This is the twenty-sixth post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flier miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.
Yesterday, I talked about using delta.com for award searches. Delta is the US representative of SkyTeam–alliance affiliation list–but Delta’s website only shows availability for a few SkyTeam members. If you’re looking to unload your SkyMiles, you’ll often need a better tool than delta.com.
There are two reasons why an award booker needs to know about AirFrance.us. The first is that AirFrance.us shows more SkyTeam partners’ availability than delta.com.
AirFrance.us has an award search engine which displays at least Delta, Air France, KLM, Alitalia, Aeroflot, China Southern, and China Airlines. I say at least because I can’t find a complete list of the airlines it shows, but I have seen these in search results.
(Let us know if there is a complete list or other airlines you’ve seen on AirFrance.us in the comments. I haven’t seen China Eastern or Korean.)
Delta.com only shows Delta, Alaska, Air France, and KLM, so AirFrance.us shows far more SkyTeam airlines than delta.com.
The second reason is that booking with Flying Blue points–Air France’s currency–may be your best option on many awards. The reason is that Air France allows oneway redemptions for half the roundtrip price, something Delta doesn’t allow.
Plus Flying Blue is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards that often runs transfer bonuses, like the current (as of 9/11/12) 35% bonus.
That means a oneway flight on Delta from LAX to JFK would cost 25,000 SkyMiles (or MR) and $2.50. The same flight would cost 10k MR transferred to Flying Blue for the 12,500 mile redemption with 1,000 miles left over.
Flying Blue does charge big surcharges on Air France and KLM flights, something Delta doesn’t do when the award originates in the US, so Flying Blue isn’t always the best redemption option. But when it is, and even when it’s not, its award-search engine may be your best option.
To search on AirFrance.us, you need a Flying Blue account. Sign up for one for free, or sign into yours on the top right of the home page.
Once signed in, click Award Ticket Reservation.
The search screen is not as well designed as most. For instance, you have to select an age from the dropdown menu for each passenger instead of just typing in how many passengers are flying.
To see a calendar view of availability, check the box that says “My dates are flexible.” The first search example I’ll show is oneway LAX-JFK. Remember that this would cost 25k SkyMiles because Delta always charges the roundtrip price.
If you wanted to book a oneway Delta flight with Air France miles to take advantage of its oneway pricing, you would click “next, select flight.”
AirFrance.us isn’t just a place to search when using Flying Blue miles though. It’s a good, free place to search for partners Delta doesn’t show like Alitalia and China Southern.
It’s also a good place to search for Air France and KLM flights just because anything beats using the broken delta.com.
For instance I just searched for a oneway economy class ticket on delta.com and AirFrance.us from Montreal to Budapest on February 18. They both returned the same result:
But Air France’s site shows other itineraries–only one came up on Delta.com–and all cabins on one screen. Plus AirFrance.us showed me the calendar of February, so I could see what days the trip was available.
When I tried to check the my-dates-are-flexible box and view-award-calendar link on delta.com, the equivalent calendar did not appear, so I would have had to search each day individually on delta.com to see my options.
The one drawback of using AirFrance.us for this search if I planned on using Delta miles is that AirFrance.us is showing surcharges I would not have to pay with Delta SkyMiles. At least Delta gets one thing right, correctly listing the taxes on this leg as $75.
Tips and Caveats
There are a few things to know before charging off to AirFrance.us to practice.
First, ignore Premium Economy and three-cabin, international First Class if you’re using Delta SkyMiles because SkyMiles can’t be redeemed for those cabins.
Second, if an award is listed as a classic award, Delta will have access to the space also. If it’s listed as a flex award, you can’t get it with SkyMiles.
Third, AirFrance.us doesn’t have the most complete list of SkyTeam availability. That title would belong to expertflyer.com, a paid service. You can get free expertflyer membership for five days, so you can use it to research one award no problem. I’ll have a post on using expertflyer tomorrow.