Using Lufthansa Miles: Part 4 – Award Pricing Rules

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Using Lufthansa Miles:  Part 4 – Award Pricing Rules

Million Mile SecretsUsing Lufthansa Miles:  Part 4 – Award Pricing RulesMillion 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.

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, Chase 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.

RedeemLufthansaMiles
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!

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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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Unfortunately, it is not accurate to say that the price you pay in taxes is still less than what you’d pay for a flight. I have the Barclay Miles & More card. I signed up because of the great bonus incentive to earn 50,000 miles plus I loved the Lufthansa flights I went on several years ago. My husband and I worked diligently to accumulate 100,000 miles to get us both roundtrip flights to Europe. We incurred extra fees to pay all our bills with a credit card. We finally reached our goal and began planning our Eurotrip. Except…the taxes where costing us $750 per person. I did a simple search and found flights on Expedia for $650 per person and, you guessed it, we booked the Expedia option. Nine months later we still have our 100,000+ miles sitting there because we have not been able to find a way to make all of our expenditure worth it. We didn’t work on our Miles & More balance for a year just so we can pay MORE to go to Europe. We’ve even tried looking into domestic destinations for lower taxes but the availability is just not there. The Miles & More card has proven to be a huge disappointment for us and we are booking a trip this summer so we can close the account and move on with our lives before the next annual fee of $95. Of course, its a challenge to find a vacation that we aren’t paying more for by redeeming our miles. I urge others to learn from our mistake. Unless you MUST fly Lufthansa, this card really is not a winner.

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?

@ 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.

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

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

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