsinki also intrigued me as a destination, at only about $400 more. A trip report about spending $3,800 for reindeer for dinner would be amusing anyway. But the CDG-HEL connection is on Finnair metal. It’s unclear if I’d be able to use the La Première lounge in that case.
I hoped to book something out of Houston, but unfortunately no discounted fares were available. Ultimately, after much research, I found a routing that seemed to fit my needs just right. Total cost: $3,837.66.
- 04/20 AF69 Los Angeles to Paris Departing 18:00 Arriving 13:50 (+1) (77W)
- 04/21 AF1048 Paris to Barcelona Departing 16:55 Arriving 18:35 (A319)
- 04/23 AF1149 Barcelona to Paris Departing 10:05 Arriving 12:00 (A321)
- 04/23 AF6 Paris to New York Departing 13:40 Arriving 15:55 (A380)
While no route is perfect, this seemed the ideal solution. LAX to Paris is long enough to really enjoy the service, and 3 hours at CDG should be enough time to enjoy the lounge. I’m most curious about the renowned ground handling and culinary experiences, anyway, so I don’t really need a ton of time for the spa. Most importantly, the timings allow for a half day of work before leaving, and just enough time for a same-day flight home to DFW on the return. I still have to figure out a way to LAX and back from JFK. Most likely, I’ll use my remaining stash of Capital One Venture points to cover the fare.
What Made Me Pull the Trigger
Yes, it’s a lot of money, probably too much. Ultimately, it came down to a couple of things. One, Air France La Première is an exceedingly difficult frequent flyer redemption. You must be a Flying Blue elite to book space; no partner redemptions at all. DFW is a SkyTeam desert, so there’s pretty much zero chance I could ever get there. I suppose you could “buy” the fare with currencies like Thank You points. But does it really make sense to burn a half a million or more points to pay full price? Two, though deep discount premium fares sometimes pop up, they usually require originating elsewhere. I have some flexibility in my schedule, but not enough to essentially fly across the pond and back twice.
NOTE: if you have the Amex Business Platinum card, you could book with Membership Rewards points and rebate half of them back. If my math works, the net out-of-pocket is about 190,000 points. I don’t have an Amex Plat of any kind, so that’s not an option in my case.
In addition, I’m sitting on a large hoard of cash back points from several cash back cards I possess. Seriously – nearly $1,800 worth of points sitting there doing nothing. (Chalk it up to years of not being smart about cash back vs transferable currencies.) Might as well put them to good use, right? That drops the final out-of-pocket cost closer to $2,000. Taken all together, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to try one of the world’s best premium products at a doable price, and with a reasonable time commitment. Of course, if you have any friends looking for a fun travel blog to follow, I could use all the clicks I can get… 🙂
And besides, who wouldn’t want to relax like a French supermodel at 35,000 feet?
The Bad News – Nine Months of Anticipation
The worst part of all this? Besides having to pay the credit card bill in a month, I now have nearly nine months to psych myself out. And probably overhype things in my mind in the process. This would have been a fantastic 40th birthday for myself in November, but I’ve already got a cruise planned. I also have another road trip in the works for February. And possibly a couple more long weekends in October and March. So late April was the first date that made sense. (Yes, I wanted to fly via Denver or Amsterdam on “4/20”, but I digress.) Guess I’ll just have to stare at my photo of an AF A380 and dream about being driven to the aerobridge in a Jaguar in the meantime…
Anyway, I now need to figure out what to do in Barcelona for a day and a half, so if you have any suggestions, feel free to comment below. We’ll see if Air France La Première matches the hype. Or if I end up feeling the same way that Rocky does about Singapore Airlines First Class.
Photos of Air France La Première courtesy of Air France Facebook page.