Flying Blue Multi-Stopover Experiment

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In the post “Flying Blue Free Stopover Awards: The Rules,” I documented the rules of Air France / KLM’s free stopovers… at least to the extent that I could figure out from meager online information. One of the big unknowns in the post’s first publication was whether Flying Blue really allows multiple stopovers on a single award for no extra cost. For this post, I decided to answer that question…

Man examining a globe through a microscope

In the “rules” post, I posited that it should be possible to book a one-way flight with unlimited stopovers as long as all segments are flown by the same carrier. For example, I posited that this 10 stopover Delta route should be possible and that the total cost should be the same as the miles required to simply book a flight between Boston and Seattle:

For my first experiment, I decided to test first with KLM flights and then with Delta flights. Before calling, I used KLM’s website to find dates with the lowest pricing available for every flight segment of interest and wrote down all of those segments and dates. I then called Flying Blue (+1 800 375-8723) and spent an hour or so on the phone with a very patient agent…

KLM Stopovers

KLM has a fifth freedom flight between Bali (DPS) and Singapore (SIN). With no stopovers involved, I found that it’s possible to book Bali to Singapore to Amsterdam to New York for 35,000 miles one-way economy.

KLM Single Stopover

My first test was to make sure that a simple stopover in Amsterdam priced as expected. Indeed, it did: 35,000 miles.

I learned too, that the taxes & fees were roughly additive.  Let me explain…

Here are the prices to get from DPS to JFK with and without a stopover:

  • DPS-SIN-AMS-JFK (no stopovers): 35,000 miles + $196.50
  • DPS-SIN-AMS (STOPOVER), AMS-JFK: 35,000 miles + $247.07

You can see above that adding a stopover increased taxes but didn’t increase the price in miles. And here are the prices of the two segments booked separately (this is what you’d pay if you booked this as two separate awards instead of one award with a stopover):

  • DPS-SIN-AMS: 25K + $76.60
  • AMS-JFK: 20K + $171.60
  • Total: 45K + $248.20

When booking separately, you pay more miles, but the taxes and fees come out to about the same as a single award with a stopover.

KLM Double Stopover

I then asked to price the award with a stopover in Singapore and in Amsterdam. From the get-go I wasn’t at all sure this would work because Flying Blue weirdly prices the short flight from Bali to Singapore, flying KLM, at 53,500 miles. This is far more than the 25K miles required for Bali to Singapore to Amsterdam. And sure, enough, adding a stopover in Singapore increased the award price by a lot:

DPS-SIN (STOPOVER), SIN-AMS (STOPOVER), AMS-JFK: 63,500 miles + $322.50

Ouch.

At this point I didn’t know whether only one stopover was allowed for free or if including the stopover in Singapore was the problem. I suspected the latter due to the weird pricing for the segment between Bali and Singapore.

Oh well. The vast majority of KLM flights go through Amsterdam so there is very little opportunity to have a multi-stop award on KLM anyway. The same is true for Air France and Paris. The best opportunities for multi-stop stopovers appears to be with some of their partners… such as Delta…

Delta Stopovers

I found that Delta’s nonstop flight from JFK to Seattle could be booked through Flying Blue for 20,000 miles plus $20.70 one-way economy. I wondered if I could add multiple stopovers between JFK and Seattle without increasing the price? Or, at least, without increasing the price by much?

For Delta flights, Flying Blue charges more miles with more distance flown. For example, non-stop JFK to Seattle will cost less than JFK to LAX to Seattle. So, I came up with a series of potential stopovers that were somewhat in-line along the way to Seattle. These stopovers increase the distance a bit, but not by a lot.

I’ll jump now right to the punchline: Yes, you can add unlimited stopovers without greatly increasing the number of required miles. The full route with all three stopovers shown above (Cincinnati, Salt Lake City, and Portland) costs 29,000 miles + $57 (vs. 20,000 miles + $20.70 to fly nonstop).

Here now are the prices of each stopover route I tested:

  • JFK-SEA (NO STOPOVER): 20,000 miles + $20.70
  • JFK-CVG (STOPOVER), CVG-SEA: 20,000 miles + $35.80
  • JFK-CVG (STOPOVER), CVG-SLC (STOPOVER), SLC-SEA: 27,500 miles + $46.40
  • JFK-CVG (STOPOVER), CVG-SLC (STOPOVER), SLC-PDX (STOPOVER), PDX-SEA: 29,000 miles + $57

As I discovered with the KLM example, the price in miles is much less when booking stopovers than if I were to book each segment separately. In this case, though, the taxes and fees ($57) are less than booking separately. If I were to book the above route as four separate awards, the total price would be: 52,500 miles + $79.96 in taxes and fees.

Conclusion

With my KLM experiment, I didn’t learn whether or not multiple stopovers are possible with no additional fee. I’ll have to find a better route for testing that question, but it’s really not that important since the vast majority of KLM flights go through Amsterdam. There simply aren’t many routes where it would make sense to have multiple stops on a one-way award on KLM (and, remember that stopovers only make sense when flying a single carrier — otherwise you might as well book separate awards for each carrier). I did learn one interesting tidbit though: taxes and fees seem to be roughly the same when booking a stopover vs. booking two separate awards. That may have been a coincidence with the route I chose though.

The Delta experiment was much more satisfying. Here I found that I could add multiple stopovers without greatly increasing the award price. My theory about why the award price increases at all is that the stopovers led to a longer distance flown, and Flying Blue prices Delta awards roughly according to the distance flown (I say “roughly” because I have found some routes that price higher than shorter routes and I don’t know why).

In theory, it may be possible to snake together a single almost-round-the-world one-way award flying Delta and paying with Flying Blue. For example, if lightning struck and Delta opened up these award seats to Flying Blue, it would be theoretically possible to book a one-way multi-stop award such as South Africa to Atlanta, then hop around the U.S. for up to a year, then Los Angeles to Australia. I don’t know how much that would cost, but it should be far, far less than paying for the segments individually.

My next experiment will be to test the limits of backtracking within Europe. The Flying Blue documentation says that within Europe backtracking is allowed. How far can we take this?

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