Air France is a member of SkyTeam and shares a common loyalty program, Flying Blue, with the Dutch airline KLM. Flying Blue also has a wide variety of non-alliance partnerships with carriers such as Alaska Airlines, Japan Airlines, Copa Airlines, and others.
The majority of these carriers can be found on the Air France website even if you plan to book the award elsewhere using another program’s miles. Remember that my Award Maximizer tool can help you compare award prices for the same flights when booked with different loyalty programs.
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For three SkyTeam partners — Aeroflot, China Southern, and Korean Air — you may find it easier to search on Delta’s website as the Air France site may not always be reliable. And while a few non-alliance partners are online, most of them need to be booked by calling the Flying Blue service center. Some, like Alaska Airlines, are pretty easy to find elsewhere. Searching elsewhere in advance can at least expedite the phone call.
How to Search for a Domestic Itinerary
I’ll start with a simple example of finding a one-way award ticket within the United States. Even though KLM doesn’t offer domestic flights here, you may still want to use their website to book an award on Delta Air Lines, for example, or to book an award on another carrier in a different part of the world.
Begin by visiting the Air France website and logging in. You may need to create an account if you haven’t already, but there is no charge for this. Once logged in you will see your name in the upper right corner. The home page has a form to purchase a ticket with cash or miles; click on the tab to “Use Your Miles” to get started.
You can also select “Use My Miles” from the menu underneath your name.
If you select the option from the menu — or if you click on the “Use Your Miles” tab on the homepage before you log in — you’ll be taken to the advanced booking form. I’ll use that page to continue the rest of this post.
Most fields are very straightforward. This example of a domestic flight is for a one-way trip from New York to Atlanta on September 7. You can view a calendar of available dates by checking the box “You are looking for flights around these dates.” It’s very vague.
Scrolling down you’ll find options to select the number of passengers and preferred cabin. There is a reminder about how far in advance you may book award tickets, but this is only relevant if you’re the type of person who likes to plan far in advance. In my experience booking as soon as awards become available is not that helpful in finding more award space; it’s easier to book close to departure or just search often.
Do remember that although Air France has limits on when you can book an award ticket, each airline loyalty program has its own rules. This post is meant to help you find award space on SkyTeam carriers using the Air France website, but you can book it through Flying Blue or many other loyalty programs. Ignore the checkbox for “Flights allowing changes only” since these are going to be more expensive awards that are not available to partner carriers like Delta or Alaska Airlines.
After submitting the search, the first page is a calendar view showing available award prices on each date around the one we searched for. Remember that dates are presented in an international format if you’re used to seeing the month first. There doesn’t appear to be any difference which day we pick as they all offer the same price. However, this is only the lowest price that day — we can’t see individual flights yet.
Scrolling down to the bottom of the page is a summary of the cost so far given the selection made on the calendar. This is mostly irrelevant as you may choose to change your mind once you see individual flights for that date. This summary is also available on later pages.
Click the button to “Select Flight” and you’ll be presented with different options on that day, some of which might cost more. Besides the departure time and cabin class you’ll also want to look at the flight number, operating carrier, and aircraft type — all displayed in black text at the bottom of each selection.
When you choose your flight, you’ll again see a summary at the bottom of the page. You’ll need to have enough miles to actually book the award in question before you can continue to fill in the passenger details.
How to Search for an International Itinerary
For this second example, I’ll still begin the journey in New York, but the destination has changed to Paris. I’ve also added a return date and moved it to business class. For most situations this doesn’t change the search process at all.
After reaching the calendar you can see that there is less consistency in the results. Unlike New York to Atlanta, for which every day offered at least one of the least expensive awards, now some days cost more and others cost less.
It will help to be familiar with the Flying Blue award chart. The dates with the lowest cost awards for 62,500 miles are going to be the Classic Awards. These include flights operated by partner airlines, as well as flights on KLM and Air France that you can book with miles from another program such as Delta Air Lines. (Although we’re not searching for “La Premier,” or first class, in this example, remember that Delta doesn’t permit using SkyMiles for international first class awards.)
Pay closer attention to the results when you reach the flight selection page. You’ll probably want to avoid carriers with less impressive service if the award costs the same, and you may also be looking for non-stop travel that avoids unnecessary connections. Unfortunately you don’t get any of this detail from the calendar above.
In this case, I’ve selected a non-stop flight on an Airbus A380 operated by Air France. The flight number is indicated in black text in the lower left corner in case you need to write this down when calling a different airline to book this award.
How to Search for Flying Blue Promo Awards
Many people who use Flying Blue miles are trying to book Promo Awards — a set of monthly specials that are discounted 25% or 50% off the normal price. You can find a list of Promo Awards on the Flying Blue website each month. Although travel is limited to KLM and Air France, you don’t have to do anything special to find them. They should appear in a standard search.
This example shows the results for a search from Vancouver to Paris in business class, which is currently being offered at 50% discount to the normal price. You can see that some dates show flexible awards (187,500 miles one-way), some dates show the normal Classic Award price (62,500 miles), and a few dates show the discounted Promo Award (31,250 miles).
Taxes and fees also vary. The calendar happens to be highlighting a Classic Award for 62,500 miles on November 1 with fees of $93.32. The next day, November 2, has a Promo Award for 31,250 miles with fees of $235.12. Why did the fees go up even as the miles went down?
Each operating carrier may have its own surcharges and fees, and Flying Blue has its own rules on which ones it will collect. We know that November 2 is offering a flight by Air France because it’s a Promo Award, so the higher fees are what Air France charges for this itinerary. The other option on November 1 may be offered by Delta Air Lines, which has the option to charge lower fees.
As you explore the exact itineraries offered on different dates you might be able to predict from the calendar which airline is being offered just by looking at the fees. However, keep in mind that the calendar is only showing you the cheapest option using miles — there may be other options that charge more miles but lower fees.
How to Search for Complex Itineraries
I generally recommend searching for award availability one flight at a time, which means lots of one-way, non-stop flights. I don’t care what the price is because I have already looked up the award chart. Instead I’m looking for availability. I can then piece the available flights together into a complete itinerary. Sometimes I can still book it online, but I have the advantage of knowing exactly which dates have award space. Sometimes I need to call the airline.
You’ll definitely be going elsewhere to book if you are only using the Air France website to search for awards that you plan to book with, say, Delta SkyMiles. I’m including this last section in case you plan to redeem Flying Blue miles.
Flying Blue does not allow stopovers, which let you visit a connecting city for a couple days or weeks on your way to (or from) your destination. They do allow an open jaw, which lets you arrive in one city and depart from another. It’s very important to know that you can only have an open jaw at the destination — you cannot have an open jaw at the origin.
In the example below, I am searching for a flight from Vancouver to Paris and returning from Munich to Vancouver. You can see that arriving airport for the return flight is grey — I must return to Vancouver.
The search process is very similar to what we went through before, although there is a little less flexibility to search for award space on alternate dates. You get about a week instead of an entire month. When all is said and done, I’m still charge the same price for this award as if I had booked a round-trip to Paris because it’s in the same region as Munich. I’ll just have to find some other way — perhaps a train — to get from Paris to Munich on my own.