Using Lufthansa Miles: Part 8 – How to Avoid High Fuel Surcharges

[Disclosure:  Emily and I get a commission if you're approved using the link to the Barclays Lufthansa 50,000 mile card in this post.  We always include the best offer for a card even if it doesn't pay us a commission.  You don't have to use our links, but thanks for your support!]

Update: A credit card offer in this post, may no longer be available, but check the Hot Deals for the latest offers!

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

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 Barclays Lufthansa card 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

What Are Fuel Surcharges?

Fuel surcharges are EXTRA fees added  to award tickets by many frequent flyer programs outside the US.  And within the US some airlines like American Airlines add fuel surcharges for award flights on British Airways.

Unfortunately, Lufthansa charges fuel surcharges on all their flights as well as most of their partner airlines.

But this post will also go over the ways to avoid paying fuel surcharges.

Why Is This a Big Deal?

Miles and More roundtrip award tickets on Lufthansa and Swiss between the US and Europe will cost $600+ in taxes and fees for an economy ticket.  That’s almost as much as a cash ticket!

The taxes and fees are $800+ in business class or first class for a first class award.

For example, a roundtrip flight from Chicago to Frankfurt on Swiss & Lufthansa in coach is $663 (of which $516 is fuel surcharges).

But there are ways to reduce the fuel surcharges.  Let’s take a flight from the US to Europe.

You could pay 50,000 miles & $664 to fly on Lufthansa & Swiss Air.

LufthansaFuelSurcharge

1) 50,000 Lufthansa Miles & $664 to Fly from Chicago to Zurich Round-Trip in Coach

However, you can pay half the amount in fuel surcharges by simply choosing to fly on Polish LOT from Chicago to Warsaw and then connect on Lufthansa to Frankfurt.  Flying on Polish LOT lowers the fees to $313.

LufthansaFuelSurcharge

2) 50,000 Lufthansa Miles & $313 to Fly from Chicago to Zurich Round-Trip in Coach on Polish LOT

1.   Airlines With Low Fuel Surcharges

Certain airlines have really low or no fuel surcharges.

Airline
Sample Roundtrip Route
Lufthansa Fuel Surcharges (Coach)
Air New Zealand
Los Angeles (LAX) to Auckland (AKL)
$30
AviancaNew York (JFK) to Bogota (BOG)$0
Polish LOTNew York (JFK) to Warsaw (WAW)
$120
TACAToronto (YYZ) to Mexico (MEX)$0
United Flights Within North & South AmericaWashington (IAD) to Sao Paulo (GIG)
$0
  • Air New Zealand - Flights to New Zealand, Australia and Oceania 
  • Avianca – Flights to South America, Central America and the Caribbean
  • LOT – Flights from the US to Europe flights
  • TACA – Flights to Central America, South America and the Caribbean
  • United – No fuel surcharge on domestic US flights and flights to South America

Interestingly, Air Canada charges fuel surcharges for flights to South America.

Flights Within USA & Canada on United & Air Canada

There are NO FUEL SURCHARGES on flights within the USA (excluding Hawaii & the US Virgin Islands) on United.  

It costs 12,000 miles for a 1-way in coach on United and 17,000 miles for a 1-way in First Class on most United flights.  So 50,000 miles will get you 2 round-trip awards within the US in coach or ~ 1.5 round trip awards in First Class.

If you can find a low-level award seat on United, you can call Lufthansa to book that seat.  Remember that you are allowed only 2 segments or 1 connection/layover on a 1-way award within the US.

There are no fuel surcharges on Air Canada flights within the US and Canada so you could Lufthansa miles to travel in Canada as well.

Air New Zealand

Air New Zealand flies from the US to New Zealand and within the South Pacific area with very low fuel surcharges (~$30).  But award availability isn’t too great.

If you’re flexible and book in advance you should find seats in coach, but award availability is tight.

Air New Zealand only has two routes from and to North America.  Los Angeles direct to Auckland and direct to Rarotonga.  Both routes have low award availability.

I loved the reaction of the Miles and More agent who booked my Los Angeles  to Auckland flight; “Surprisingly, the taxes and fees come out to $17.50.”

I’m not sure if this is a glitch which will be fixed or if she wasn’t aware of the low fuel surcharges on that flight.

United

There are NO FUEL SURCHARGES on United flights in North America and South America.  You can search for low level awards on United.com and then call Lufthansa to book those awards.

LufthansaFuelSurcharge

United Route Map From North America to South America

United flies to these South American Destinations.

LufthansaFuelSurcharge

No Fuel Surcharges on United Flights to South America

United flies to these Central American destinations.

LufthansaFuelSurcharge

No Fuel Surcharges on United Flights to Central America

United flies to these Caribbean destinations

LufthansaFuelSurcharge

No Fuel Surcharges on United Flights to the Caribbean

LOT Polish Airlines

LOT charges ~$120 in fuel surcharges for a round-trip from Chicago to Warsaw.

LOT flies from Chicago, New York (JFK) and Toronto (YYZ) to Warsaw (WAW).  You can connect from Warsaw to other destinations in Europe.

And if you’re lucky you may be able to find flights on Polish LOT in the Mileage Bargains.

LufthansaFuelSurcharge

30,000 miles and $158 From Chicago to Warsaw Roundtrip on Polish LOT

You can connect to many European cities from Warsaw using Polish LOT.

LufthansaFuelSurcharge

Polish LOT Destinations from Warsaw

 However the online booking tool only shows “married segments.”  Married segments are when an airline forces you to book a combination of flights at a certain price instead of letting you piece together the flights segment by segment.

You can only book flights with married segments on the Lufthansa Miles and More website. While you can find separate flights on LOT to get you to, say, Moscow, the computer might not connect them for you but instead put you on a Lufthansa flight instead!

So if you need to book a flight from Chicago to Moscow (on Polish LOT) you almost always have to call an agent.  Agents should be able to break married segments and give you desired layover lengths or connections but it’s not going to be automatic on their computer either… and some agents are better than others.

An added bonus is that there seems to be availability in business class on the Boeing 787.  Which is not only good for airplane nerds who want to take a ride on the new “Dreamliner” but also for folks who like lie-flat beds etc.

LufthansaFuelSurcharge

New Business Class on Polish LOT

Avianca and TACA

Technically Avianca & Taca are both owned by Avianca Holding but they have different hubs.

Neither of these Latin American airlines charge fuel surcharges on any routes and they do fly a few flights to Europe.  However, the Three-Region which costs 100,000 miles in coach makes routing through South America unappealing as a way to get from the US to Europe unless you also really wanted to see South America.  Or don’t mind paying extra miles to save on fuel surcharges.

Avianca

  • Based in Columbia and the hub is Bogata (BOG) but covers much of South America. 
  • Has flights to Miami (MIA), New York (JFK) and Orlando (MCO).
  • Has flights to Madrid (MAD) and Barcelona (BCN).

TACA

  • Based out of San Salvador, El Savlador (SAL) and has even more extensive coverage to Latin America.

2.   Airlines With Medium Fuel Surcharges

Here are fuel surcharges on certain Lufthansa partners.  The fuel surcharges were about the same in coach or business class.

Airline
Sample Roundtrip Route
Lufthansa Fuel Surcharges (Coach)
Air China
Los Angeles (LAX) to Beijing (PEK)
$278
Asiana Airlines
Los Angeles (LAX) to Seoul (ICN)
$302
Condor Airlines
Las Vegas (LAS) to Frankfurt (FRA)
$280
Ethiopian Airlines
Washington Dulles (IAD) to Addis Abbaba (ADD)
$352
EVALos Angeles (LAX) to Taipei (TPE)$260
Singapore Airlines
Los Angeles (LAX) to Tokyo (NRT)
$280
South African Airways
New York (JFK) to Johannesburg (JOB)
$386
Turkish Airlines
Washington (IAD) to Istanbul (IST)
$356

You can fly on Ethiopian airlines to Rome for lower fuel surcharges than on Lufthansa or other Miles & More airlines.

This also gives decent options to Asia because you can fly on:

  • Singapore Airlines to Singapore (SIN) or Tokyo (NRT)
  • Asiana to Seoul, South Korea (ICN)
  • Air China to Beijing, China (PEK)

EVA flies from Taipei (TPE) to Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO), Seattle (SEA), Vancouver (YVR), Toronto (YYZ), and New York (JFK)

It is 40,000 Lufthansa miles for a 1-way in coach or 67,000 miles for a 1-way in business class from the US to the Far East/Central Asia.

But be careful to not trigger a Three-Region award.  And remember that you are allowed only 3 segments on a one-way two-region award.

“China (incl. Hong Kong & Macau), Japan, South Korea, Taiwan” are considered “Far East” and not a part of “Southeast Asia.”   So if you fly via China or Japan to Southwest Asia it will cost you 100,000 miles!

Condor has a flight from Las Vegas to Frankfurt with not-so-high (relatively) fuel surcharges, but award availability isn’t great.

3.   Airlines With High Fuel Surcharges

Airline
Sample Roundtrip Route
Lufthansa Fuel Surcharges (Coach)
Air Canada
Vancouver (YVR) to Seoul (ICN)
$326
ANA
Los Angeles (LAX) to Tokyo (NRT)
$586
Austrian
New York (JFK) to Vienna
$516
Brussels Airlines
New York (JFK) to Brussels (BRU)
$516
Lufthansa
Houston (IAH) to Frankfurt (FRA)
$516
Scandinavian Airlines
Newark (EWR) to Copenhagen (CPH)
$496
Swiss
New York (JFK) to Zurich (ZRH)
$516
TAP
Newark (EWR) to Lisbon (LIS)
$516
United flights to Europe, Africa, Australia & Asia
Washington (IAD) to London (LHR)
$458

To summarize this list, flights to Europe are expensive on Lufthansa, Swiss, Austrian, United and Brussels Air.  Most international flights on these airlines will end up costing  $500+ in fuel surcharges alone before airport fees!

~$800+ fuel surcharges are unavoidable if you would like to fly roundtrip in Business or First Class on Austrian, Brussels, Lufthansa & Swiss.

That  is expensive, but the plus side is that there is extra award availability on some of these airlines.

Cheap First Class Europe to the US

Here’s something odd.  When flying from the US to Europe on Swiss the fuel surcharges were $258 for a one-way in coach and $428 in Business Class or First Class. The round-trip fuel surcharge was double or $516 in coach or $856 in Business Class.

However, when I search for one-way flights starting in Europe to the US, the taxes and fees are ~$290 in all three cabins!   

For some strange reason, you are charged lower taxes and fees if you break your roundtrip …

…into TWO one-way awards.  One from the US to Europe for $431 in fees in business class.

FindLufthansaAward

$431 in Taxes & Fees in Business Class From New York (JFK) to Frankfurt (FRA)

…and the other from Europe back to the US for $295 in taxes and fees in business class.

FindLufthansaAward

$295 in Taxes & Fees in Business Class From Frankfurt (FRA) to New York (JFK)

Compare this to booking a roundtrip on the SAME flights which costs $980 in taxes & fees, or $254 MORE than booking two 1-way awards for $726 ($431 + $295)!

FindLufthansaAward

Booking a Round Trip (Instead of two 1-Ways) Costs You $254 MORE in Business Class from New York (JFK) to Frankfurt (FRA)

Note that you give up your two stopovers if you book two 1-ways instead of one roundtrip award.

Bonus:  No Fuel Surcharges From Brazil

There are fuel surcharges for flights leaving from Brazil.

But you get charged the Three-Region award price of 100,000 miles in coach for traveling to Europe via Brazil.

But if you want to see Brazil and Europe it’s really not a bad deal as you can at least save the fuel surcharges on two out of 3 segments.

I’ll break it down using this picture.

LufthansaFuelSurcharge

No Fuel Surcharges for Flights From Brazil

Segment 1 - This flight from the US to South America has NO fuel surcharges if you’re flying on United, TACA or Avianca.

Segment 2 - This flight has no fuel surcharges if you’re departing from Brazil. It’s the law.

Segment 3 - This segment will have fuel surcharges on most airlines. But you can fly on Polish LOT or Ethiopian Air for lower fuel surcharges.

There are also some unexpected routes to Europe not by European or Brazilian airlines.  For example. you can fly on Air China from Sao Paulo (GRU) to Madrid (MAD). And you can also fly on Singapore Airlines from Sao Paulo (GRU) to Barcelona (BCN).

From Sao Paulo (GRU) you can fly to:

  • Frankfurt (FRA) and Munich (MUC) on Lufthansa
  • Istanbul (IST) on Turkish
  • Lisbon (LIS), Porto (OPO) on TAP
  • Zurich (ZRH) on Swiss
  • Barcelona (BCN) on Singapore Airlines
  • Madrid (MAD) on Air China

From Rio De Janeiro (GIG) you can fly to:

  • Frankfurt (FRA) on Lufthansa.
  • Lisbon (LIS), Porto (OPO) on TAP

TAP, which is based out of Lisbon (LIS) also flies to Brasilia (BSB), Fortaleza (FOR), Belo Horizonte (CNF), Salvador (SSA), Recife (REC) and Porto Alegre (POA) in Brazil.

You can also book this as a series of 1-ways for 95,000 miles in coach.

And you could do something similar for to travel from the US to Africa via South America.

Bottom Line

Lufthansa does charge fuel surcharges on their flights and many of their partner airlines.  But there are ways to pay NO or LOW fuel surcharges on Lufthansa flights.

These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

36 Responses to Using Lufthansa Miles: Part 8 – How to Avoid High Fuel Surcharges

  1. Thanks for the summary. I may have missed it, but what about the fuel surcharges on Thai Airways

  2. tassojunior

    Unfortunately US will be out before year’s end.

  3. Looks nice. But once and for all, did you write this document?

  4. Must say i’m over the all the Lufthansa coverage. Would like to see you getting back to more variety. But I appreciate all you do Dariaus

  5. Great series, D – thanks for all the wonderful info. I don’t get some of the hate on whether you wrote these articles or not – you still sunk a lot of time to research all this info in order to present it to us in a very neat way that saves us the hours of researching different forums from different websites (I’m looking at you FT). The added examples and illustrations are also great and make it easy for a newbie like me to understand.

    I applied for the card (through your link) as I was running a few apps today and was pleasantly surprised to get instant approval since I had a few inquiries on my account from previous applications this past month. Got the Southwest Premier and Amex SPG cards today as well and I think I’m finally done applying. Next round – the wife! =)

  6. If I recall correctly, Air New Zealand also does SFO-AKL, YVR-AKL and LAX-LHR from North America. Whether there is availability or not is another thing, however.

  7. what about fuel surcharge on jet airways?

  8. @David – Oops, I missed that! It is ~$400 for a roundtrip from Los Angeles to Seoul and back on Thai Airways.

    @VAUGHN – Thanks for the feedback. What type of topics would you like to see?

    @Gabe – Thanks for your kind words and for using our links! Instant approval from Barclays is always nice.

    @Joel – Thanks!

    @ivan – About $600 roundtrip in coach from Newark to Brussels to India.

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  10. I think you make a mistake with YQ on UA.
    You looked to LHR which is a wrong example for a general YQ calculation.
    Try it to any other European city and you’ll be surprised. Its the same as US Airways.

  11. @meshugener – I checked for flights to other European cities and there is still YQ on United.

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  17. Hi Daraius,
    thanks a lot for this writing this up, this helps me a lot!!!

    I still have some questions.
    I live in Germany, have a m&m creditcard, have around 40k on m&m and I’m going to buy some more miles through some other loyalty program since they have a nice offer to get cheap miles right now :)

    But as you described in your article, LH has a huge YQ on award tickets, no no use for using miles on LH. Like a FRA-SEA trip costs more than a cash ticket for that route on other airlines…

    As you described we can redeem m&m miles on US and have no YQ.
    tassojunior said: “Unfortunately US will be out before year’s end.”
    Does that mean US changed their rule or something about YQ on mm award tickets?
    It would be a shame to buy a lot of miles now and not being able to use them in the next year or two for award tickets with almost no YQ.

    Basically I still want to collect miles with my ccard and buy more miles and use them at some point in the future but don’t want to pay the high YQ so I’d like to know if that is still possible in 2014 for ex Germany or not. Thanks a lot!

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  20. What are the fees from the mainland to Hawaii on UAL or USair?

  21. @aqua – Tassojunior was referring to the possibility that US air and American Airlines would merge, and US Air would leave the Star Alliance, so you couldn’t use Lufthansa miles for flights on US Air. It is going to be very tough to avoid YQ when using LH miles from Germany.

    @ Seth – There are no extra fees, so it should be what you see on the US Air or United website.

  22. Hi Darius,
    thanks again for the reply!
    I bought 32k m&m miles for 200€, so I’ll have around 70k, I’ll see what I can do with them ;)

    I couldnt really find any award relating news about the merger. I mean UA is *A, too, so if they merge, will US become a part of UA or will they create a totally new label with totally different fees?

  23. Nat Radhakrishnan

    The award booking link now accepts only cities where LH flies and throws up ONLY LH options! (and not UA,CO,SQ etc!). Has there been a change in the recent times? For example, if I try Bengaluru (BLR) – NYC, I get only a LH (BLR-FRA) + (FRA-EWR/NYC) and NO UA options in the FRA-EWR sector (UA does not fly BLR-FRA – but has a codeshare with LH)

  24. @aqua – US Air will become part of Oneworld once they merge with American Airlines.

    @Nat Radhakrishnan – Lufthansa always showed you options on their flights and not on partner airlines. You have to search manually for other airlines and then call Lufthansa to book.

  25. Yeah, I got some things wrong, sorry for the confusion.

    Another question. Can I see the full availability of *A on kvs that m&m has access to or do the m&m phone agents have a bigger availability than listed on kvs?

  26. Great stuff and very helpful as I will be traveling to North- and South-America departing from SE-Asia in 2014 and have 140K miles to burn (the return flight I already booked on Malaysia Airlines during their recent Promo, which cost me just 35K Miles for business cabin from LAX to KUL). But a lot of things will change soon or have already changed, so it would be wonderful to get some of the information updated. TAM and US AIR can be erased from the content, and on the other hand I am missing that great though usually very expensive little Airline COPA, which offers a plethora of connections within Central and South America as well as some destinations in the US. some more Info on routes to Asia (not the least sought-after destination for Americans, me thinks) on the likes of THAI or SIA would be nice as well…… Thank you {~_~}

  27. @aqua – In my experience M&M has slightly more Singapore Airlines awards available.

    @Wolf – Thanks for the update. I will remove the US Air mention once US Air leaves the Star Alliance.

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  32. Hello, I have a miles and more credit card with around 62000 miles on it! But to avoid the fuelsurcharge i called United to try to book my reward flight but was informed i had to book trough Lufthansa wich in return she told me even tough if i choose the united flight i would have to pay for the lufthansa fuelsurcharge!? I am confused how can i really avoid these outragious fuelcharges! Thanks Simone

  33. @Simone,
    have you even read any part of this threat at all?
    There are always fuel surcharges with United flights when booking through miles and more (Lufthansa) and you simply cant avoid them.

    The only way to not pay fuel surcharges is to spend your miles on U.S. / Canada domestic flights, thats all you can do to avoid high fees.

    Get yourself a United account or another Star Alliance partner account and collect miles on that.

  34. “Air New Zealand only has two routes from and to North America.”

    Not true. There is a AKL-LAX flight that continues onwards to LHR. So there three direct flights out of LAX on NZ: AKL, RAR & LHR.

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