Category Archives: Skyteam

Best frequent flyer program to bank AirFrance/KLM flights

AirFrance/KLM combined serve the most international destinations

I examine what is the best frequent flyer program to bank miles to if you fly with AirFrance/KLM, and are not a member of their FlyingBlue program.

Every traveler faces this dilemma at some point: a flight deal that is too good to pass places you on a non-preferred airline, where you are not a member of their mileage program. Rather than pass up the opportunity to earn miles, the discerning traveler will search to see if that airline partners with programs which you might actually care to earn miles on. Alliance partners are the obvious first choice – but NOT always the best choice, as I found out recently when I booked a killer deal from Singapore to Bali on KLM.

KLM and AirFrance share the same mileage program, Flying Blue, and they are the 2nd largest member of SkyTeam alliance – after Delta Airlines. Therefore Delta would seem to be the clear choice to bank miles for my KLM flight, even though I am not a fan of the recent changes to their program (award chart devaluation, earning miles based on ticket price, cutting elite benefits, not to mention they do not allow one-way award bookings). However after doing some research, my findings concluded that Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan is the best program to bank points from AirFrance & KLM flights.

Alaska Mileage Plan partners with great airlines

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan partners with great airlines

Alaska Airlines is not a member of any of major alliances, however they have partnered with many key alliance and non-alliance Airlines. Again, the icing on the cake is that all points earned through these partner flights count towards elite membership levels on Alaska!

Since my KLM booking is in a discounted economy fare (fare class T), I was not expecting a good earn rate on ANY partner – let alone a non-alliance partner. In fact KLM’s own program Flying Blue only gives 25% mileage earning in fare class T. However to my surprise, Alaska Mileage Plan earns 100% of miles on KLM fare class T according to their partner charts – and 100% elite qualifying miles. Also if you are a Mileage Plan MVP or MVP Gold/Gold 75k member you earn the usual elite bonus of 50% or 100% miles, respectively.

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan gives many redemption options for your miles. You can redeem on major partners such as American and Delta with essentially the same mileage chart as if you were a AAdvantage or Delta SkyMiles member. Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan is also one of the best programs to redeem for travel on Emirates Airlines. The mileage chart can be a bit expensive for the long haul Emirates flights, however you do not pay the big fuel surcharges charged to Emirates Skywards members! I bet that won’t last long, so if you have spare Alaska miles I suggest you book your flight on Emirates soon. In case you may be planning a Europe trip in the near future, a reminder that Emirates recently introduced a non-stop New York JFK – Milan flight.

Alaska Airlines Visa Card

If you do not quite have enough miles to redeem for your next big trip, consider the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Visa Signature Card offered by Bank of America. The current publicly available offer gives you 25,000 bonus miles upon card approval, no spending minimum. The benefits also include a free companion coach ticket every year and 3 miles earned per $1 spent on tickets booked on Alaska Airlines.

Next time you think you may have to forfeit earning miles because you are not flying a one of your preferred airlines, be sure to check if they partner with Alaska Airlines! Let no mile go unearned.

Vietnam Airlines upgrade with Optiontown

I just returned from my long weekend trip from Singapore (my current home) to Hanoi, Vietnam. Let me tell you about my Vietnam Airlines upgrade experience with Optiontown.

This is officially my first trip since launching Rewards Guy, and I must confess – I sinned, I paid for my flights. Any savvy award points user knows that points have an certain “minimal acceptable value” – in most cases I place the value of frequent flier miles around 1.5 cents per point (see valuation chart from ThePointsGuy). In this case, the cost of the super saver economy seats I found on Vietnam Airlines, a Skyteam alliance member, trumped using what few Delta miles I do have.

I then discovered Optiontown, a website that offers business class and first class upgrades for a discounted price. I can understand why some airlines would join Optiontown – it assures that they can at least fill their premium class seats if they wish and gain some additional seat revenue. Currently, the list of participating airlines is limited and scattered, mostly constituting 2 or 3 star Skytrax rated airlines:

Optiontown offers discount upgrades

– Adria Airways  (A Star Alliance)
– Aeromexico  (Skyeam)
 – Air Baltic
 – Air Europa  (Skyteam)
 – Air India  (Star Alliance)
 – Air Asia X
 – Biman Bangladesh
 – Corsair
 – Cyprus Airways
 – Insel Air
 – SAS  (Star Alliance)
 – Ukraine International
 – Vietnam Airlines  (Skyteam)

All said and done, I would pay approximately $80 each way for the option to upgrade to Vietnam Airlines business class – if available and accepted by the airline (you get refunded if not upgraded). I got lucky, I think…because I have no prior experience with Optiontown so I don’t know what the success rate is. Both my outbound and inbound flights were upgraded for the total of $160. That is pretty good considering it is a 3 hour flight in each direction.

VN Business Class

VN Business Class

The business class seats on this short haul Airbus A321 were of the basic “old school” variety. A wider and more bolstered seat with extra legroom and pitch, it got the job done. After all, who does not enjoy taking a holiday flight in business class rather than economy? With Optiontown, you too might find yourself a discounted upgrade to business or first class for your next vacation.

**Note that according to Optiontown’s website, travelers who receive discounted upgrades are not necessarily granted access to usual premium class benefits such as Lounge access and additional bonus frequent flier miles. However, there have certainly been cases where flyers have received these benefits from airlines. For example, I was allowed to use the Skyteam lounge at Singapore’s Changi Airport and the Vietnam Airlines lounge at Hanoi’s Noi Bai Airport.