When you want to fly a certain airline, you might think the best strategy is to fly and earn miles in that airline’s frequent flyer program. Sometimes, however, being loyal to one particular airline can cost you.
One of the best features of airline loyalty programs is the ability to redeem miles on a partner airline. It often makes sense, because not only do airlines vary widely when it comes to comfort and service, but also in their award levels.
Use Lufthansa Miles for Business Class Travel in the Continental U.S.
United operates a great business class cabin on 757 between New York (Newark) and the West Coast (Los Angeles and San Francisco) with lie-flat seats and good food and service. In addition, United flies an internationally-configured 777, on the same routes. A business class seat on either airplane costs 25,000 United miles for one-way or 50,000 miles for round-trip flights.
Enter Lufthansa Miles and More program. Lufthansa may add hundreds of dollars in fuel surcharges to its own and some partner airlines flights alike. In addition, the Miles and More Award Chart is hardly generous. However, there are exceptions, and if you can use Miles and More to your advantage it can offer a terrific value.
Lufthansa charges 55,000 miles in business per round-trip flight in North America. That’s worse than United own levels. However, for flights within one country, it’s only 35,000 miles. And since you can get a one-way flight for only 50% of miles, a one-way award ticket between New York and Los Angeles or San Francisco would only cost you 17,500 miles. That’s an unbelievable value for a six-hour business class flight, let alone a flight in a lie-flat seat.
The best part is, Lufthansa doesn’t add fuel surcharges to United or other airlines operating in the Americas.
Even for a “regular” domestic business/first class seat, you would end up paying only 5,000 miles over United economy. That makes perfect sense for long routes (or routes with long connecting times, since you will also get access to the lounge).
Use Lufthansa Miles to Travel in Business to Alaska
No flight probably illustrates the idea better than a flight between the East Coast and Alaska. United charges more miles between the Continental U.S. and Alaska, so if an award seat in economy within the Continental U.S. and Canada costs 12,500 miles one-way, a flight between the Continental U.S. and Alaska costs 17,500 United miles. However for the same amount of Lufthansa miles, you can get not an economy, but a business class seat to Alaska. This is one of the top redemptions you can get. Even a non-stop flight between New York and Anchorage lasts 10 hours, and connecting flights obviously take longer.
Utilize Two Free Stopovers and Two Open Jaws
When you fly between two regions (i.e. U.S. and Europe, South America, or others) you can take advantage of the Lufthansa generous stopover rules. The Miles and More program has one of the most liberal stopover policy in the world. You are allowed two free stopovers and two open jaws on a round-trip award ticket. A free stopover allows you to stay for free on route to or from your destination (or both). A free open jaw allows you to fly to one city and continue your journey from another. This is a terrific way to get more travel for the same amount of miles.
Use Lufthansa Miles to Fly to Europe
The mile difference between the United and Lufthansa programs for business class travel to Europe can be considerable since United charges more for booking partners (prices are per round-trip).
The costs for travel between the U.S. and Europe are:
- United: 140,000 miles (on partners)
- Lufthansa: 110,000 miles
If you use Lufthansa miles to Europe, you will have to pay fuel surcharges regardless the airline. Having said that, LOT and Turkish have reasonably low fuel surcharges, and Turkish has an excellent business class product and a fantastic lounge at Istanbul airport. A fuel surcharge is never a good thing, but it might be money well-spent, especially if you are interested in visiting more places with free stopovers.
Use Lufthansa Miles to Travel in Business to Asia, Australia and New Zealand
United charges 140,000 miles to fly round-trip to most parts of Asia in business on its own metal and 160,000 miles on partner airlines. Lufthansa charges 135,000 for the same journey regardless what airline you use. Levels to Australia and New Zealand are the same.
While Lufthansa adds fuel surcharges to most of its Star Alliance partners, there are some exceptions. For example, there are no surcharges for both ANA and Air New Zealand, and since ANA has terrific business class product and extensive network in Asia, you can fly almost anywhere you want and save 25,000 miles. Air New Zealand can take you to New Zealand, Australia, and Fiji in Oceania for example.
Use Lufthansa Miles for First Class Travel on Lufthansa
There are some flights you almost never can get with United miles even if you’re willing to pay massive 110,000 miles for one-way travel. With an exception of last-minute tickets (within a couple weeks before departure), Lufthansa almost never shares its first class award inventory with partners. Which is why if you want to experience a Lufthansa first class transcontinental product, Miles and More might be the only place to go. In addition to an excellent seat, food and service, Lufthansa features a fantastic First Class lounge in Frankfurt that many experienced fliers consider the best airline lounge in the world.
Unfortunately, this ticket comes at a steep price – not only would you dish out 85,000 miles one-way (or 170,000 miles per round-trip or), but also over $400-800 in fuel surcharges and taxes, and fuel surcharges would be the biggest part of the fees.
If you want this experience but dislike an idea of throwing money around, fly one way from Europe to the U.S. rather than the other way around (you could get to Europe on LOT or Turkish.). Flights from Europe have lower surcharges, and you can make them even lower if you choose your departure city strategically. For example, starting from Frankfurt would add about $350 (surcharge and taxes), but if you begin flying in Istanbul or Oslo with a connection in Frankfurt, you’ll pay about $250 or even less. Besides, if you start your travel in Istanbul, you will get to experience two best airport lounges in the world: at the Istanbul and Frankfurt airports.
Where to Get Lufthansa Miles
Aside from actual flying, there are two options for getting Lufthansa miles in the U.S. First is the Barclaycard U.S.-based credit card that features a 30,000-50,000 sign-up bonus, two miles per dollar spent on airline purchases, and two lounge vouchers annually. There is also a “free” Annual Companion ticket, but it’s only available for flying on Lufthansa, so you need to take into account a huge fuel surcharge.
Another option to prop up your Lufthansa account is to transfer points from the Starwood Preferred Guest program (you get a 25% bonus when you transfer 20,000 miles or more). Lufthansa allows you to put the ticket on hold for five days, but transfers are not immediate and can take up to two weeks, so by the time you see the miles in your account, the ticket you’ve been eyeing might be gone. Always try to give yourself more time if you are transferring from SPG.
Collecting and using miles from airlines other than your primary carrier, may seem counterintuitive, but in the age of airline partnerships and alliances, it can make perfect sense depending on your goals.