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I’m not generally someone who sees a lot of value in mileage runs to attain status and have always devoted my energy to earning miles via credit cards rather than elaborate and time-consuming flight itineraries (not that I don’t find them fun). Flying Blue, however, intrigues me.
Why I want Flying Blue Platinum status
Two words: La Premiere.
Air France’s first class product is legendary as the best in Europe and arguably the best on earth. It’s also got very good availability for award tickets. Unfortunately, Air France has made it very difficult to book La Premiere with points. Here are the three big, terrible changes that have happened recently:
- First, in 2019, Flying Blue policy was changed to require Gold status or higher, rather than Silver, to book La Premiere.
- Sometime later, it was made substantially more difficult to attain status by resetting XP levels to 0 once a certain status is met. For example, if Silver status requires 100 XP and Gold status requires 180 XP, you used to only need 180 XP total to reach Gold (i.e. 100 XP to reach Silver and then another 80 XP to reach Gold). Now, the XP counter resets once you reach Silver, such that 280 XP is required to reach Gold (i.e. 100 XP to reach Silver, go back to zero, and then another 180 XP to reach Gold).
- Finally, as of January 1 this year, Air France only allows Platinum status holders to book La Premiere and only releases one award seat per flight instead of two which was typical in the past.
All this is to say that it’s harder than ever to book La Premiere with points. Well, the joke’s on Air France (or is it on me?): I still plan to go for Platinum status and fly La Premiere without paying an exorbitant cash sum.
Flying Blue status requirements
Status levels are attained as follows:
- 100 XP earns Flying Blue Silver status
- An additional 180 XP is needed to earn Flying Blue Gold status
- An additional 300 XP (i.e. in addition to the last 180 XP) are needed to earn Flying Blue Platinum status
So, to get Platinum status, you’ll need 580 XP. Here’s the chart detailing how XP are earned:
This means that, for example, one round trip, non-stop trip between LA and Paris would net you 72 XP (36 XP each way). Keep in mind that these awards are for each leg of a journey. So if I flew from LA to Paris through Mexico City, I’d earn 102 XP: LA to Mexico City: 15 XP + Mexico City to Paris: 36 XP + Paris to Mexico City: 36 XP + Mexico City to LAX: 15 XP.
Because each leg of the journey is counted separately for XP, there are some nice opportunities for extra juicy returns on short flights. The sweet spot is intra-European flights in business class with multiple stops. That’s because you get at least 15 XP per leg for these short international hops and can often jam three legs into one trip (though in my plan below, some of the flights are within France and will thus only net me 6 XP per leg).
I’m already at Silver status plus 25 XP, which I got by meeting the minimum spend on the Flying Blue credit card and donating some miles. This means that my goal here is to earn another 455 XP (155 to get to Gold and another 300 to get to Platinum). To do this, I’m going to take 5 round trip flights between Nice and Krakow in business class. I’m doing this because the route is cheap relative to the XP I’ll earn flying it.
Also, since one- or two-day roundtrips (for example, leaving on Monday and returning on Tuesday), tend to be more expensive, I’ll be taking nested trips. This essentially means that I’ll be taking roundtrips within roundtrips. For example, I’ll book one roundtrip, Krakow-Nice on Monday and Nice-Krakow on Friday, and then another roundtrip, Nice-Krakow on Tuesday and Krakow-Nice on Thursday.
The nitty gritty: flights
Here’s the flight schedule:
- Feb 8: NCE-CDG-AMS-KRK= 36 XP
- Feb 9: KRK-AMS-CDG-NCE= 36 XP
- Feb 12: NCE-LYS-AMS-KRK= 36 XP
- Feb 13: KRK-AMS-NCE= 30 XP
- Feb 14: NCE-LYS-AMS-KRK= 36 XP
- Feb 16: KRK-AMS-NCE-AMS-KRK= 60 XP
- Feb 17: KRK-AMS-CDG-NCE= 36 XP
- Feb 19: NCE-AMS-KRK= 30 XP
- Feb 20: KRK-AMS-NCE= 30 XP
In total, this itinerary nets me 330 XP. This gets me 125 XP away from Platinum. Because after 25 legs over 13 days, I won’t want to fly anymore, I’ll earn the last 80 XP in two ways:
- I’ll earn 62 XP by donating an extra $622 to KLM’s carbon offset program. You can only donate up to the cost of your flight (otherwise I’d donate more), but this is a pretty efficient way to gain XP without flying, and I specifically booked one of my flights through KLM to do this, even though it was more expensive.
- I’ll earn 63 XP by donating 126,000 Flying Blue miles. 2,000 miles per XP is not a great deal, but still a good way to plug the remaining gap.
My exact flights with prices are as follows:
The nitty gritty: hotels
The nights that I’ll be in either Krakow or Nice shake out as follows:
- Feb 8: Krakow
- Feb 9-11: Nice
- Feb 12: Krakow
- Feb 13: Nice
- Feb 14-16: Krakow
- Feb 17-18: Nice
- Feb 19: Krakow
- Feb 20: Nice
My exact hotels with prices are as follows:
The cost breakdown is as follows:
- 5 roundtrip business class flights: $3000
- 6 nights in Krakow hotels: $568.51
- 7 nights in Nice hotels: $1665.74
- Carbon offset donation: $622
- Donation of 126,000 miles (assuming Flying Blue miles are worth 1.2 cents apiece): $1512
- Food+Ubers to and from the airport: ~$750
So, this means the total cost is $8118.25.
Admittedly, this isn’t a cheap endeavor. But keep in mind a few things:
- By putting the airfare on my American Express Platinum card and booking my hotels through the Amex travel portal (a total of $5234.25 of spend), I’ll be earning 26,171 Membership Rewards points, which is worth $523.43 (assuming MRs are worth 2 cents apiece)
- I’ll earn about 20,000 Flying Blue miles, worth about $240
- I’ll earn Hyatt, Hilton, and Marriott points, and will make progress toward status with their respective programs
- I already have the 36,000 miles I’ll be donating on hand, so it’s not an upfront cash cost
- Next year, I will only need 300 XP, rather than 580 XP to requalify for Platinum
- I try not to fly between Friday night and Saturday night, but if someone else who did planned this, they could compress the trip by a few days and reduce the cost of hotel rooms and food by several hundred dollars
- I might do this with a friend who would split the cost of the hotel with me, reducing the overall cost by over $1000
If you account for all the points you’d earn doing this and if you were to optimize the trip by flying through the weekends and staying at cheap hotels with a friend, the all-in cost to earn Platinum status would be something closer to $5000.
Is this an insane, expensive waste of time? To most people, absolutely.
Of course, I’m not like most people. I’ve wanted to fly La Premiere for at least a decade, and I don’t have $10,000 or more to shell out for tickets. I do, however, have the money, time, and patience to carry out this plan. Sure, I could wait for an error fare, but who knows when one will come along and whether it will be canceled by Air France (which they’ve done aggressively in the past).
In all honesty, I’m still not sure I’ll do it. But planning it was a blast and doing it, I think, could be a lot of fun. Whatever I decide, I’ll keep you posted.