Lufthansa is the largest airline in Germany and one of the largest in Europe. Their rewards program, miles & more has been around for decades and grown to one of the broadest programs in the industry. It was one of the first airline programs I joined when I started to fly on business, I was an active member for many years, earning high status with them, and still am ( a much less active) member today. Read on to see if it makes sense for you to join Miles & more and what to expect!
Reach – how far will it take me? Lufthansa serves 212 destinations around the world and the subsidiaries Austrian, Swiss and Eurowings serve many more! Add to that more than 1,000 destinations of StarAlliance partner carriers and other partner airlines and the miles & more program can take you to most places around the world! Find out all the Lufthansa Facts & Figures!
Earning – what do I have to do to earn points? Did I mention that miles & more is a well established and broad program? There are lots of options to earn miles, so many that it’s hard to keep track of!
On domestic flights within Germany and on European flights, you earn fixed miles between 125 and 2,000 miles, depending on the cabin and fare class according to the table below:
Many of the low-cost tickets you’ll see online fall into the lowest fare categories, so you won’t earn a whole lot of miles. But, as most of these flights are short-haul, I consider the fixed amounts still a good deal.
On long-haul flights to non-European destinations, you earn flights based on distance flown, combines with a factor based on cabin and fare class. You will earn between 25% of the distance flown on the cheapest economy class ticket to 300% on First Class tickets! There is also a minimum amount of miles for short distances, applicable mostly to flights to North Africa or the Middle East.
Similar to other StarAlliance reward programs, you also earn miles on partner flights and they vary with each airline, so you’ll have to check how much you will get each time. The table below includes the earnings for Lufthansa (LH), United Airlines (UA) and All Nippon Air (ANA):
It’s notable that the earn rates stretch further than for competitors: They start at a very low 25% for discount Economy fares (Thai 50%, ANA 30%) and stretch to a very generous 300% for First Class tickets (Thai, ANA 150%). Lufthansa is certainly focusing on rewarding their high-paying premium customers, with very little reward for discount passengers!
Similar to the reward programs of most full-service airlines, you can also earn miles with a range of hotel and rental car companies. Interestingly, in addition to earning a fixed 500 miles per stay or 1-2 mile/$ spent, you can actually book the hotels straight through the miles and more website, showing you the miles you’ll earn for your stay, including any promotion that is currently available! That’s a great tool, as it is almost impossible to keep track of the various partner promotions going on, making it easier to maximize your miles, when you don’t care too much at which hotel you stay!
You can add miles to your account with a credit card. But while most airlines have one or two cards in their home country, Lufthansa offers the opportunity to earn miles with a staggering 52 debit and credit cards in 22 countries! I’d consider that the single biggest differentiator for anybody not living in Germany when considering a frequent flier program: Especially not-so-frequent fliers can earn extra points with cards and even prevent their miles from expiring.
Add to that a seemingly endless list of opportunities to earn miles with finance and insurance products, magazine subscriptions and books, telecommunication and electronics, shopping and lifestyle, and even taxis and soccer clubs, and Lufthansa miles & more is one of the few programs in the world that you can still choose as your one and only rewards program, consolidating all your miles in one place. While that is not a choice I’ve made or would made myself, it might work for some people living in Germany with infrequent travel habits.
Redeeming – what do I get for my miles? Compared to the complexity of earning miles, the redemption for tickets is rather easy. You have one table for Lufthansa AND StarAlliance partner flights, based on region and cabin class. Rather than charging more for partner airlines, you pay the same for any flights – maybe a sign of confidence in their own product? The redemption rates are changing effective September 15th, 2016, so you can see the new table below. You can find the old table for redemption between now and September here!
There are some “special cases” to be aware off: Lufthansa uses a three-region ticket, when your award flight touches three regions. This can be an expensive connection on certain routes. For example, most StarAlliance flights between North America and South-East Asia connect in Japan, Korea, Taiwan or China – which are a different region, increasing those awards from a reasonable 135,000 miles for Business Class to a much less competitive 185,000 miles!
Lufthansa has introduced FlySmart awards at reduced prices when booked online between 2 weeks and 2 days prior to departure. They are only available for a core-group of Lufthansa subsidiaries and partners. Lufthansa also promotes reduced award rates on a regular basis, so if your travel plans are flexible, it makes sense to wait for those to save some miles! And if you have a bigger trip in mind, you can book an Around-the-World award with StarAlliance as well! Another refreshing detail is that Lufthansa promises to always have an award table available online and to notify of changes 3 months prior to them taking effect – a best practice US carriers, like Delta, should follow, instead of hiding their award information and trying to sneak in changes without telling anybody! Transparency is something I value with reward programs and Lufthansa earns some extra points with this!
Because of these specialties and promotions, it makes sense to use the mileage calculator on the Lufthansa website for the accurate reward price before making plans. It is difficult to compare programs and each has its sweet spots that may work for you or not. Some of my frequently flown routes between the US and Europe, US and Asia and Europe and Asia are cheaper on Lufthansa than United, when carefully planned. This is especially true when you want to fly premium carriers like Lufthansa or Singapore Airlines, where United charges exorbitant rates.
One of the downsides of miles & more is that only a handful of carriers can be booked online, the rest has to be booked via a call center. Another, more important one, is the fact that Lufthansa charges fuel surcharges on their award tickets, resulting in fairly steep cash payments in addition to the miles needed. This can make it less attractive than United’s program, but is comparable to other European programs like Air Berlin or British Airways. They vary by route and cabin class, so plan carefully. InsiderTip: Flights originating in Europe have lower charges than flights originating in the US, so careful planning of your ticket buying can save you a lot of money. This is especially interesting, now that you can book one way tickets on discount carriers across the North Atlantic, like Norwegian Air!
My standing recommendation across all airline rewards programs is to use your miles for flights, especially premium cabins, rather than award partners – they are in general better value for your miles. That is true for Lufthansa as well: While you can book hotels using miles right on the website, the value you get is terrible. On a sample check I made, a $33/night hotel cost 12,000 miles – or a value of only 0.275 cents/mile. I value airline miles at about 1.5 cents/mile and you can get even more for premium cabin tickets!
You can also throw away use your miles for car rentals, gift cards or shopping, but I’d only do that as a last resort for expiring miles. Which brings me to one of the least attractive features of the Lufthansa program: Miles expire 36 months after earning them, regardless of activity. The expiration does not apply to elite members or credit card holders (with conditions), but is generally not something I want to see in a reward program. Singapore Airlines’ KrisFlyer program does the same, United Airlines’ MileagePlus does not!
Status – what perks will I get? Lufthansa has some great features to earn and redeem miles, but the perks of elite status for frequent fliers are pretty limited compared to the US carriers. The miles & more program has the basic tier for signing up, a “Frequent Traveler” tier (equivalent to StarAlliance Silver) after 35,000 miles or 30 flights, Senator (StarAlliance Gold) after 100,000 miles and HON Circle after a stunning 600,000 miles in two consecutive years. That makes it much harder to earn StarAlliance Silver or Gold than with most other alliance programs and an average of 300,000 miles per year for HON circle is harder than United’s Global Service or Singapore Airlines PPS. Unfortunately, after flying so much for earning status, you don’t get a whole lot. Silver gets you access to Business Class check-in and the most basic Business Class lounges and 25% more miles, but no additional luggage or priority screening. Senator or Gold gets you 2 eVouchers for upgrades and 1 piece or 20kg of extra luggage as well as access to the slightly better Senator lounges and First Class check in. You also get better award ticket availability, although I don’t have data to define how much better. As a top-tier HON Circle customer, you get access to First class check-in and lounges, as well as the famous First Class Terminal in Frankfurt with the Porsche car transport to your plane. You’ll also be pampered with personal attention for any requests you might have and Lufthansa does a great job pampering their first class passengers. You’ll also get 6 eVouchers, but still only earn 25% extra miles.
Oddly, Lufthansa has introduced Status Stars, based on how long you have held elite status with the airline, reaching 5 stars after 69 years (!!) as Frequent Traveler or 23 years as HON Circle member. They are displayed on your card, but I’m not sure what they’ll actually get you, other than the feeling of being special!
All in all, those perks pale in comparison to what the US airlines offer, especially with the top-tier programs like Global Service at United, despite many cutbacks over the years. I was “Senator” for years, and while Lufthansa treated me well, it never felt special. I didn’t realize the types of perks available, until I earned top-tier status with United many years later. It’s interesting that the premium airlines like Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines are much more egalitarian and provide very good service to everybody, with little distinction for frequent fliers, while the US carriers pretty much treat their regular customers like cattle – and shower their frequent fliers with perks and benefits! While I in general like the LH and SQ model of providing better service in general, I don’t really understand the rationale for NOT going above and beyond for premium cabin and elite passengers – it would make the choice of airline and reward program much easier!
Conclusion: The Lufthansa miles & more program is one of the most comprehensive rewards programs out there, with countless options to earn and redeem miles. If you are living in Germany, Austria or Switzerland, and fly even infrequently, you probably should consider signing up to earn and burn miles. What makes it interesting beyond that market is the fact that Lufthansa has a huge number of international destinations, and through its central location in Europe and many subsidiaries and partners, an interesting airline for people in other countries as well. Add to that the availability of credit cards in 22 countries, and Lufthansa is an attractive program to a much larger group of customers. If you live in Europe, have access to a Lufthansa credit card and the LH hubs in central Europe work for your travel plans, miles & more should be on your list.
Given the generous earn rates for business class tickets, miles & more could even be an alternative to US residents with frequent business trips to Europe, who want to avoid the US revenue based earning at StarAlliance partner United.
If you fly very infrequently and are not in the “core countries”, the miles & more program is much less interesting. The expiration of miles after 36 years makes it difficult to keep track off and requires you to earn enough miles in 3 years for a redemption, so it’s not worth signing up if you only fly once in awhile!