What I booked
- Open-jaw from St. Louis (STL) to London (LHR) & Amsterdam (AMS) to STL with one stop each way (Economy class)
- One-way short haul flight from LHR to AMS (Economy class)
Total paid: $90 USD
- 50k points transferred to Air France Flying Blue from AmEx
- 9,400 Citi ThankYou points
Total saved: $1,668 USD
- American Express Membership Rewards points
- Citi ThankYou Rewards points
- Air France/KLM Flying Blue membership & award search
Flying Blue (Air France/KLM) to Europe – A high value, dark horse redemption option
Hat tip to Abroaders, whose podcast tipped me off to cheap 25k each way redemptions to/from North America to/from Europe on Air France (these flights are all on Delta metal):
Getting Flying Blue miles for free
Air France/KLM’s Flying Blue is a transfer partner of both American Express’s Membership Rewards and Citi’s ThankYou programs:
- You can transfer ThankYou points to Flying Blue in 1,000:1,000 increments
- You can transfer Membership Rewards points to Flying Blue in 1,000:1,000 increments
Beware high departure fees
London (LHR), shown above, has notoriously high departure fees, so I decided to depart from Amsterdam (AMS) instead:
The availability out of AMS was a little lower, but the price difference makes it well worth it if you want to see another city. Points with a Crew has a nice table of departure fees for European airports.
Getting to Amsterdam
If you want to see more of Europe, you should consider taking the Eurostar train from London, which allows for stopovers in Paris and/or Brussels before heading on to Amsterdam.
However, since I was pressed for time, I opted for the quick flight from LHR to AMS using Citi ThankYou points, booked through Citi’s ThankYou travel portal. I could’ve gotten a better (cheaper) redemption, but I wanted to optimize my time by choosing a departure from LHR rather than an alternate London airport.
Citi’s ThankYou portal is a little clunky, but resulted in a cheaper redemption option (9.4k) at 1.25 cents/point than a points transfer to Flying Blue (8.5k + $61.52). This is a bit below The Points Guy’s March valuation for ThankYou points, so booking with cash may have been a better option.
American Express’s travel portal was considerably more expensive (11.75k) at 1 cent/point:
Getting the Points
Membership Rewards (AmEx)
I like the American Express Premier Rewards Gold card for its waived first year annual fee, 3x points on travel, and $100 annual airline fee credit. As always, be sure to shop around to find the best sign-up bonus that meets your annual fee requirement and minimum spend capacity. There may be better public or targeted offers for AmEx sign up bonuses.
ThankYou Points (Citi)
Here’s how I saved $1,668 for the trip:
STL-LHR, AMS-STL (Membership Rewards transfer to Flying Blue)
- $ saved: $1,641.05 fare – $90.55 spent = $1550.50 saved
- $1550.50 saved/50k points = 3.1 cents/point
The verdict… A decently good (but not fantastic) redemption!
LHR-AMS (ThankYou Points portal)
- $ saved: $117.50 fare – $0 spent = $117.50 saved
- $117.50 saved/9.4k points = 1.25 cents/point
The verdict… A pretty bad redemption!
Overall: STL-LHR, LHR-AMS, AMS-STL
- $ saved: $1550.50 + 117.50 = $1668 saved
- $1668 saved/59.4k points = 2.79 cents/point
The combined verdict… This overall redemption value of 2.79 cents/point beats all of The Points Guy’s March valuations for any one program, so I would say I did pretty well. I would look at ways of increasing the value of Citi ThankYou points in the future.
A wasteful mistake?
Could I have eliminated the need to buy a separate one-way ticket from AMS-LHR?
The Points Guy reports that you can book a stopover on Flying Blue award tickets. Flying Blue’s award tickets policy states that “stopovers are not permitted on one-way tickets,” which is to imply that stopovers are permitted on round-trip tickets. However, on Air France’s award search, there is no apparent functionality to support searches that include a stopover.
This FlyerTalk thread indicates that you can book a stopover, but not online. You have to call the reseravtions telephone number, just like the good old days… Users on FlyerTalk report varying degrees of success with this, including some saying there may be a “telephone booking fee” applied.
Regardless, I should have done more research and called ahead to see if the same itinerary was possible without having to book an additional one-way on KLM using Citi ThankYou points.
Let me know what you think. Have you had success booking stopovers on award tickets with Flying Blue?
Both Citi and AmEx cards are great tools to generate points to transfer to Flying Blue if you’re looking to book transatlantic flights to Europe (only 25k each way)! But sometimes booking through the Citi travel portal can be a better option for cheap flights. Steer clear of the AmEx travel portal.