Guide to using Lufthansa miles
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For a relatively obscure loyalty program, Lufthansa is very interesting. With two stopovers and two open jaws allowed on international round-trip flights, you can turn your annual vacation into a visit to three or more cities!
However, they also pass along crippling fuel surcharges when flying on many of their airline partners. My advice is to learn about both sides of Lufthansa in order to use your miles just for the incredible benefits.
This post will start with the basics (pricing, routings rules, fuel surcharges), and then go into some best uses and incredible “hopper” type deals.
Luckily I started this post a few days ago, and am now finishing it after the Lufthansa 50,000 mile card is back. I figured it would be back sooner or later, as it seems to come and go. I think this is an undervalued card, and I’ll explain why.
What to know when booking Lufthansa
Lufthansa Award Chart
Lufthansa last changed its award chart as recently as mid-2019. Here are the current award prices for round-trip flights – just divide the number by two for one-ways.
Lufthansa routing rules
- Stopovers can only be applied to international/multiple-region roundtrip awards
- One stopover is allowed per direction
- Two open-jaws allowed per round-trip
- Stopover is not allowed in region of departure
- Traveling through a third region increases the price
Three regions = 100,000 miles
Lufthansa is pretty lenient in their routing rules, but they charge more when you stop in a third region. When I say “region,” I mean any of the 11 areas mentioned in the above award chart. Stick to two of them, and you won’t notice a price change.
This is pretty annoying when you’re trying to get places that would be hard to go without transit through another region. For example, you might not get many nonstop routes to South East Asia, and you’ll likely have a connection in China or Japan. This would make the price jump from 80,000 miles to the higher three-region price of 100,000 miles. From what I understand, one solution for getting to South East Asia would be to pick a flight that’s coded as one flight but lays over in another country.
This is more annoying for South America. Lufthansa considers “South America” as one region. If you want to fly to anywhere in South America from the U.S., you’ll pay 60,000 miles round-trip in coach. While that’s a really, really awful price to visit many of the northern countries (like Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, etc.), it would be a decent price for the lower countries, like Chile or Argentina.
The three-region pricing here could be annoying given that one big hub for reaching much of South America is Panama City (via Copa) which is technically Central America. Thus, you can’t use Central America for layovers or stopovers. That 60,000-mile round-trip magically turns into 100,000 miles if the plane touches down in Central America. Get it?
Using Lufthansa miles would be a lot easier if it weren’t for all the fuel surcharges. They can reach $600+ just for a trip to Europe, especially using them to fly on Lufthansa.
Basically, all Star Alliance airlines have fuel surcharges except flights within the Americas and Air New Zealand. But the fuel surcharges seem to be the highest on the European airlines.
Given that you should never pay fuel surcharges (we collect miles to fly on the cheap, after all), let’s get into the best uses of Lufthansa miles.
Best ways to use Lufthansa miles
All flights to the Caribbean and Central America are 35,000 miles. Luckily, they consider both one region. Lufthansa considers the destination as the point that’s furthest away, though that doesn’t always really matter.
For example, if Panama City is your destination you could have a stopover on the way there, and one the way back, looking something like this:
- Start: your home airport (or a nearby airport with available award seats)
- Stopover: Caribbean island/Central America
- Destination: Panama City
- Stopover: Caribbean island/Central America
There are all kinds of examples you could make from this, like: U.S. – Puerto Rico – Panama City – Trinidad – U.S.
You could switch out Puerto Rico or Trinidad with anything on the way, really. And I use the term “on the way” loosely, as Puerto Rico would probably add a lot of mileage to any route. The concept is what matters. Add a stopover on the way to — and on the way back from — Panama City.
Total: 35,000 miles round-trip in coach, no fuel surcharges, three destinations.
South American hopper
Pick one furthest point, say Santiago in Chile. With each direction, you can have a stopover to and from Santiago. So you could stop in Lima on the way, and in Bogota, Colombia, on the way back.
If you’re traveling to southern South America anyway, like Chile, Argentina, Brazil, etc., you’ll likely be spending around 60,000 miles regardless of the airline currency you choose. Lufthansa charges 60,000 miles, as well – but factor in the two stopovers, and this is a great deal. You won’t pay fuel surcharges, either.
Remember — South America is one region, and Central America/Caribbean is a different region. You can’t stopover in Central America on the way, or it will make the ticket the more expensive “three region” pricing of 100,000 miles.
Total: 60,000 miles, no fuel surcharges, three destinations.
Air New Zealand to Oceania/Australia/New Zealand
The problem with Air New Zealand across the Pacific is that there’s rarely any availability. This is true with most alliances across the pacific – it’s just tough — but Air New Zealand is really bad.
If you can find it, round-trip tickets from the U.S. are 80,000 for economy and 142,000 for business class. That’s pretty competitive, and you still get stopovers. Plus, Air New Zealand is fantastic (again, when you can find seats!).
One way to use a stopover is “on the way” to Fiji or Rarotonga. But I’m not going to dwell on it because the availability is so bad.
Total: 80,000 miles round-trip in coach, no fuel surcharges, and seeing New Zealand and somewhere in Oceania.
The trans-pacific hopper for 40,000 miles
A round-trip to Oceania is 80,000 miles. But a round-trip to Hawaii is 40,000 miles, and a round-trip from Hawaii to Oceania is 40,000 miles. So why not book it in two tickets and double the stopovers?
Let’s start with the ticket from Hawaii and fly on United to Micronesia. Here’s an interesting route:
- Start in Hawaii
- Stopover in Guam
- Destination in Palau
- Stopover in Yap
- Return to Hawaii
These are incredible islands — it would be a fantastic far-flung treat for only 40,000 miles (again, starting in Hawaii).
I haven’t called to check what fuel surcharges would cost on this route, but they should be low or nonexistent. Lufthansa’s partner, United, serves all these locations.
The best uses of Lufthansa miles are ones without fuel surcharges. Round-trips to Europe for 50,000 miles is tempting, but the fuel surcharges deter me.
- Flights to the Caribbean/Central America for 35,000 miles with two stopovers
- Flights to South America for 60,000 miles with two stopovers
- Flights to Oceania on Air New Zealand for 80,000 miles with stopovers
- The Trans-Pacific Hopper for 40,000 miles
These are all amazing ways to burn Lufthansa miles. While they might not be the best for a trip to Africa, surely you could use a trip to the Caribbean??
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