Chase Ultimate Rewards is one of the most valuable bank rewards programs. Points can be redeemed for almost any flight booked through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal at a value of 1.2 cents each, or you can transfer them to a variety of airline and hotel loyalty programs. Most third party programs restricted the amount of award availability, but they have the advantage that you could get much more value for your points.
Furthermore, most external transfers are close to instantaneous. You can find that elusive award space and only then transfer points to book. This reduces the risk that you might transfer points first and find yourself stuck with a bunch of useless miles and no award ticket.
Flying Blue, the loyalty program operated by Air France and KLM, is a significant new addition to the Ultimate Rewards portfolio of transfer partners. Existing airlines include United Airlines, British Airways, Korean Air, and Singapore Airlines. So why does it matter that Flying Blue joins the list?
When you transfer points to one airline’s loyalty program, you not only get access to award flights booked with that program but also award flights operated by their partner airlines. British Airways is a member of the oneworld Alliance. United and Singapore Airlines are part of the Star Alliance. Korean Air is in SkyTeam. Each one has access to different partners.
Flying Blue is also part of SkyTeam, but it has many more opportunities available to travelers than Korean Air, which has some pretty strict rules for booking travel by anyone but the primary account holder. By comparison, Flying Blue makes it easy.
Airlines You Can Book with Flying Blue
Flying Blue has over 30 different airline partners including KLM, Air France, the entire SkyTeam alliance, and also non-alliance partners such as Alaska Airlines. Here’s a complete list of the airlines you can book using Flying Blue miles transferred from Ultimate Rewards:
- Aerolineas Argentinas
- Air Europa
- Air France
- China Airlines
- China Eastern
- China Southern Airlines
- Czech Airlines
- Delta Air Lines
- Garuda Indonesia
- Kenya Airways
- Korean Air
- Middle East Airlines
- Saudi Arabian Airlines
- Vietnam Airlines
- Xiamen Airlines
- Air Corsica
- Air Mauritius
- Alaska Airlines
- Bangkok Airways
- Chalair Aviation
- Copa Airlines
- Japan Airlines
- Jet Airways
- Twin Jet
- Ukraine International Airlines
Discounts and Carrier Surcharges
Most often you’ll want to consider booking a Classic Award, which is available for all airline partners. In addition to more convenient award reservations, Flying Blue also issues monthly promo awards. These may be up to 50% off the regular price. For example, May’s offer includes round trip business class travel between Boston and Europe for only 93,750 miles — a 25% discount.
Avoid booking Flex Awards. These require thousands of extra miles in return for greater award availability. It’s more likely that you could be flexible with your dates and find a Classic Award instead. This summary of award options is provided on the Flying Blue website.
Note that promo awards are always for flights operated by KLM and Air France. While they may be cheaper than some awards you could book with other programs, like Delta SkyMiles, they do require a carrier surcharge of €50 (about $55) each way in coach or €180 (about $200) each way in business class. These fees are in addition to the usual airport taxes.
Carrier surcharges apply to award travel on some other Flying Blue partners, as well, and can vary from about $30 to $180 each way depending on the destination and airline. However, surcharges are not collected for travel on Aerolineas Argentinas, Aeromexico, Delta Air Lines, Korean Air, Saudia, or TAROM.
Hate fees? They’re still worth paying if the award requires significantly fewer miles or if it’s the only option you have. That gets back to why the new Ultimate Rewards partnership is such a big deal. If booking awards through Korean Air is too complicated or impossible, and if the other big alliances don’t have award space available, then Flying Blue may be the most sensible way to use your Ultimate Rewards points for your next award ticket. A couple hundred dollars in fees is still cheaper than paying a couple thousand dollars for a regular business class fare.
Flying Blue Award Prices and Rules
Flying Blue does not publish a single, consolidated award chart online, though it is possible to pull up prices a few at a time by running a search. Fortunately RewardExpert has already done much of the research for you and can make good recommendations for making the most of your miles with Flying Blue or other programs.
If you do book with Flying Blue, remember that you’re entitled to one free stopover on round trip awards, which means you can visit another city on the way to or from your destination, spend a couple days, and then continue with the trip. (Complex awards that require a stopover must be booked by phone.) You can also add an open jaw to fly into one city and out of another. Both cities in the open jaw must be located in the destination region, e.g., Paris and Amsterdam are both in Europe.
Earning Ultimate Rewards Points
You can earn Ultimate Rewards points with a variety of Chase credit cards, including the Sapphire Preferred, Freedom, and Freedom Unlimited personal cards and the Ink Plus business card. Keep in mind that only the Sapphire Preferred and Ink Plus permit transfers to external loyalty programs. You can still consolidate points from other Chase cards first, as well as transfer them from the account of a spouse or domestic partner, before using an eligible card to transfer them somewhere else.
If you need even more miles to book your Flying Blue award, you can also transfer points from American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest. There are very few airlines that participate in all four of these major transfer programs; the Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer program is the only other example that comes to mind.
Transfers from Ultimate Rewards to Flying Blue must be processed as increments of 1,000 points. They clear almost instantly, and you will receive 1,000 Flying Blue miles for every 1,000 Ultimate Rewards points.
Great Values with Flying Blue
There are already great options for redeeming Ultimate Rewards points. You could move them to United Airlines and find several good redemption opportunities, and British Airways works well for short, domestic flights that don’t have carrier surcharges. Flying Blue has a few of its own sweet spots.
Some good Flying Blue redemptions include travel in economy class between the continental U.S. and Hawaii, which costs just 30,000 miles with Flying Blue compared to 40,000 miles on Delta. You’ll still have access to the same airlines (Delta and Alaska) to search for and book award seats. Central American and the Caribbean are in the same region and also cost 30,000 miles round trip.
Another outstanding offer is Tel Aviv. Due to a quirk in the Flying Blue award chart, it’s grouped with Europe rather than placed in a separate “Middle East” region as most airlines do. Expect to pay only 50,000 miles round trip in economy class. Compare that to 80,000 miles with Delta SkyMiles, 80,000 miles with American AAdvantage, or 85,000 miles with United MileagePlus.
The lesson is to investigate all your options before transferring Ultimate Rewards points. One program might charge less than another, and at least in these examples Flying Blue charges much, much less than the competition.