What did you book? – Air France La Premiere First and JetBlue Mint

Using Avios to book JetBlue & leveraging a status match to book La Premiere First on Air France

by Sash & Mohammad
1 comment
a collage of an airplane with seats

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Welcome to June’s instalment of What Did You Book?, where Sash and Mohammad discuss what they have been up to in May, detailing their most noteworthy bookings, including Air France La Premiere First and JetBlue Mint this month. Notably, these award bookings were made using an unconventional approach that we’ll share, along with handy tips and tricks.

After a seven-year pursuit of the one airline product that had eluded him, Sash has finally secured a booking on the exclusive Air France La Premiere First Class. The anticipation is palpable as he looks forward to this luxurious, one-of-a-kind flight in a few weeks. In this edition of What Did You Book, Sash will delve into the surprising ease of booking this in 2024 and provides a detailed account of what the experience will look like, leaving you intrigued and eager for more in a full-fledged review.

Mohammad meanwhile, used a relatively new loyalty partnership between JetBlue and Qatar Airways, to help salvage last minute travels plan for a relative who had to delay travel in May due to an unexpected medical procedure. Having never had practical experience using Qatar Avios to book JetBlue Mint across the pond, Mohammad walks you through his booking process to book a product that had surprisingly good availability close-in.

What did Sash Book? – Air France La Premiere First Class

It’s like I’ve hit the jackpot! I’ve managed to secure a booking for a flight often hailed as the pinnacle of commercial aviation: Air France La Premiere First Class.  The journey to this point has been a decade-long chase, with the product being notoriously elusive when it comes to booking with award points. Cash rates are astronomical, reaching $20,000 for a one-way flight. With the chase being so real, the reward will be incredibly satisfying.

a man looking at a plane

AI picture of Sash trying to book La Premiere over the past decade

What is it that makes La Premiere so unique? Simply put, it’s the white glove service offered from the beginning of the journey to its end. From Paris Charles De Gaulle (CDG) to my destination, Washington Dulles (IAD), the experience will look like this:

Air France La Premiere First Class – The Ground Experience

Air France’s ground service is truly number one in the industry, even more so than Emirates, Etihad, JAL, and Singapore Airlines, to name a few.  What makes La Premiere stand out from the rest and the answer to when people ask me, “What makes First Class so special?” here you go:

  • Chauffeur service to pick you up within a 75km radius of CDG
  • Dedicated meeting place at CDG where the concierge will take your luggage
  • Private check-in lounge just for La Premiere passengers
  • A dedicated handler that will guide and help you with everything before the flight
  • Escort through security to the La Premiere First Class Lounge
 Air France La Premiere First

Air France La Premiere First Class Personalized Service

  • A 30-minute complimentary spa treatment by Sisley in the lounge
  • Dining experience with the full a la carte menu created by three-Michelin-starred Chef Alain Ducasse
  • A water buffet station with 11 types of still and sparkling water
  • Top-shelf whiskies, champagnes, wines, and cocktails
 Air France La Premiere First and Jet Blue Mint

Air France La Premiere First Class Lounge at Paris (CDG)

  • Escort to your private Porsche to drive you on the tarmac to your aircraft
  • Escort to board and carry your luggage from the Porsche to the overhead compartment
  • After landing, escort through security, immigration and to the baggage carousel
  • Bag collection and escort to curbside
 Air France La Premiere First and Jet Blue Mint

Chauffeur service to aircraft

And this is just the ground experience! What about in-flight:

  • An intimate 1-2-1 exclusive cabin configuration; a total of 4 seats per flight
  • An “old school” luxury, a large, comfortable armchair in a visually pleasing and calming environment.
  • Floor-to-ceiling privacy with a curtain
  • A gastronomic adventure of food and drinks in the air
  • Personalized service from the flight attendants.
 Air France La Premiere First and Jet Blue Mint

Air France La Premiere First Class Seat, source: airfrance.com

 Air France La Premiere First

La Premiere Cabin in 1-2-1 configuration, source: businesstraveller.com

Air France La Premiere First Class – Booking

I’ve talked about how great the La Premiere product is, but how did I book it? Well, before I get into it, let’s take a look at where the product flies, and its to quite a number of cities as depicted here:

 Air France La Premiere First

Air France La Premiere Destinations, created using flightconnections.com

There are only 3 ways to book Air France La Premiere, and their respective costs:

  1. Mistake Fare – The rare chance if you get lucky like a handful of people did during the pandemic (2021-2022) for USD 592. I also had this ticket booked but did not manage to fly it despite my best efforts.
  2. Cash – cheapest tickets ex-Scandanavia through a Paris connection costing at times around ~$6000. You could offset this with RBC Avion at 2 cents per point (cpp) redemption costing 300,0000 points, OR US Amex Business Platinum 35% premium flight discount costing ~290,000 Amex Membership Reward points.
  3. Air France Flying Blue Points – option available ONLY to Flying Blue Platinum status members costing anywhere from 150,000 to 305,500 flying blue miles one-way

I will focus on #3 as this is how I booked my ticket. Except, I don’t have Flying Blue Platinum status. So how did I book it then? There is a method to match to platinum status $399 (CAD) from a handful of top-tier airline statuses, including Air Canada 75K or 100k Super Elite. The status match website can be found here

a person standing on a fence with a city in the background

Once approved for the status match after about a week, it will be granted for a full 12 months, during which time La Premiere First Class awards will appear available to book.

a screen shot of a computer

However, I am only Air Canada 50k and cannot match to Flying Blue Platinum Status, only to Gold. So, how did I book La Premiere?  Well, I was fortunate to have a few friends that status matched to flying blue platinum and one of them kindly offered to book me a seat, after discussing a trade of points.

The next step was to figure out what route to book, and the pricing varies drastically. Have a look at these routes:

a screenshot of a calendar a screenshot of a calendar a screenshot of a calendar a screenshot of a computer

The Dubai and Washington routes are priced the best, so I went with the Washington flight, given that the flight time is about 8 hours, whereas Dubai is shorter. Plus, I do not need to go to/from Dubai. Award availability is excellent; I booked my departure in just a few weeks. What was more difficult was finding a flight with a window seat available.

 Air France La Premiere First

Air France 777-300ER First Class Seat Map, source: aerolopa.com

Let’s now look at pricing with a connection incorporating 2 La Premiere Flights. Pricing is obscene, with no savings.a screenshot of a calendar a screenshot of a calendar a screenshot of a calendar a screenshot of a calendar

I will leave you with one last tidbit (a hint) about Air France award bookings in general: married segment logic is applied to award availability. Happy hunting. 🙂

What did Mohammad Book? – Jet Blue Mint between Boston and Amsterdam

In November 2023, Qatar Airways introduced the ability to book JetBlue flights using Avios. Whilst initially providing spectacular value for Avios redemptions, Qatar quickly ‘reset’ the redemption chart within a week. Despite not being outstanding value anymore, the redemption rates for transatlantic routes on JetBlue’s Mint product (what they call their premium/business class cabin) still provides a solid option to travel from North America to Europe.

I’m currently on a 3-month parental leave with my wife and infant, and we’re spending the lion’s share of that time making our way through Europe at a leisurely pace (or at least trying to). I had originally intended for a large family trip in Europe for a few weeks in May for about 14 other family members. While plans had been confirmed for a while for the first 3 weeks of May, my family received some unexpected news in the form of one of our relatives having to go through an emergency medical procedure midway through April. For a while the entire trip had been in limbo, but thankfully all the original participants were still able to make it, though my relative in question and his spouse needed to cut the trip short and arrive later than expected.

Prior to the change in plans, I had booked them on Singapore’s fifth freedom route from JFK to Frankfurt on business class 60,000 Aeroplan points + USD $77. We now needed something for about 10 days later – whilst also keeping in mind something as direct as possible from their actual departure point – Nashville or Louisville. The change in dates also meant that their final destination needed to be Amsterdam, which is where the rest of the family was going to be.

There was no more Singapore availability for the JFK-FRA route, nor was it a desirable option anymore as that would have meant a minimum of three connections (connecting to JFK followed by another connection to AMS from FRA). With Amsterdam being the final destination, I had naturally thought to look at Flying Blue award space to try and find a direct flight into Amsterdam. Unfortunately I couldn’t find any direct flights to Amsterdam at standard/promo rates on my desired dates from any of the feasible east coast gateways cities that I could think of (IAD/ORD/BOS/JFK/YYZ/YUL).

I did however find some good rates on Air France’s new A350’s – but again these would be flying to Paris requiring a short connection to AMS. While contemplating this, I started browsing Flightconnections to see if I had missed checking up on any other direct options to Amsterdam from North America. It was on there, I was reminded that JetBlue operates daily redeyes from Boston and JFK. Furthermore, JetBlue also offered daily service from Nashville to both of these cities meaning that if I was able to secure award on a direct flight to Amsterdam from either of BOS or JFK, then I’d have the two flight itinerary that I wanted.

flightconnections route map

JetBlue flight operating direct to AMS

Award Cost for JetBlue Mint using Avios

JetBlue currently operates transatlantic routes between the US and Edinburgh, Dublin, London Heathrow, London Gatwick, Amsterdam and Paris (subject to seasonal variations). Currently, an award redemption from the United States to Amsterdam/London/ Paris costs 78,000 Avios points + $10.10. On the surface, the number of points is certainly not the most competitive around. Consider my initial booking on Singapore for 60,000 Aeroplan points. However what the JetBlue redemption has going for it is the extremely reasonable cash outlay of only USD $10 on awards going to Europe. Another aspect is the frequent Avios transfer bonuses of upto 30% that come around from various transferable point programs in the US and Canada.

For my redemption, RBC Avion was having an ongoing 30% bonus event on Avion transfers to Avios (valid till end of June), meaning the 78,000 Avios required amounted to 60,000 Avion points transferred in – the same amount of transferable points I would need to book my original ticket using Aeroplan. All of this to say that I was quite happy with the cost of redemption given the award availability for 2 people plus slightly lower cash outlay on the taxes.

award space

Award cost between JFK & AMS

Taxes on flight originating in Europe do tend to be much higher, so I’d advise reviewing those as a first step when contemplating an award redemption to the US from Europe.

Searching for JetBlue Award Space using Avios

In January 2024, I had played around with Qatar’s calendar to try and understand JetBlue award space patterns. At the time, award space within 4-8 weeks to/from London was decent outside of the Christmas window, however I had found award space to their routes to/from Paris and Amsterdam a bit more challenging. At the time I had speculated that award space on these routes might only open up 4 weeks ahead of time, however I’m happy to say that does seem to be the case based on current trends I’ve seen. As an example, Boston – Amsterdam route has good availability all throughout the summer currently. On a sample date such as below, there are an incredible 7 seats available in Mint that can be booked using Avios.

award space

An incredible 7 award seats available on this date on Mint

So how does one go about searching for award space? Well one option is to search using Qatar’s website on a day by day basis. If you’re not flexible on dates, then this would be the easiest option.

If you have a bit more flexibility, then using Itamatrix would be a good idea. If going this route, I’d highly recommend reading this piece from the good folks over on FrequentMiler who go into detail as to why/how to populate the Itamatrix search form to try and narrow down the dates on which award availability might exist. I wanted to caveat the FM article with a few things:

  1. The article still references the ‘old’ award rates. Ignore those as they are not accurate anymore.
  2. The article contains an update acknowledging that the flights can be booked online -whereas initially they had not been able to.
  3. It touches upon using an Expertflyer account as well to find award space.
  4. When searching on the 30 day calendar, it’s important to understand that even though results will show a 60 day window, only the 30 days from which you have search will have populated dates.
  5. Lastly – in my experience, the results from these award searches are by no means 100% accurate. You’ll need to constantly verify it via Qatar’s website – however more often than not, award space does match up.
a screenshot of a computer

Itamatrix Search Page

As things turned out, I was able to find award space on direct flights to Amsterdam from both BOS and JFK. I ended up settling on the following route: Nashville – Boston – Amsterdam. Even though both flights from BOS and JFK were redeyes, the timing of the redeye from Boston was more convenient as it left later in the night and arrived in Amsterdam closer to noon – making it more likely for an early check-in to the hotel.

The final cost of the the flights were 78,000 Avios per person + USD $10.10. The flight from BNA to BOS was paid in cash as I could not find award space on that route on the day – though seeing if both legs could have been booked onto one itinerary is a homework item for me in the next few months.

Final Word

Another month of bookings comes to an end. We hope this month’s instalment of “What did you book?” where we focused on Air France La Premiere First and Jet Blue Mint products made for an interesting read. As always, please feel free to leave your questions, comments and/or feedback below! Or perhaps some other ideas and recommendations that we were not aware of! Thanks for reading along and see you next month in another edition of What Did You Book.

1 comment

Sarah Ramkissoon June 1, 2024 - 11:06 am

Couldn’t agree more on the la premiere service. One of the most annoying things I find about cdg airport is that you need to go through a final passport until before the boarding area. So you need to leave the lounge/whatever you are doing early enough to cater for a line-up before you can go to your gate. The LP service included my staying in their beautiful lounge while my dedicated “handler” took my passport and performed the necessary checks and paperwork. More time for dessert(s) for me!


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