Using Lufthansa Miles: Part 4 – Award Pricing Rules

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I’ve been digging into the Lufthansa Miles & More program because of the Barclaycard 50,000 mile credit card. This offer ends on June 30, 2014.

I could not find much information on the program, so I’ve spent lots of time studying how to avoid the high fuel surcharges, discounted award flights, stopover rules, extra award seats and other quirks of the Lufthansa frequent flyer program.  This will be the most comprehensive guide to using Lufthansa miles in English.

If you’re new to miles and pointslike my mother-in-law, there are better cards for you to apply for like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, American Express Starwood cardChase Ink Plus, or the other cards on the Hot Deals tab.  But if you’ve been doing this for a while, the Barclaycard Miles & More World Elite MasterCard could make sense for you – especially if you can use their miles for travel within the US and save your more valuable miles.  But make sure you know the quirks of the program BEFORE you apply.

There is another offer for 50,000 miles, with a lower minimum spending requirement, but you may get fewer miles if you’re approved for a lower card with that offer.

“Using Lufthansa Miles” Series Index

Lufthansa Award Chart

Link:  Lufthansa Award Chart

The Lufthansa award chart is reasonably priced for most coach and business class routes, but is over priced for most First Class awards compared to other US airlines.  You will also pay high fuel surcharges on many routes, though there are ways to pay low or no fuel surcharges on certain routes.

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Lufthansa Award Chart (Click to Open in a New Window)

Miles Round Down

Lufthansa seems to deduct miles by the thousands and not hundreds and rounds down the amount of miles to the nearest thousands.

For example, the award chart suggests that you will pay 17,500 miles (35,000 miles for a roundtrip / 2) for a 1-way flight from the US to Central American & Caribbean.

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You Pay 17,000 Miles Instead of 17,500 Miles Because of the Mile Round Down

However, you will pay only 17,000 miles (i.e. 17,500 miles rounded down to the nearest thousand) for the award.

Lufthansa does not allow stopovers within one award region so there is no reason to not book two separate oneway awards instead of one roundtrip.

This way you will pay 24,000 Lufthansa miles instead of 25,000 miles for a coach roundtrip within the US (excluding Hawaii and the US Virgin Islands) on United.

The only potential caution is that you would have to pay the $60 cancellation fee twice instead of once if you cancel your ticket and had booked 2 one-ways instead of one round-trip.

Domestic Discount

There is a discount for flights entirely within one country.  For example, even though USA and Canada are both part of one region – “North America” –  there is a discount for just flights within the USA.  United is a Lufthansa partner, flying between cities in the US.

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Domestic Discount = 12,000 Miles for Coach One-Way Within the US

This means that a flight within the US will cost 25,000 miles for a round-trip or 12,000 miles (12,500 miles rounded down to 12,000) for a one way in coach.

Flights to and from Alaska also qualify for this domestic discount despite the mileage calculator showing 15,000 miles.

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Flights to-and-from Alaska are Also 12,000 Miles Each Way

However, Hawaii is in a separate region and coach flights are 40,000 miles roundtrip.

A flight between regions from, say, the US to Canada is 30,000 miles for a roundtrip and doesn’t qualify for the domestic discount because it isn’t entirely within one country.

You also can’t have any stopovers on a domestic award and you are allowed only 2 segments (or 1 connection to get to your destination) on a domestic award.

Online Mileage Calculator

The Mileage Calculator is an interactive award chart where you enter your origin and destination and the calculator tells you how many miles you need for the award flight.

But the Mileage Calculator doesn’t seem to be always correct.  For example, the  Mileage Calculator says that it is 15,000 miles for a one-way coach award from the US to Alaska.

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The Mileage Calculator is Usually Right, But Not in This Example

But the domestic mileage chart says that a one-way from the US to Alaska should be only 12,500 miles.  I was able to book a one way from the US to Alaska for only 12,000 miles after the miles round down.

Pricing Discounts

1.   US Resident Discount 

Residents of the US pay only 50,000 miles for a roundtrip to Europe instead of 60,000 miles in coach.  You can also book a one-way to Europe for 25,000 miles.

But the flight must depart from the US for the discount to apply.  This means that a roundtrip award to the US starting in Europe would not qualify for this discount.

Similarly, this also means that one-way flights departing from the US would be 25,000 miles but a one-way  flight back to the US starting from Europe would be 30,000 miles, for a total of 55,000 miles in coach (instead of 50,000 miles roundtrip).

2.   Fly Smart Awards 

You can save up to 50% of the miles required if you book a Fly Smart award.  But this is of limited use to folks in the US and is only available on Miles and More airlines.

You have to book these awards online from a maximum of two weeks up to 2 to 4 days before your flight.  You will NOT get your money OR your miles back if you cancel this award, so be careful before booking.

These aren’t very helpful for folks in the US, because flights from the US to Europe are always 50,000 miles in coach.

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Fly Smart Awards

The rules also say that: “In the case of Fly Smart flight awards to intercontinental destinations, the minimum stay is seven days.”

So plan on staying at your destination for at least 7 days if you book a Fly Smart award from Europe.

3.   Mileage Bargains

Mileage Bargains” are ~40% to 50% off the standard award cost.  Coach flights are 30,000 miles and business class flights are 55,000 for a return trip.

This is one of the best awards discounts for flights to and from Europe.  But there are also big drawbacks.

You will:

  • Pay high fuel surcharges (~$600+ for a coach return and ~$800+ for a business class return).
  • NOT get your money OR miles back if you cancel the ticket
  • Have to depart & return from select cities only
  • No stopovers or open jaws possible
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Mileage Bargains Page Shows Travel Dates and Select Airlines

These can only be booked online and are only for roundtrip tickets.

The value of these awards could be phenomenal except for the major fuel surcharge on almost all the Mileage Bargains.  A coach Lufthansa flight to Europe can end up costing $600 or more in fuel surcharges alone.   This diminishes the value of most of these awards, so look for awards on Polish LOT which doesn’t charge high fuel surcharges.

On the other hand, paying ~$600 and 30,000 miles for a coach award or ~$800 & 55,000 miles for a business class award to Europe is certainly less than the retail price.

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~$664 taxes for a NYC – FRA flight on Lufthansa

4.   Children Discount

You get a 25% discount on the amount of miles required for children above 2 but below 12 years old.

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25% Fewer Miles For Children Below 12 Years

However, you WILL have to pay the high fuel surcharges and this discount is ONLY on Lufthansa Miles & More Airlines.

Children’s awards are only offered on flights operated by Adria Airways, Austrian Airlines Group, Air Dolomiti, Brussels Airlines, Croatia Airlines, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Luxair and SWISS.

You have to book children’s awards via the phone and can’t book them online.  An adult has to accompany the child while traveling.

5.   Lufthansa Elite Member Discount

Lufthansa elite Senator or HON Circle members pay 50% fewer miles to add a companion on most Miles & More airlines.

I don’t expect many readers to be Lufthansa elite members, so I won’t go in to detail on these discounts.

Two Region Award

The Miles and More rules say:

The number of miles required is calculated with reference to the higher region chosen…

This means that you pay more miles if you connect in a region which requires more miles to get to than your intended destination.

Let’s say that you want to go from Houston to Alaska and you have the option to either fly from:

  • Houston to Vancouver (in Canada) to Alaska OR
  • Houston to Seattle (in US) to Alaska

You would be better off flying through Seattle or another domestic US airport and take a connecting flight from that airport to Alaska.

Why?

Because if you fly to Alaska via Vancouver (in Canada) to get to Alaska you will pay the higher mileage for a flight from the US to Canada (30,000 miles) since you are connecting in Canada which requires more miles to visit from the US.

But if you fly to Alaska via Seattle (in the US) you will pay the lower mileage amount of 25,000 miles for a “domestic” flight ENTIRELY within the US!

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You Will Pay More Miles For Connecting in Canada vs. Connecting in the US

Similarly a flight from Colombo, Sri Lanka (CMB) to Male in the Maldives (MLE) has to connect in Singapore because there are no Star Alliance non-stop flights from Colombo to Male.

Even though both Male and Sri Lanka are within the “India” region on the Lufthansa award chart, and should cost fewer miles for a round-trip, you will have to pay 40,000 miles for an India to South East Asia award.

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You get 6 segments total in a round trip award (3 segments in each direction) for a 2-region award.

Touching three regions would automatically make it a Three-Region Award which costs 100,000 miles for a roundtrip in coach.

Three-Region Awards

If there is no non-stop flight between 2 regions, you have to pay extra miles for a three-region award.

Having a stopover or a connection in a third region will trigger the “Three-Region Award” price

The price for a Three-Region Award is:

  • 100,000 miles in coach
  • 185,000 miles in Business Class
  • 290,000 miles in First Class

This is expensive and at times impossible to avoid for some routes.  But you get to have 8 segments or connecting flights total in a round trip award (4 segments or connecting flights in each direction).

RedeemLufthansaMiles

This means that you can’t fly to South East Asia or Central Asia for 80,000 miles in coach by connecting or stopping-over in Europe (like you can with United miles).  You’d have to pay the three-region price (100,000 miles in coach) if you wanted to fly from the US to South East Asia or Central Asia and stop in Europe.

But some awards are already priced as three region awards in the award chart.

For example, the award chart charges 100,000 miles for flights from the US to South Africa.  But if you travel via Europe on your way to South Africa it is priced as a Three-Region award, which also costs 100,000 miles!

So don’t worry about transiting via a third region when you’re going to India or South Africa because you’re already paying that price!

RedeemLufthansaMiles

Star Alliance route from Cairo, Egypt.

You can also use the Star Alliance route map to help you find non-stop flights to avoid paying the three region award price.  For example, let’s say that you want to go from Washington, DC to Cairo, Egypt.

Instead of connecting in Frankfurt and paying the three region award (100,000 miles), you could fly non-stop from Washington, DC to Cairo on Egypt Air and pay only 80,000 miles for a round-trip in coach.

But this won’t be easy to do all the time.

Round the World Award Flight

If you cross both the Atlantic and Pacific ocean, you will pay the “Round the World” price.  It costs 180,000 miles in coach, 325,000 miles in business class and 480,000 miles in First Class and you’re allowed up to 7 stopovers and 10 connections.

Bottom Line

Lufthansa miles are worth using for domestic flights within the US and you will pay only 12,000 miles for a one-way domestic award on United.  Or you could use them for any of these 17 Ways to Use Lufthansa Miles

There are other discounts available, but the high fuel surcharges means that they aren’t particularly great deals, unless you fly on airlines which don’t charge fuel surcharges such as Polish LOT.  But it is still cheaper than paying the retail price.

Don’t forget that you will pay the higher mileage amount for traveling via a 2nd region to get to your destination and will trigger a 3 region award if you travel via a 3rd region to get to your destination.

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46 responses to “Using Lufthansa Miles: Part 4 – Award Pricing Rules

  1. Great series Daraiua. Many thanks.

  2. Lufthansa is not the card for me at the moment but at least I know where to go when I do have some miles to redeem. Thanks for the info.

  3. Thnaks for all the legwork on this, it is very much appreciated. One question, in the same way getting BA availability for AA DOM is no picnic, is it the same for LH with US/UA? Or since UA/US has better lower-tier availability is it much easier?
    Thanks

  4. Interesting — a local airport (CID) is in the Mileage Calculator but not in the pulldown menu when you try to book a flight. Am I doing something wrong?

  5. Lufthansa Elite Member Discount :
    This does not apply to all elites : only for Senator (SEN=platinum), and not for Frequent Traveller (FTL = between silver & gold)

  6. The graphics make it very interesting. I think this card maybe more appealing than the US airways card, except for the high spending requirement. I mean what do I get for 30k miles on US? not much. The Alaska flight is a very good option,. And some of the bargain flights are a steal even with fuel prices ( in early summer they can go for $1200.00 minus say $600, you save 600 USD and some miles left like the one to Klagnefurt) wow.

    I have a few semi-related question, why doesn’t UA charge fuel surcharges if LH does? Is that new and will UA start charging those soon?

  7. Quick question: how would flights on a mixed itinerary price out? For example, a flight from the US to Canada where some legs are on United and some on Air Canada. Would fuel surchages be charged for the Air Canada portions?

    Thanks!

  8. I’m sort of lost, LH has one of the best FC products both hard and soft, for the price of a manufactured spend it is a bargain. I believe the key is not just fly to FRA but beyond so one can taste the good life at the IFT. My partner and I got this card, did the spend, and now are working the rest to get enough points for a FC trip, SFO-FRA-IST. So for roughly $380 spend on Beans and Visa’s, plus the fuel surcharge (roughly $700 each) we are flying in a seat that would cost $14,900. That is a bargain and isn’t this what this hobby is about it?

    I don’t see the need to use LH miles domestically since WN has the companion pass which is really one of the best ways to travel in the US.

    Now if I’m missing something here, please help me understand it…

    • @Steven S @Scott – Glad you find it useful!

      @Phil – It depends on which routes you fly. You can search on United.com for award flights and see what avilability is like. Just be careful to ensure that your trip can be completed with only 2 segments or 1 connection if you plan on redeeming Lufthansa miles.

      @Andrew – You can’t book flights from Cedar Rapids online, but have to call the Lufthansa service center since it is a partner airline award.

      @Philippe – That’s correct and I’ve updated the post.

      @Jorge – US Airlines have traditionally not charged fuel surcharges on redemptions while European and Asian airlines usually do. That could change in the future given that there are fewer airlines in the US (after airline mergers). But I don’t see that happening in the next few years.

      @Ben – Air Canada doesn’t charge fuel surcharges for flights from the US to Canada, so you wouldn’t pay fuel surcharges on those flights. But you would pay them on Air Canada flights from Canada to Europe.

      @Tony – I highlighted the business class and first class redemptions in the first post and they are certainly good uses of Lufthansa miles if you’re willing to do the work and pay the fuel surcharges!

  9. A word of caution: don’t get too excited about LH F availability for regular M&M members… the availability is under MSC (married segment control), so getting an F award online for non elites is very easy for point to point connections, but not if you tag on a leg to a regional destination like IST. Access to such awards is possible, but only via the F award waitlist available to M&M elites.

  10. @Oliver2002 the price I quoted you right off LH web side, SFO-FRA-IST one-way.

  11. Hey, I think there is a benefit of using Lufthansa miles to fly Singapore.
    They show more award seats than if using United (?). It would be great if you could check this approach.

  12. Anybody knows how long do I have to wait in order to get the actual membership card and the PIN# by mail?

    • @Tony @Oliver2002 – I could find First awards (besides point-to-point) quite easily online. In the worst case, you can fly in coach on the intra-Europe segment which doesn’t really make much of a difference.

      @Andrew – That’s true and I have that in a future post.

      @audisfo – In about 3 weeks, but you can call and have them email you the PIN.

  13. Thanks, Daraius. Do you happen to have the phone# to call? Should I just call their US customer service center#? Also, in order to get the PIN#, I need to have at least 1 mile in the Miles & More account right?

  14. Thank you for this! I have a specific question about booking a LOT flight using Lufthansa miles, as I actually want to fly to Poland from the US and back using miles. Can you book this on the Miles and More site, or do you have to call to book using miles? And who do you call – Lufthansa or LOT?

  15. Hi Daraius, you need to have a PIN# in order to subscribe their free email newsletter. But you are right that as soon as the permanent membership# is being issued then you can call the US customer service line to request the PIN# to be sent to your email. But what I feel the most confusing part is that they will issue a temporary Miles & More # first and then once you have 1 award mile being credited into your account then they will give you the permanent one. I find this is quite annoying and confusing and I really don’t know why they are doing that to create so much extra workload.

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  24. Hi. Am so new to this….its a bit confussing. I have a return ticket from Zambia to Norway and will travel back in November. Can i redeem ALL my miles with lufthansa now? Or do i have to wait until i travel back to redeem them?

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  26. Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    I am new to Miles Awards. We are planning a trip to France and Italy this summer. I checked out Miles & More Mileage Bargains today and see that travel must be booked now and flown typically by March of this year. Does Lufthansa and its partners offer these kind of deals to France & Italy during the summer and how hard is it to book an award flight if I wait? Since I will be buying one ticket and using miles for the other, how hard is it to find seats on the same plane?

    • @Ronald Priebe – Award flights keep on changing, so I can’t predict how easy it will be. Usually buying an identical ticket with cash (to match the award flight), is usually more expensive than just buying the cheaper ticket with cash.

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  34. Has there been a recent rule change regarding miles round down?

    I’m trying to book a domestic China flight but three different agents, China, Singapore, Germany all insisted on charging 12500 for a one way flight.

    My problem is I’m 29 miles short of 12500 and trying to book a flight for 5 days time.

  35. Has there been a recent rule change regarding miles round down?

    I’m trying to book a domestic China flight but three different agents, China, Singapore, Germany all insisted on charging 12500 for a one way.

    My problem is I’m 29 miles short of 12500 and trying to book a flight for 5 days time.

  36. @Wolfy – I just booked a one way Lufthansa award from N America to Central America (Guatemala) and the Singapore agent said they no longer round down required award mileage. He said it happened about 4-5 months ago, i.e. April-May 2014, at least in the Singapore market. So, instead of 17,000 miles, it is 17,500 miles (1/2 of 35,000 miles). Luckily, I just had enough but hopefully you were able to solve your 29 miles dilemma in time.

  37. My wife and I each have 60,000 Miles & More points. We would like to use for a Business Class flight to Europe on Miles and More Bargain Flights on Polish Airlines LOT (low surcharges), out of Chicago. We have been watching the Bargain website for a while, and haven’t seen any Business Class LOT availability posted. We could go Economy on LOT, but reviews have been pretty terrible. Any experience if they ever appear, or should we use the points elsewhere.
    Thanks

  38. Sorry i made a mistake in the e’mail address….please need to know how many miles i need to book a flight for an adult and one infant from ccs to phc roundtrip
    Many thanks and best rgds
    AO

  39. @ Bob. Did you ever book that flight to Poland? And what did you mean “the reviews have been pretty terrible”? I’m looking to book an economy ticket to Warsaw on LOT. Any advice based on your experience is welcomed.

  40. can i do anything with 5600 miles and more miles? can i combine them with united or american? or should i just let them expire?