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Million Mile Secrets reader, Robert M Jones, commented:
I have 60,000 Lufthansa miles. I thought I could transfer them to United Airlines through the Star Alliance, but the Lufthansa website doesn’t offer that option. Do you know of a way to transfer the points?
Thank you for the question, Robert!
It’s NOT possible to transfer Lufthansa miles to United Airlines miles. In fact, you generally can NOT transfer airline miles to another airline.
But, you CAN book award flights on other airlines if they are travel partners.
I’ll explain how it works!
What Are Alliances and Travel Partners?
For example, you can credit your flights on Finnair, Qantas, or Royal Jordanian to American Airlines. That’s because they’re all in the oneworld alliance. So you can pool all of your miles into 1 account (American Airlines).
And, you can use 1 airline’s miles to book flights on another partner airline. For example, reader Robert can use his Lufthansa miles to book United Airlines flights. But he can NOT transfer them to United Airlines.
And he can NOT use his Lufthansa miles to book award flights on American Airlines, because they are NOT part of the same alliance.
Note: You can NOT transfer your airline miles to another airline. And you can NOT combine airline miles from 2 or more different airlines.
Think of It Like This
Each airline’s miles is like a country’s currency. And each FLIGHT can only be purchased with 1 currency. You can NOT mix and match.
So let’s say American Airlines is like US dollars. And British Airways is like British pounds. You can NOT combine the American Airlines “dollars” with the British Airways “pounds.” But…
You CAN use the British Airways “pounds” to buy an American Airlines FLIGHT, paying the rate that’s charged in British Airways “pounds” instead of the rate charged in American Airlines “dollars.” You’ll check the “exchange rate” by looking at the award charts.
In this example, your British Airways “pounds” have a terrific exchange rate when you use them to buy short flights within the United States on American Airlines.
Not every “country” (really, airline) accepts every currency. It depends on their alliance and partnerships.
So for example, Lufthansa (a German airline that’s part of the Star Alliance) WILL accept your United Airlines “dollars” but NOT your American Airlines “dollars.” That’s because United Airlines is in the Star Alliance with Lufthansa while American Airlines is NOT.
Don’t worry, you do NOT have to memorize the alliances! I’ll show you easy-to-read charts below!
Oneworld‘s member in the US is American Airlines.
It includes these global airlines:
|airberlin||American Airlines||British Airways|
|Malaysia Airlines||Qantas||Qatar Airways|
|Royal Jordanian||S7 Airlines||SriLankan Airlines|
One of my favorite uses of American Airlines miles is to book First Class seats on Cathay Pacific. According to the American Airlines partner award chart, it costs 67,500 American Airlines miles to fly First Class between North America and Hong Kong.
Considering these flights can cost thousands of dollars, that’s a fantastic deal!
To find a flight’s award price, use the chart of the miles you’ll be using NOT the airline you’ll actually be flying.
SkyTeam is the alliance that includes Delta in North America, as well as these airlines internationally:
|China Airlines||China Eastern||China Southern|
|Czech Airlines||Delta||Garuda Indonesia|
|Kenya Airways||KLM||Korean Air|
|Middle East Airlines (MEA)||Saudia Airlines||Tarom|
|Vietnam Airlines||Xiamen Air|
Or, you can use Delta miles to book a Business Class award seat on SkyTeam member Korean Air!
3. Star Alliance
Link: Star Alliance Airlines
|Star Alliance Partners|
|Adria Airways||Aegean Airlines||Air Canada|
|Air China||Air India||Air New Zealand|
|Avianca||Avianca Brazil||Brussels Airlines|
|Copa Airlines||Croatia Airlines||Egypt Air|
|Ethiopian Airlines||EVA Air||LOT Polish Airlines|
|Lufthansa||Scandinavian Airlines||Shenzhen Airlines|
|Singapore Airlines||South African Airways||SWISS|
|TAP Portugal||Thai Airways|
|Turkish Airlines||United Airlines|
I’ve written about all the ways to redeem United Airlines to fly all over the world.
You can redeem United Airlines miles (or Lufthansa miles, Air Canada miles, or other Star Alliance partner airlines miles) for a Business Class award seat on Singapore Airlines!
4. Partner Airlines
If an airline is NOT in an alliance, it usually has partner airlines (though there are a few exceptions).
Note: You can NOT transfer miles between partner airlines.
Reader Abby asked if she could transfer her British Airways Avios points to their partner Aer Lingus. She can NOT. But, she can use British Airways Avios points to book an award flight on Aer Lingus.
As another example, you can credit paid flights on airlines including Delta, Emirates, LAN, or Qantas to Alaska Airlines because they are partners even though Alaska Airlines is NOT in any alliance. Then use Alaska Airlines miles for Big Travel!
Before you fly on an unfamiliar airline, check its airline partners (usually on the airline’s website). And credit the miles to your favorite partner!
Then you can use the miles to fly on other partners. For example, you can credit a Delta flight to Alaska Airlines. And then use the Alaska Airlines miles you’ll earn to book an award seat on Emirates.
Partnerships can be just as effective as alliances when it comes to redeeming your miles!
What About Bank Points?
There are 4 transferable points programs that transfer directly to airlines:
Keep in mind that once you transfer your points to airlines, you can NOT transfer them back.
So, you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United Airlines miles. But you can NOT transfer United Airlines miles to Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
This is true for each program with transferable points, and it’s something to keep in mind before you make the transfer.
A Few Possible Scenarios
Here are just a few ways you can use your bank points. They are valuable because they are very flexible, so remember there are many possibilities!
AMEX Membership Rewards
You can transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to Delta to fly on any SkyTeam airline such as:
- Air France to Paris, Lyon, or Nice
- KLM to the Netherlands
- Korean Air to Asia
- And many more!
Chase Ultimate Rewards
You could transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United Airlines to fly on any Star Alliance partner such as:
- Air New Zealand to Australia, New Zealand, South Pacific
- ANA to Japan
- LOT Polish Airlines to Poland
- Lufthansa to Germany
- Singapore Airlines to Singapore (or other cities in Asia)
- And many more!
Citi ThankYou Points
You could transfer Citi ThankYou points to Singapore Airlines to fly on any Star Alliance partner such as United Airlines at discounted Singapore rates such as to Hawaii in Business Class for 60,000 Singapore Airlines miles round-trip!
Starwood has many transfer partners in every alliance. So you can create lots of trips with these flexible points!
- Starwood Points to American Airlines to fly on any oneworld partner such as Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong
- Starwood Points to Alaska Airlines to fly on Emirates
- Starwood Points to Delta to fly on Virgin Australia
Each transfer partner opens many more options for you to use your points!
Be aware that it’s NOT possible to transfer airline miles from 1 airline to another. It’s also NOT possible to combine 2 different types of miles into 1 account.
And in the case of transferable points programs, once you transfer your points to airlines, there’s no way to reverse the transaction.
However, you CAN use an airline’s miles to book an award seat on another airline within the same alliance. oneworld (includes American Airlines), SkyTeam (includes Delta), and Star Alliance (includes United Airlines) are the 3 major alliances.
And, you can book award tickets on an airline’s non-alliance partners.
Any time you use an airline’s miles to book an award seat, you’ll have to follow their award chart – even if you book a flight on an airline partner.
Ken and Abby, I hope this helps! You still have lots of ways to use your miles for award flights, even though you can’t transfer them to another airline.