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

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

Million Mile SecretsUsing Lufthansa Miles:  Part 8 – How to Avoid High Fuel SurchargesMillion Mile Secrets Team

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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.

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.

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.


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.

Sample Roundtrip Route
Lufthansa Fuel Surcharges (Coach)
Air New Zealand
Los Angeles (LAX) to Auckland (AKL)
AviancaNew York (JFK) to Bogota (BOG)$0
Polish LOTNew York (JFK) to Warsaw (WAW)
TACAToronto (YYZ) to Mexico (MEX)$0
United Flights Within North & South AmericaWashington (IAD) to Sao Paulo (GIG)
  • 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.


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

United Route Map From North America to South America

United flies to these South American Destinations.

No Fuel Surcharges on United Flights to South America

United flies to these Central American destinations.

No Fuel Surcharges on United Flights to Central America

United flies to these Caribbean destinations

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.

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.

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.

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.


  • 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).


  • 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.

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

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

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

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.

$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.

$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)!

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.

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.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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Can you travel one way on a star alliance award ticket (ex: JFK-TPE on EVA AIR) using your Miles and More Points? thank you.

“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.


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.

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

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 {~_~}

Million Mile Secrets

@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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