Update 12/9: Free stopovers on Flying Blue award tickets are now live(ish). Currently, the only way to book them is via the Flying Blue call center (800-375-8723) and it’s only valid on tickets that are entirely on Air France/KLM metal. Eventually, the ability to incorporate partners and book online will be added, but there’s no firm dates as to when either is expected to happen. It’s also worth noting that it appears that not all Flying Blue phone agents are trained on the process for adding a stopover, so it may be necessary to ask for a supervisor and/or hang up and call again.
Free or low-cost stopovers are a rare, but very valuable, feature of award programs. A free stopover on a one-way award means that you can enjoy two destinations for the price of one.
Alaska Airlines is one of the best-known examples. For example, you can book an award ticket from New York to San Diego via Seattle and stop in Seattle for as long as you want without having to pay for an additional ticket. When booking partner awards, I’ve used this feature for extended stays in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Europe on the way to South Africa, The Maldives, etc.
Air Canada’s Aeroplan offers the abiity to build in a stopover on a one-way itinerary for only 5,000 additional miles and it’s one of the main reasons it’s among Nick’s favorite award programs.
Today, on a webinar, Air France-KLM Flying Blue announced that it plans to introduce free stopovers on award tickets as well. There weren’t many details provided, but it sounds as if free stopovers will be available on any available one-way award flight, regardless of pricing.
Flying Blue is one of the most “promiscuous” transfer partners out there as it participates in 1-1 transfers with all of the major transferable currencies (Amex, Capital One, Chase and Citi). As a result, it can be an incredibly useful program, especially for transatlantic travel.
Its hubs are in Paris (Air France) and Amsterdam (KLM), so free stopovers would open up both of those cities as destinations on the way to Europe, Africa, the Middle East and beyond. Also, because those cities are well-connected with cheap trains and flights to the rest of Europe, it would even be possible to cheaply and easily travel further afield on your “stopover” as well.
After watching the webinar, I’m not clear as to whether or not free stopovers will be allowed on partner awards, or just those that are on Air France and/or KLM metal. Usually an airline’s stopover policy covers awards on partners as well. If that’s the case, having access to free stopovers on the entire SkyTeam alliance could be marvelous indeed, opening up very intriguing possibilites with carriers like Korean Air, Garuda Indonesia and China Eastern.
I’m also not sure whether or not awards booked with the monthly Flying Blue Promo Awards will be eligible for free stopvers. These promo awards can offer excellent value between the US and Europe…having free stopovers included would be sweet indeed.
We’ll all be eagerly awaiting more news about this development, but at minimum, it looks incredibly positive. Stay tuned.
(h/t:One Mile at a Time)