Best Use of Lufthansa Miles

Lufthansa is incredibly interesting in some areas and incredibly touchy in others. For example Lufthansa allows two stopovers, which is a huge bonus, but they have huge fuel surcharges on many of their partners. My advice is to learn about both sides of Lufthansa in order to use your miles just for the incredible benefits – like booking cheap international tickets with 2 stopovers and without fuel surcharges.

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.

 

Lufthansa Award Chart

Their award chart looks something like this

 

Europe for 50,000 miles roundtrip

One thing that this doesn’t show is the benefit for us US citizens of being able to book a roundtrip to Europe for 50,000 miles. This is year round and it’s a pretty darn good deal. But you have to start in the US in order to get the 50,000 mile price. This is one of the most competitive prices.

 

Mileage Bargain

Mileage Bargain is a sale on Miles & More member airlines (like Lufthansa, Swiss, and Austria), where prices are frequently discounted to 50%. This is amazing if you can get a roundtrip to Europe for 30,000 miles. However, the trans-atlantic flights have huge fuel surcharges and thus I’ve never justified it, because you actually have to fly Lufthansa on Mileage Bargain sales, and not just their partners. However intra-Europe flights could still be reasonable.

 

Lufthansa Routing Rules

Lufthansa Stopover rules

  • 2 stopovers & 2 open-jaws allowed on a roundtrip
  • Stopovers can only be applied to international/multiple-region roundtrip awards
  • One stopover is allowed per direction
  • Stopover is not allowed in region of departure
  • Traveling through a third region increases the price to 100k/185k/190k for rountrips
  • Number of segments are limited
    •  1 region = 4 segments per roundtrip
    • 2 regions = 6 segments per roundtrip
    • 3 regions = 8 segments per roundtrip
  • Everything is half for oneways (segments and the price)

 

3 regions = 100,000 miles

Lufthansa is pretty lenient in their routing rules, but they just charge more when you stop in a third region. This is pretty annoying when you’re trying to get places that would be hard to go without transit through another region.

Like you might not get many routes to SE Asia direct, and you’ll likely have to layover in China or Japan. This would make the price jump from 80,000 miles to the higher 3 region price – 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.

But this is more annoying for South America. Recently I wrote about the Cheapest Miles to South America and mentioned that Lufthansa considers “South America” as one region and while being a really bad price to what most award charts would consider “northern South America”, it would be a decent price for the lower part, like Chile or Argentina. The three region pricing here could be annoying given that one big hub for getting to 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.

 

Fuel Surcharges

Using Lufthansa miles would be a lot easier if it weren’t for the darn fuel surcharges. They can be $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 highest on the European airlines.

So given that I will never pay fuel surcharges, let me get into the best uses keeping that in mind.

 

Caribbean Hopper

All flights to the Caribbean and Central America are 35,000 miles. Luckily they consider both one region. If you’re familiar with the Caribbean Hopper with United miles that I wrote, then you follow the same logic… nearly. The difference is that Lufthansa considers the destination as the point that’s furthest away. And you can use a stopover once per direction.

In this case I’d recommend making Panama City your destination and having a stopover on the way there, and on the way back. Like this:

  • Start: Your home town in the USA
  • Stopover: Caribbean island/Central America
  • Destination: Panama City
  • Stopover: Caribbean island/Central America

There are all kinds of examples you could make from this. US – Puerto Rico – Panama City – St Maarten – US.

You could switch out Puerto Rico or St Martin 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. Point is, the concept is what matters. Stopover on the way to and the way back from Panama City.

Total of 35,000 miles, no fuel surcharges, 3 destinations.

 

South American Hopper

I’ve never done a route like this but you could do a similar route, but just within South America.

Pick one furthest point, say Santiago in Chile. Then each direction you can have a stopover to and from Santiago. So you could stopover in Lima on the way, and one in Bogota, Colombia on the way back.

If you’re traveling to southern South America anyways, like Chile, Argentina, often Brazil and a few others, then 60,000 is a reasonable price anyways. Plus two stopovers is great, and not having fuel surcharges is a great use of Lufthansa miles.

But 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 of 60,000 miles, no fuel surcharges, 3 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, as it’s just tough, but Air New Zealand is really bad.

But if you can find it, tickets from the US are 80,000 for economy and 135,000 for business class, both roundtrip. That’s pretty competitive and you still get stopovers. Plus, Air New Zealand is fantastic (when you find the seats).

If the option comes and you have the miles, definitely consider this trip.

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.

Price of 80k/135k, no fuel surcharges and seeing New Zealand and somewhere in Oceania.

 

The Trans-Pacific Hopper for 40,000 miles

The Lufthansa Trans-Pacific Hopper is one of the crazier/more ridiculous posts I’ve written but I’ll try to keep it to a realistic example.

What I noticed is that a roundtrip to Oceania is 80,000 miles. But A roundtrip to Hawaii is 40,000, and a roundtrip from Hawaii to Oceania is 40,000 miles. So why not book it in two tickets and double the stopovers?

But let’s just start with the ticket from Hawaii and fly on United to Micronesia. This is what I’m most interested in.

  • Start in Hawaii
  • Stopover in Guam
  • Destination in Palau
  • Stopover in Yap
  • Return to Hawaii

These are incredible islands; it would be an incredible farflung treat, that’s only 40,000 miles if you start in Hawaii. Amazing.

And what’s crazier is that United has a flight from Hawaii to Guam that stops in a ton of islands on the way, which I mention in the post.

The crazier of trips, but a fun one no doubt.

The only thing I’m unsure about is what the fuel surcharges would be on such a route. I haven’t called to check. Maybe I will if I get another card soon.

 

Conclusion

The best uses are ones without fuel surcharges. Roundtrips to Europe for 50,000 miles is tempting, but the fuel surcharges deter me.

  • Domestic flights for 25,000 miles.
  • Flights to the Caribbean/central america for 35,000 miles with 2 stopovers
  • Flights to South America for 60,000 miles with 2 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 uses. While Lufthansa miles might not be the best for a trip to Africa, surely you could use a trip to the Caribbean?

 

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19 Comments

  1. Air New Zealand availability really is terrible. What recommendations would you have for getting there on points?

    Reply
    • The best routes to New Zealand are using American miles:

      Air Tahiti Nui via Papeete (which is often wide open)
      Qantas via Australia (which is out of the way, but has decent availability)
      Fiji Airways

      Reply
    • What’s the best way to search for those airlines award availability? How are premium class awards in terms of availbility usually?

      Reply
    • Lots of people claim that Delta miles (I know, right?) are actually the best, as they have access to all the Virgin Australia inventory. Of course, that works with Virgin Atlantic or Virgin America miles as well, as there are no fees when flying Virgin Australia on any of those.

      Reply
  2. Does Lufthansa still allow “all-domestic” business class roundtrips for 35k? Split as 2 one ways that’s 17k for two transcontinental legs in UA’s business class, which is, I think, the cheapest price for TATL business.

    Reply
  3. Their change rules are extremely restrictive. A change that would have been simple with UA/AA turned out to be impossible with M&M. I encourage everyone to read this: http://goo.gl/4xqYMD

    Reply
  4. When you say there are no fuel surcharges in the Americas, does that include flights on Air Canada? Because that would make M&M cheaper for AC metal than Aeroplan or UA MileagePlus.

    Reply
  5. Drew,
    Excellent writeup but your information is outdated. They stopped round down a few months ago. They charge 12,5 etc. and not 12k.
    I booked a few awards over the last few months out of at least 5 accounts, each time it was 12,5. You can also check the FT forum as well.

    Reply
    • Ivan is correct. They now collect the extra 500 miles and do not round down. I just booked ATL-EWR for July and it was 12,500 + $5.60.

      Reply
  6. Fuel surcharges make me wary, though I like the stopover ideas. I guess I hadn’t been aware before that they would impose “fuel” surcharges on the United flights shown in the Trans-Pacific Hopper. That’s a trip I’m hoping to take within a couple of years, so I’m studying the options for how to do it.

    Reply
  7. Good to see you at Saverocity!

    Reply
  8. I always felt there would be some good value on condor for those in cities where they fly but have not done this yet. Anyone have experience using miles and more with condor?

    Reply
  9. Does Lufthansa pass on YQ for United trans-Atlantic flights? I used ANA miles to fly United to Europe twice last year and never dealt with YQ, but I know that ANA does pass them on for trans-Pacific. Wasn’t sure if Lufthansa might be similar.

    Reply
  10. Hey man – I like your style. Is there a link on how to book these types of awards? Also do you have a cc link for the Luftansa card (for commission purposes)? Thank you.

    Reply
  11. Mileage Bargain on Business have sweet spots. The fuel/tax is around/below $300 for places like IST and MOW, maybe more places. Its ironic, since Moscow has a largest mile discount: 135k to 55k!
    And the smallest taxes on top.

    Reply
  12. Can I book a flight from Newark to Delhi with a stopover in Munich going in and Vienna coming back on Star Alliance miles. What would it cost me in ECON and in BUSINESS class? Which site should I book it on? Or would I be better off doing it with Unite miles?

    Reply
    • Do you mean Lufthansa Miles on star alliance partners?
      Here are the award charts for whatever miles you mean: http://travelisfree.com/2014/12/15/complete-list-of-airline-award-charts/

      If it’s Lufthansa miles, you’re way better off doing it with United miles for a few reasons, but mostly because the fuel surcharges on Lufthansa would be insane.

      Reply
  13. finding these miles painful. no way to extend them from expiration unless you hold the card – even if you have a flight! just tried pricing my buddy out a flight to the nuburgring next year. my miles expand end of day tomorrow. found some united flights so i thought i’d avoid fuel surcharges. ORD-FRA, FRA-ORD, in 2017 on UA. 50k points and $730 for economy. guess what the exact same flights are on google flights? $507. i get that there are different fare buckets and all, but wtf, seriously? it’s not like my ticket is even fully refundable is it? this is just silly.

    Reply

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