Lufthansa

We have seen a ton of cheap fares to Europe lately, like the $414 roundtrips to Zurich and Frankfurt at the beginning of the month. Now Star Alliance airlines are also running fantastic sales on roundtrip flights to Europe to keep up with the fare war. You can find fares as low as $425 roundtrip right now between many American cities and Europe.

How to Find the Fares

Use ITA Matrix or Google Flights to do a broad search over this fall and winter– both have calendars functions that will show you the price of a roundtrip depending on the span of your trip. Google flights has a more user friendly interface but you can get a lot more specific with ITA Matrix searches.

There are lots of city pairs with availability between the months of September and December (and a some with dates in early 2017) from the United States to Europe in economy for under $500 roundtrip.

Examples

Atlanta to Istanbul flying Air Canada- $425
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Chicago to Amsterdam flying Lufthansa- $466Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 2.17.45 PM

San Francisco to Istanbul flying United – $425

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Mileage Earning

If you’re flying United, check out my post about where to credit butt in seat miles. And no matter what airline you end up flying, just remember that you can enter your frequent flyer number with any partner instead. All of these cheap fares to Europe are classified in a discounted economy fare bucket so do a little research about which airline is most advantageous to credit miles to considering the fare class.

Best Way to Buy the Ticket

Your top choice should be the Citi Prestige® Card, since it comes with a $250 Air Travel Credit every calendar year that will cover a large portion of this ticket. If you haven’t used the credit yet, buy this fare with your Prestige, and you will receive an offsetting credit on your next statement: a $175 roundtrip to Istanbul or a $216 roundtrip to Amsterdam!

Even if you’ve already used your $250 credit for this year, the card offers 3x on all airfare purchases.

See my review of the Citi Prestige Card which explains its many components like it annual $250 Air Travel Credit, 50,000 point sign up bonus, access to the American Airlines Admirals Clubs and Priority Pass lounges, 3x points per dollar on air travel and hotels, and a $450 annual fee.

Bottom Line

If you’re interested in a trip to Europe, check out these fares now as they won’t last! You can fly roundtrip to Europe from the United States for as little as $425, which in most cases is a better deal than using your miles or points.

Hat tip Secret Flying

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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In light of the news that American Airlines is changing to a revenue-based award earning structure, and the fact that all three major US carriers now use a revenue-based award earning structure, I am writing a series of posts about when and where you should diversify the award miles you earn through paying for airfare. This post is Part 2, and discusses when and to where you should diversify your award earning when flying paid tickets on United flights. 

“When & Where You Should Diversify Revenue Ticket Miles” Series Index

In March of 2015, United switched to a revenue-based award earning structure that is much like the structure American Airlines’ is adopting come this August.  The amount of United miles you earn flying United flights is based on two things: the ticket price less any government imposed taxes or fees, and the elite status you have with the airline.

A revenue-based award earning structure is worse for folks who fly far, cheap tickets and better for people who fly short, expensive tickets. That is, at least, if we’re talking about crediting miles to United MileagePlus. But it is not obligatory to do that–you can enter your frequent flyer number with any United partner instead.

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In your mind, this fact should pose two questions.

  1. When should I choose to credit my award miles to United?
  2. If not United, then who?

I’m going to dive into both questions here to help equip you with the knowledge to make these decisions in the future.

Note that this post is specifically referencing the award miles earned from flying United flights. The amount of United miles you can earn flying a Star Alliance or other partner airline will be based on flight distance and the purchased fare class. See United’s Airline Partners and Global Alliances page for partner-specific information.

When Should I Choose to Credit my Award Miles to United?

The simple answer to this question: Not when you’re buying a cheap economy ticket, but maybe if you’re buying an expensive premium cabin ticket. United’s revenue-based award earning system rewards those who generate more revenue for United, point blank.

The more correct answer to this question is: when the math works out.

The Math

To figure out how many United miles you’ll earn flying their planes, use the following equation:

Status multiplier x (ticket price – government-imposed taxes/fees) = award miles earned

The status multiplier depends on what tier elite status you have with the airline:

  • 5x– MileagePlus member
  • 7x –Premier Silver
  • 8x – Premier Gold
  • 9x – Premier Platinum
  • 11x– Premier 1k

We know the ticket price is how much united.com tells us the flight costs.

But how can we isolate the government-imposed taxes and fees from that price? ITA Matrix. If you’re not familiar with ITA Matrix, here’s how to use it— it will show you the breakdown of a ticket by base fare, fuel surcharges, and government-imposed taxes and fees.

Look at this breakdown of a roundtrip United ticket between Dallas and Paris:

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This is a great example of the kind of cheap revenue ticket readers of this blog would buy, because it’s an example where you might be better off paying for the flight in cash rather than using miles that could be put towards higher value redemptions.

The dollar amounts outlined in the red rectangle are the government-imposed taxes and fees (sum = $129.86). Fuel surcharges are always labeled as either YR and YQ (in this case YQ). Fare 1 and 2 are the base fares in each direction on the roundtrip.

Now we can plug in our equation.

5 x (480.86 – 129.86) = 1,755

So, assuming you are just a normal Mileage Plus member without status, you would earn 1,755 United miles for flying about 9,900 miles on a United plane.

Even if you are a Premier 1k elite, you would only earn 3,861 United miles on this ticket.

But let’s say you purchased a Business Class ticket on the same flight, which costs $6,328.06 (oh yea, now I remember why I collect miles!). Your equation would look like this:

5 x (6,328.06 – 129.86) = 30,991

Then you would certainly want to credit those miles to United, because you cannot beat that crediting to any other partner. It is easy to see how this system rewards those that spend more. But I assume the majority of us will find ourselves with something closer to the first equation’s answer most of the time.

Conclusion

When it comes time for you to make this decision, plug your own numbers in.

When flying a discounted economy ticket:

If you get a number greater than 100% of the distance flown, then stick with collecting United miles. That is the maximum amount of miles you could get crediting to a partner (assuming you don’t have status with any of them.)

If flying a full fare ticket:

If you get a number greater than 150% of the distance flown (if flying economy), greater than 200% of the distance flown (if flying Business) or greater than 300% of the distance flown (flying First Class), than stick with United miles. If not, then credit them to Lufthansa.

Otherwise, read on to see your options for crediting to other partners.

If Not United, Then Who?

Listed below are the award earning structures for some of United’s partners. Loyalty programs that generally lack valuable award redemption opportunities have been left out. What you earn for crediting miles to these airlines is represented by the percentages in the tables below. To figure out the total, you multiply the percentage by the distance flown.

Members of Star Alliance

Copa Airlines

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Read further detailed info about crediting miles to ConnectMiles here.

Asiana Airlines

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Read further detailed info about crediting miles to Asiana Club here.

Singapore Airlines

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Read further detailed info about crediting miles to Krisflyer here.

Avianca 

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Read further detailed info about crediting miles to LifeMiles here.

Air Canada

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Read further detailed info about crediting miles to Aeroplan here.

LufthansaScreen Shot 2016-06-14 at 7.12.39 PM

Read further detailed info about crediting miles to Miles & More here.

All Nipon Airways (ANA)

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Read further detailed info about crediting miles to ANA Mileage Club here.

Conclusion

Not considering any other incentives you might have for wanting to collect a certain kind of mile (like a particular redemption you have in mind, chasing a status, etc.), the best alternative airline to credit miles to when flying United is Singapore. It offers the highest percentages of distance flown, ranging from 100% for even the low economy fares (which are the most common types people like you and I buy) to 150% for First Class. The next best options are Air Canada, Avianca, Asiana, and Copa. Out of those, it depends on whose miles you value more. Click here to read about the top 11 most valuable miles to me.

The other options listed above offer similar ranges of percentages for distance flown, but with lower tiers for discount economy tickets that range from 0 to 50%. So if you’re flying a discounted ticket, like the one from the example in this post that is categorized as fare class “K”, then definitely choose to credit those miles to Singapore.

If your fare class is not one associated with a discounted economy ticket, then credit your miles to Lufthansa. Any full price fare will earn something in the 150% to 300% of distance flown range depending on whether it is full fare economy or First Class– those percentages blow all other partner options out of the water.

Best Card to Buy Airfare With

Your top choice for buying United tickets with should be the Citi Prestige® Card, since it comes with a $250 Air Travel Credit every calendar year that applies to airfare. If you haven’t used the credit yet, buy the fare with your Prestige, and you will receive an offsetting credit on your next statement.

Even if you’ve already used your $250 credit for this year, the card offers 3x on all airfare purchases, which is a higher category bonus than what United’s co-branded cards offer for buying their own plane tickets (2x).

See my review of the Citi Prestige Card which explains its many components like its annual $250 Air Travel Credit, 50,000 point sign up bonus, access to the American Airlines Admirals Clubs and Priority Pass lounges, 3x points per dollar on air travel and hotels, and a $450 annual fee.

Bottom Line

If you’re like me and only spend cash on the cheapest of airfares, then it is very likely you will not want to credit the miles you earn from flying United flights to MileagePlus due to the program’s revenue-based award earning structure. If you haven’t started an account with Singapore Airlines’ frequent flyer program Krisflyer, then do so today. Out of United’s partners, it is probably the most valuable program to funnel your miles into (unless you’re flying a full fare ticket, in which case definitely credit to Lufthansa!)

If you want to jumpstart that Krisflyer miles collection, sign up for cards that earn you Ultimate Rewards–they transfer to Krisflyer miles at a 1:1 rate.

  • Open an Ink Plus card and you can earn 60,000 Ultimate Rewards after spending $5,000 within the first three months of opening the account.
    • While I can not directly link to the Ink Plus, you may find it by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)
  • Open a Sapphire Preferred card and you can earn 50,000 Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 within the first three months of opening the account.
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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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Today (May 11, 2016) is the last day to take advantage of the 30% discount on Virgin Atlantic economy awards that brings the price of an award between select U.S cities and London down to only 12,250 Virgin Atlantic miles and $134.60 in taxes and fuel surcharges.

If you stack that Virgin Atlantic economy sale with the current deal American Express is offering– a 30% transfer bonus of Membership Rewards to Virgin Atlantic through May 31, 2016–then you can book an award to London for only 10,000 Membership Rewards +$134.60!! Book now, but not as a roundtrip.

Why You Shouldn’t Book Awards Departing Britain

It can cost upwards of $300 in departure taxes to leave Europe on an award from London. That is atrocious and can easily be avoided by returning home from a low tax country instead. You can use British Airways Avios or a low cost carrier to get to the low tax country.

Low Tax Countries

I’ve ordered the cities from cheapest to most expensive.

  • Oslo: $31.70
  • Istanbul: $32.50
  • Warsaw: $33.80
  • Stockholm: $36.30
  • Dublin: $39
  • Belfast: $42.20
  • Geneva: $42.90
  • Venice: $43.40
  • Barcelona: $43.50
  • Shannon: $43.60
  • Copenhagen: $43.80
  • Lisbon: $47.40
  • Amsterdam: $48
  • Madrid: $48.40
  • Brussels: $50
  • Milan: $50
  • Zurich: $56.50
  • Rome: $60
  • Hamburg: $82.70
  • Vienna: $87
  • Munich: $94.80
  • Frankfurt: $112.10
  • Berlin: $119.20

Cheapest Award Space From Low Tax Countries in Europe

I searched to find the cheapest award space from Europe to the United States– in economy and in First Class–that you can pair with your Virgin Atlantic Award to London. Depending on whether you want to keep up the savings or treat yourself to something more luxurious on your way home, here are two of the cheapest options doing either:

Dublin, Ireland to Philadelphia – 20,000 Alaska Miles + $54

Spend New Years in Europe and save money on the way home by flying American Airlines economy back to the U.S. from Dublin after the holidays. There are 24 days in January with award space for two people that you can book for only 20,000 Alaska Airlines miles and $54 in taxes per person.Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 6.24.30 PMThe calendar barely changes if you modify the search for up to four people.

If you don’t have Alaska miles, you can also book the same space with Etihad miles for the same price. Both Alaska Mileage Plan and Etihad Guest program maintained the pre-American Airlines devaluation prices between the US and Europe, as well as the prior American Airlines Off Peak dates to Europe. You can fly between the US and Europe for that same price anytime between October 15 and May 15.

If you don’t live in Philadelphia and want to book this with Alaska miles, you can add another leg to get to your hometown without changing the mileage price as long as it’s on American Airlines or Alaska and is economy Saver space. You can also add a leg flying American Airlines to get to your hometown on an Etihad award without changing the mileage price, under the same conditions.

You can search for award space on aa.com or alaskair.com. If using Alaska miles you will need to book on alaskaair.com, and if using Etihad miles you will need to call Etihad Guest at (1 888 8 ETIHAD, available 24/7).

Oslo, Norway to Chicago – 50,000 Asiana Miles + $192.54

Pamper yourself after trotting around Europe with a luxurious Lufthansa First Class flight experience on the way home. You can fly it for 50,000 Asiana miles plus taxes and fuel surcharges that amount to $192.54 between Oslo and Chicago (fuel surcharges are much lower Europe to USA than vice versa on Lufthansa flights.)

Asiana is 1:1 transfer partner of SPG Starpoints.

Getting into Lufthansa First Class is a gimme if you can book at the last minute. Unfortunately Lufthansa doesn’t release its First Class award space to partners until about 15 days before departure, but once it does, space is quite available. If you’re comfortable booking the return last minute, it’s a great deal for First Class.

For example, here is a Lufthansa Business Class award from Oslo to Chicago in about two weeks:

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 8.37.58 PM
$247.60 CAD in taxes/fees = $192.54 USD in taxes/fees

This search result is from aeroplan.com, but the taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges there should equal what Asiana charges. For instance, this Oslo to Chicago one way award costs 247.60 Canadian Dollars ($192.54) out of pocket. (Ignore the 70,000 mile price, Asiana charges 50,000 miles.)

If you don’t live in Chicago, you can add a leg on United to your hometown without affecting the mileage price. It can be in any cabin since your transatlantic flight is First Class, just make sure it’s Saver space.

You can search for Lufthansa award space on aeroplan.com, like I did above, or on united.com (probably easier on united.com as you don’t need an account). To book with Asiana miles you will need to call 800-227-4262 (I’ve booked myself two Asiana awards– here is my experience).

How to Get the Miles

For the American Airlines flight from Dublin you’ll need 20,000 Alaska Airlines miles or Etihad miles.

The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature cards (personal and business) both offer 25,000 miles just for signing up. The business card requires you to purchase one item to qualify for the bonus.

While I can not directly link to the current Alaska Airlines Visa Signature, you may find it by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)

Etihad miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of ThankYou Points. The Citi Prestige® Card earns 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open

You could also transfer SPG Starpoints to Etihad at a 1:1 ratio. See links for cards that earn SPG Starpoints below.

For the Lufthansa First Class flight you’ll need 50,000 Asiana miles.

SPG Starpoints transfer to Asiana at a 1:1 ratio. The SPG cards from American Express currently offer 25,000 bonus Starpoints for spending $3,000 and $5,000 respectively in the first three months of card membership.

Bottom Line

Virgin Atlantic has a sale on economy awards between London and North America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, India, Africa, and Asia that ends today. You can book awards to London from the U.S. for as little as 12,250 Virgin Atlantic miles and $134.60 in taxes and fuel surcharges.

If you have Membership Rewards from American Express, you can stack that sale with the 30% transfer bonus to Virgin Atlantic to make that mileage price drop to 10,000 Membership Rewards. This transfer bonus lasts through May 31, 2016 so if you miss the opportunity today for the Virgin Atlantic economy sale, you can still book an economy award to London for 13,000 Membership Rewards through May 31.

For the return trip, fly back to the U.S. from Dublin in American Airlines economy for only 20k Alaska or Etihad miles, or from Oslo in Lufthansa First Class for only 50k Asiana miles. Departing from either city will avoid the high departure taxes you would incur on an award returning from London.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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Last week my friend flew 24 hours of Lufthansa First Class and had a 3.5 hour layover in the famous Lufthansa First Class Terminal, which he booked for 125,000 United miles and $58. I helped him book the award, and this post will illustrate:

  • Where to Search for Lufthansa Award Space
  • When Lufthansa First Class Award Space Opens Up
  • How to Predict Whether There Will Be Lufthansa First Class Award Space on Your Desired Flight
  • How to Book Lufthansa First Class with United miles
  • How to Save $75 When Booking Lufthansa First Class

My friend was in Tokyo and wanted to move to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had tons of United miles from opening United cards and cards that earn Ultimate Rewards in the past. He wanted to fly a fancy First Class product.

He contacted me in December, 2015 about a series of awards that he wanted to book to go from Buenos Aires to Southeast Asia to Japan and eventually to Rio. We booked most of his awards then, but I suggested we hold off on booking the flights from Japan to Brazil until the last minute. Why?

  1. There wasn’t award space in Business or First Class on any reasonable routing when we first searched
  2. I thought Lufthansa First Class would be a great product for him to fly with a great routing and fancy amenities, including the Lufthansa First Class Terminal in Frankfurt
  3. Lufthansa only opens up First Class award space for partners 15 days before the flight

When I made the suggestion, I wanted to be fairly sure that we could book him Lufthansa First Class when the time came. So I followed my own advice in “How to Estimate Your Chances of Last Minute Award Space.” I searched for award space from Tokyo to Rio de Janeiro for the next two weeks and found award space on 7 of 15 days. That was a good sign since he had some date flexibility, and May isn’t peak time on the routes.

He originally planned to fly May 10 +/- one day, so I set a calendar alert for April 25 and searched for award space for May 9 and May 10 on April 25.

I found some decent Business Class itineraries that I relayed to him, but I didn’t find the holy grail: Tokyo-Haneda to Frankfurt in Lufthansa First Class, 3.5 hour layover at the Frankfurt First Class Terminal, and Frankfurt to Rio de Janeiro in Lufthansa First Class.

That itinerary had First Class space on May 9…

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 12.45.01 AM …and May 7…Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 10.48.38 PM …but for a May 10 departure, he’d need to fly ANA Business Class on the first leg and have an all day layover in Frankfurt (a curse if you’re in a hurry, a blessing if you like to see cities on 23 hour layovers en route.)Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 10.47.04 PM
These First Class itineraries are very pricey since United devalued its award chart massively in February 2014, so I also mentioned the Business Class awards he could book, like 75,000 miles one way if he flew United Business Class (flat bed)…
Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 10.45.15 PM …or 85,000 miles if he flew partner Business Class.Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 10.43.33 PM

Finally I let him know that if we waited a few more days, I thought we could snag the all Lufthansa First Class award because at the time 5 of the next 7 days had First Class award space on that route.

He said he didn’t mind spending 125,000 miles one way. His main priority was ultra-luxury, and he would happily wait a few more days to book.

A few days later, he told me that he changed his ideal departure date by a week and now wanted to travel May 2. There had already been award space on May 2 when I first searched on April 25, and it was still there, so we were ready to book.

However, instead of heading straight to united.com and booking the award for 125,000 miles + $58 in taxes + $75 for ticketing an award within three weeks of departure, I told him to use this trick to avoid the $75 close in ticketing fee.

He went to united.com and booked himself an economy award from Haneda to Rio de Janeiro on Lufthansa for June 2016 for 55,000 miles + $58 and immediately called United at 800-UNITED-1. He told the agent he’d like to make a change to an award which he had booked within the last 24 hours and fed her the Lufthansa First Class segments on May 2. She made the change, deducting 70,000 extra miles (125,000 total as expected) and informed him that the taxes hadn’t changed. As we had hoped, she forgot to add a $75 fee for changing an award’s departure to within 21 days.

The Product

Both his segments were on the Lufthansa 747-8, which I have flown in First Class from Frankfurt to Washington-Dulles. The Lufthansa 747-8 First Class product is a large seat

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that folds into a comfortable flat bed.

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There is unlimited wine (I’ve heard of people requesting wine tastings) and caviar onboard (ask for seconds since they serve everyone out of one large containers instead of individual small containers.

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If you have a flight out of Frankfurt in Lufthansa First Class, you get access to the First Class Terminal, which is my favorite ground experience in the world.

This is an entire terminal just for First Class passengers with a top-notch buffet and a la carte food, a cigar bar, and warm baths with rubber duckies.

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Since you are in a separate terminal, when it is flight time, you are ferried to your plane in a Porsche.

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My friend loved his trip. He texted me from the First Class Terminal several times excitedly, and said that the ground experience alone was worth the miles.

While I think 125,000 miles is too much for a single one way trip, I think 62,500 would be an amazing price for either Tokyo to Frankfurt or Frankfurt to Rio de Janeiro in Lufthansa First Class (both of which are 12 hour flights), so I didn’t begrudge him the redemption.

Cheaper Ways into Lufthansa First Class

I am hoping to fly Lufthansa First Class in September for 50,000 Asiana miles (transferred from 40,000 SPG points) + $200-$300 from Eastern Europe to Washington-Dulles. Flying from Europe to the United States in Lufthansa First Class with Asiana miles is the best deal if you find a route with low taxes and fuel surcharges.

Getting the Miles

You can get United miles from the United Explorer and United Business Explorer cards. You can get Ultimate Rewards, which transfer 1:1 instantly to United miles from the Sapphire Preferred and Ink Plus.

While I can not directly link to the current United Explorer or Sapphire Preferred offers, you may find them by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)

While I can not directly link to the current Ink Plus or Explorer Business Card offers, you may find them by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)

Bottom Line

If you want to book Lufthansa First Class, do research many months out to figure out if award spaces usually opens on your route of interest within 15 days of departure. Have your miles ready (and ideally some date flexibility), and then start searching again 15 days before departure. If you find your dream space, book some dummy space more than 21 days out (ideally on the same routing and airlines, but it doesn’t have to be), and immediately call in to change to the real space you want to likely avoid the $75 fee for ticketing within 21 days of departure.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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23

Forget paying 110,000 United miles one way for Lufthansa First Class. You can book the same flight for 40,000 points + $203 (and there is even a way to avoid the $203.)

Lufthansa First Class flying from Europe to the United States is a fantastic product.

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The onboard First Class product is solid–a step above American carriers and a step below Asian and Middle Eastern carriers.

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And the ground experience in Frankfurt is my favorite in the world. First Class passengers have their own terminal.

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In the First Class terminal, you can enjoy the buffet, a la carte dining, a bubble bath with a rubber ducky, or the Cigar Room.

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 7.18.41 PMThen when it’s time for your flight, you are driven to your plane in a Porsche.
Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 7.19.12 PM You get amazing and unique, up-close views of the planes.Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 7.19.22 PM Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 7.19.32 PM

Lufthansa First Class is bookable with all Star Alliance miles.

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Getting into Lufthansa First Class is a gimme if you can book at the last minute. Unfortunately Lufthansa doesn’t release its First Class award space to partners until 15 days before departure, but once it does, space is quite available.

The problem is that with most miles, Lufthansa First Class is a lot of miles or a lot of fuel surcharges.

  • United charges 110,000 miles one way between the United States and Europe. It doesn’t collect fuel surcharges, just taxes plus a $75 for booking within 21 days of departure
  • Aeroplan charges only 70,000 miles (Western Europe) or 80,000 miles (Eastern Europe) one way, but it collects fuel surcharges that can be as high as $500 one way.

The solution is to book Lufthansa First Class with Asiana miles from a city in Europe that has low taxes and fuel surcharges. Asiana charges only 50,000 miles one way in First Class from Europe to the United States.

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 7.43.26 PM
Roundtrip Prices, One Ways Are Allowed for Half Price

Taxes vary by city, country, and airport. Here is a list of low tax cities in Europe. Fuel surcharges vary by market. They are much lower from Europe to the United States than vice versa. You can figure out the fuel surcharges on a route by searching ITA Matrix.

Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 4.24.59 PM

They are listed on individual tickets as YQ and YR.

Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 4.40.51 PMIn preparing this post, though, I didn’t use ITA Matrix. I just searched for awards on aeroplan.com. The taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges there should equal what Asiana charges. For instance, this Oslo to JFK one way award that has almost six hours at the First Class Terminal has 266.80 Canadian Dollars ($203) out of pocket. (Ignore the 70,000 mile price, Asiana charges 50,000 miles.)

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 4.42.56 PM That’s a lot better than a one way from New York to Oslo, which has $450 in taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges.Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 6.57.50 PM

Low Out of Pocket Cities

I searched 22 European cities on aeroplan.com to find the out-of-pocket taxes and fuel surcharges on a one way award to New York City that connects in Frankfurt. These are the results. (If you know another low out-of-pocket city, put it in the comments.)

  • Oslo $203
  • Dublin $204
  • Stockholm $220
  • Helsinki $240
  • Copenhagen $251
  • Istanbul $256
  • Prague $257
  • Riga $257
  • Warsaw $263
  • Barcelona $268
  • Madrid $284
  • Amsterdam $300
  • Lisbon $302
  • Brussels $317
  • Ljubljana $321
  • Geneva $328
  • Zurich $341
  • Rome $343
  • Frankfurt (direct) $347
  • Milan $350
  • Vienna $356
  • Munich $364

Booking the Award

  1. Get 50,000 Asiana miles
  2. Find award space from the European city of your choice to the American city of your choice on aeroplan.com or united.com (Saver space only) in Lufthansa First Class. Note the date, cabin, and flight number of the award space you found.
  3. Call Asiana at 800-227-4262 to reserve the flight with reservations. Feed the agent the date, cabin, and flight number. You will be given a reservation code.
  4. Ask to be connected to Asiana Club to ticket the award. Give the agent the reservation code.

I’ve booked myself two Asiana awards. Here is my experience.

Getting Asiana Miles

The only reasonable way for Americans to get Asiana miles is to transfer SPG Starpoints. Starpoints transfer 1:1 to Asiana miles.

Plus for every 20,000 Starpoints you transfer, you get 5,000 extra Asiana miles. That means you’d need only 40,000 Starpoints (=50,000 Asiana miles) to book Europe to USA in Lufthansa First Class.

In the past, transfers from Starpoints to Asiana have taken me two weeks. My most recent transfer took a little less than seven days.

Avoiding Out of Pocket

Instead of paying the $203+ out of pocket, you can pay the taxes and fuel surcharges with a Citi Prestige® Card. Since the charge is coming from an airline (Asiana), it will activate the $250 per calendar year Air Travel Credit. On your next Prestige statement, the entire charge (up to $250) would automatically be offset by a statement credit.

My review of the Citi Prestige Card which explains its many benefits like 50,000 bonus points, $250 in airfare or airline fee credits per calendar year, access to the American Airlines Admirals Clubs and Priority Pass lounges, and 3x points per dollar on air travel and hotels.

 

Bottom Line

While some luxury First Class awards are out of reach, Lufthansa First Class is actually very cheap if you have Starpoints.

Transfer them to Asiana miles and book a one way trip home from a low taxes/fuel surcharges city.

Fuel surcharges are too high to Europe for this idea to interest me. On a trip like this, I’d get to Europe on a one way award using a different type of miles.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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7

The Miles & More® Premier World MasterCard® comes with 20,000 bonus Lufthansa Miles & More miles after first purchase and 30,000 more after spending $5,000 in the first 90 days for 50,000 total bonus miles.

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The card also comes with two complimentary Lufthansa Business Lounge vouchers annually.

The card earns 2 miles per dollar on ticket purchases made directly from Miles & More integrated airlines and 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases.

Miles & More miles are extremely valuable for trips:

  • within the United States, including to Alaska and Hawaii, especially in First Class
  • to Europe, especially in Business Class
  • to Central America
  • to South America
  • to fly Lufthansa First Class
  • to Canada
  • to the Caribbean

This post is a full primer of the Miles & More program for people who don’t know much about it.

This post features five great uses for Miles & More miles including roundtrip business class to Europe for 55k miles and low taxes, how to book Miles & More awards online and by phone, three ways to save miles on a Miles & More booking, and comparisons between Miles & More and United MileagePlus.

What is Miles & More

Miles & More is the frequent flyer program of Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, LOT Polish Airlines, Swiss Air Lines, Adria Airways, Croatia Airlines, Luxair, Brussels Airlines, and Germanwings.

Miles & More is such an important program because those airlines–at least Lufthansa, LOT, and Swiss–release more and better award space to Miles & More members than to their partners like United.

For instance, if you only have United miles, you won’t be able to book Lufthansa First Class more than two weeks out. If you have Miles & More miles, you can book it 361 days in advance.

Also since Miles & More member airlines are part of the Star Alliance, Miles & More miles can be used on all 27 Star Alliance partners.

Award Chart

Lufthansa has a competitive award chart with United. For instance, USA to Europe with Miles & More miles is only 50,000 miles roundtrip in economy, 105,000 in business, and 170,000 in first class.

For comparison, United charges 10,000 more miles for a roundtrip economy award, 10,000 to 35,000 more miles for a roundtrip Business Class award, and up to 50,000 more for a roundtrip First Class award. (60k/115-140k/160-220k)

Unique to Miles & More–to my knowledge–is the fact that it charges the same amount for domestic trips whether those trips are wholly within the USA or wholly within a much smaller country. That makes domestic flight on United a great deal with Miles & More miles.

Unfortunately this deal does not extend to flights to Alaska and Hawaii, which cost more. Hawaii costs 40k/70k roundtrip in economy/First Class, a better deal than with United miles. Alaska costs 30k/55k roundtrip, also a better deal than with United miles.

When reading the Lufthansa award chart, be aware that:

  • United BusinessFirst international flights book as business class
  • United Global First international flights book as first class
  • United domestic First or Business on two cabin planes (basically all domestic flights including transcontinental p.s. service with flat beds in business class) book as Business Class
  • United domestic First on three cabin planes (rare but they fly some routes) books as First Class

Huge and Tiny Miles Savings

You can book one way awards for half the miles price of roundtrips. The miles price will always be a multiple of 1,000, and if it’s not naturally, it will be rounded down!

This strange policy means you actually save 1,000 miles by booking many awards as two one ways. For instance, Chicago to Warsaw roundtrip in LOT business class would be 105,000 Miles & More miles. But each direction as a one way is 52,000 miles. So booking two one ways is 104,000 miles.

Children aged 2 to 11 can be booked as award passengers at 75% of the normal miles price! I don’t know any other airline that allows this significant miles discount.

“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.”

There is a humungous list of discounted flight awards called Mileage Bargains that allow for economy travel to Europe for 30,000 miles roundtrip or Business Class travel for 55,000 miles roundtrip.

Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 3.53.34 PM

If your home city and destination city match up, you can save big miles.

Fuel Surcharges

Miles & More does collect fuel surcharges on award tickets, so instead of $100 in taxes on a roundtrip award to Europe, it could be $1,000 in taxes and fuel surcharges.

For example:

  • LAX to Zurich in Swiss First: 85,000 miles + $430.50 (can only be booked by Elite Members)
  • Washington-Dulles to Frankfurt in Lufthansa First: 85,000 miles + $430.50.
  • Newark to Frankfurt in United First: 85,000 miles + $260.50.

All three of those carry fuel surcharges of $258 to $428 for a one way flight. Luckily there are several ways to redeem Miles & More miles for zero fuel surcharges or very minor surcharges:

  • LAX to Newark in United Business (flat bed on p.s. flight): 17,000 miles + $5.60
  • Chicago to Warsaw in LOT Business (flat bed on a Dreamliner): 52,000 miles + $62

Open Jaws

Much of the rest of my info will come from the online terms and conditions of Miles & More.

One open jaw is allowed. If the open jaw is between regions–like flying to Frankfurt (Europe) and returning home from Abu Dhabi (Middle East)–you pay the roundtrip price of flying to the more expensive region. This is a customer un-friendly rule. You can easily get around this by booking the award as two one ways. This is also a way to get two open jaws.

“Simple ‘open-jaw’ flights (e.g. where the outbound flight destination and the inbound flight departure airport are not identical) are allowed. The number of miles required is calculated with reference to the higher region chosen.”

Mixing Cabins

If you fly one way in economy and return in first class, you pay the roundtrip first class. This is a customer un-friendly policy. To avoid paying excess miles, just book each award as a one way.

“If the outbound and inbound flights of the flight award are booked in different classes of service, the number of miles required for the entire trip is calculated with reference to the higher class.”

Change and Cancellation

Change and cancellation fees are a very modest $60. This is a very customer friendly policy. The industry standard is $75 to $150 for changes and $150 to cancel.

“Flight awards which are cancelled prior to the start of the outbound journey can be refunded subject to a cancellation charge of €50.”

“A charge of €50 or CHF 70/USD 60 is payable for rebooking or cancelling a flight award.”

When can you book?

You can book almost 361 days in advance. Most US airlines allow booking about 11 months in advance. That means you will have access to Lufthansa, Swiss, LOT, and Austrian space about a month before people using United miles.

“You can book your flight award up to 361 days in advance of the desired travel date. Flight awards are valid for twelve months after the date of issue.”

Three Great Uses of the Lufthansa Card’s Sign Up Bonus

 

1. Fly from LAX/SFO to Newark for 17,000 miles and $5.60 each way in a flat bed on one of United’s p.s. flights.

United bed on p.s. flight

This would cost 25,000 United miles.

2. Book Lufthansa First Class up to 361 days in advance for 85,000 miles + $460 one way.

The price is high, but United can only access the Lufthansa space 15 days in advance and can’t access Swiss First Class at all.

 

3. Fly from the US to Europe on LOT Airlines in business class on flat beds on the 787 Dreamliner for 52,000 miles and $62 one way.

Booking Online and By Phone

Once you have your miles, booking Miles & More integrated airlines is a snap on milesandmore.com.

Unfortunately you can’t even search the availability open to Miles & More members without signing up for the program and having some Miles & More miles in your account.

Luckily new account sign ups right now earn 500 miles as long as you leave the pre-checked boxes allowing emails to be sent to you checked during sign up. A phone agent gave me this tip. When I signed up for a new account to test it, I got 500 miles immediately upon opening the account even though at no point was I told that signing up for emails would earn me 500 miles.

With the miles in my account, I can perform award searches and see space. Unfortunately I can’t price the space. I get an an error message that tells me I don’t have enough miles in my account if I try to select award space to price it.

To price space, you can call the Lufthansa Miles & More center in the US at 800-581-6400 from 8 AM to 8 PM ET Monday through Friday.

In my experience, I had to hold for about 15 minutes on each call at which point I was contacted to an agent whose competence easily extended to the simple pricings I requested.

 

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

Screen Shot 2016-06-05 at 4.28.39 PM

Updated 1/29/16 to reflect new Aeroplan award prices effective for awards booked 12/15/15 or later.
Updated 10/6/15 to reflect new ANA award prices effective for awards booked 10/15/15 or later.

In the last few weeks, I have published some comparative charts of Star Alliance award charts. I’m putting all of those charts into this post for easier reference.

You can use any type of Star Alliance miles to book almost any Star Alliance flight. (Swiss, Lufthansa, and Singapore hold back some premium cabin award space for their own members. United gives extra award space to elites and United cardholders.) The 27-member alliance has more than a dozen frequent flyer programs, many of which offer good or great deals on some routes.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 9.14.50 PM

I’ve taken the time to make a comprehensive spread sheet of eight programs’ award prices from North America:

  • United (on United flights and on partner flights)
  • Copa
  • Asiana
  • Singapore (on Star Alliance partner flights)
  • Avianca LifeMiles
  • Air Canada Aeroplan
  • Lufthansa Miles & More
  • ANA

These programs were chosen because they all have at least some awards that are really cheap. And other than Copa and LifeMiles, Americans can easily get all these miles through transferable points programs:

  • United: Ultimate Rewards
  • Copa: no easy way to get the miles yet, but the program is brand new
  • Asiana: SPG
  • Singapore: ThankYou Points, Ultimate Rewards, Membership Rewards, SPG
  • LifeMiles: buy miles for 1.5 cents each
  • Aeroplan: Membership Rewards, SPG
  • Lufthansa: SPG
  • ANA: Membership Rewards, SPG

There are other Star Alliance programs into which Americans can transfer miles–Citi ThankYou Points transfer 1:1 to EVA and Thai miles–but their charts don’t offer any value compared to the eight I’ve selected.

Of course, the charts below only captures one part of an award: its mileage price. The routing rules and fuel surcharges matter too. Here are a few big things that applies to all charts:

  • United, Copa, and LifeMiles never collect fuel surcharges. All the others collect fuel surcharges on most awards.
  • All programs allow one way redemptions for the prices listed on the charts except ANA. It only allows roundtrip redemptions for double the price on the chart. I used its fictitious “one way price” that you can’t actually book just to more easily compare to the programs that do allow one way bookings.

For specific information on fuel surcharges to each region and other important routing rules, click on the individual posts where I really analyzed awards to each region.

Searching and Booking the Awards

A truism of miles is that–with few exceptions–award space is equally available to all partners. One corollary is that you can search any award search engine that displays an airline’s award space, and if space is there, you can book it with any partner.

All Star Alliance partner award space is searchable on aeroplan.com. Here’s how to search for award space on aeroplan.com. All the award space you find there is bookable with all the miles discussed in this post. Ignore the price quoted on aeroplan.com. You will pay the price on the award chart of the miles you’re using.

To book, call the airline whose miles you’re using (or go to their website to book online if you can.) Feed the agent the award space you found on aeroplan.com.

The Charts

Below the award charts show the one way price in thousands of miles from the United States mainland to the region listed for the eight types of miles listed. For information on slashes, click the links above to get more information.

Within Mainland United States and Canada

Screen Shot 2015-09-06 at 3.42.55 PM

Alaska

Screen Shot 2015-09-06 at 3.44.14 PM

Hawaii
Screen Shot 2015-09-06 at 3.44.25 PM

Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean

Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 12.29.00 AM

Northern South America

Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 12.29.12 AM

Southern South America

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 9.30.52 AM

EuropeScreen Shot 2016-01-28 at 9.31.05 AM

Middle East

Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 4.28.47 AM

Africa

Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 4.29.08 AM

North Asia

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 7.41.47 AM

Southeast AsiaScreen Shot 2015-10-06 at 12.30.44 AM

Indian SubcontinentScreen Shot 2015-10-06 at 12.30.58 AM

Australia and New Zealand

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 9.33.06 AM

Oceania

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 9.33.16 AM

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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4

Since August 2014, Avianca LifeMiles, one of my favorite types of Star Alliance miles, could not book Lufthansa First Class, one of my favorite Star Alliance First Classes.

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 12.20.20 AM

Now LifeMiles can book Lufthansa First Class again for 87,000 miles one way from the United States to Europe with NO fuel surcharges.

How to Book Lufthansa First Class with LifeMiles

On lifemiles.com,  click Air Tickets under Enjoy.

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 12.09.36 AM

Search for the Lufthansa First Class segment you want, selecting Lufthansa under “Preferred carrier” if you’d like.

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 12.09.40 AM

Award space should show up whenever Lufthansa has released it, which is only within 15 days of departure. Award space costs 87,000 miles + $12.50 + taxes each way.Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 12.10.00 AM Or you can use cash plus miles, “buying” the miles you are short at a rate of 1.5 cents per mile.Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 12.10.20 AMBut don’t “buy” miles during booking for 1.5 cents each since you can buy miles today only for 1.375 cents each.

With two caveats, the award space on lifemiles.com should match what you find on united.com for Lufthansa award space. Let me know in the comments if you find an instance where it doesn’t.

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 12.09.52 AM

Caveat #1

LifeMiles can’t book “mixed cabin” awards. You can’t even combine First Class to Europe and Business Class (the highest cabin) within Europe. So this space is only good for direct flights or if you connect to Africa or Asia on another First Class flight.

Caveat #2

There is a six hour maximum on LifeMiles layovers. Most miles allow up to 24 hour layovers.

Why You Want to Fly Lufthansa First Class

Lufthansa First Class is one of the absolute nicest between the United States and Europe. I flew First Class on the Lufthansa 747-8 between Frankfurt and Washington-Dulles last year.

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 12.20.28 AM

I enjoyed the food like pretzels and caviar.Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 12.20.42 AM

I liked the over-the-top touches like the butter that says “First Class.”

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 12.20.57 AM I loved the ground service in Frankfurt. Frankfurt Airport has an entire First Class terminal for Lufthansa First Class passengers. Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 12.21.38 AM

Since you are not at the gate for boarding, you are given a private car through the tarmac right to your plane.

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 12.21.22 AM

Other Options to Book Lufthansa First Class

Any Star Alliance miles should be able to book Lufthansa First Class. The cheapest options are between the United States and Europe:

  • Asiana miles (SPG transfer partner): 50,000 miles one way + fuel surcharges
  • Aeroplan miles (SPG and MR transfer partner): 62,500 miles one way + fuel surcharges
  • LifeMiles (buy miles): 87,000 miles one way without fuel surcharges
  • United miles (UR transfer partner): 110,000 miles one way without fuel surcharges

Bottom Line

LifeMiles can once again book Lufthansa First Class for 87,000 miles (and no fuel surcharges) each way. Today only, you can buy those 87,000 LifeMiles for $1,221.

Asiana and Aeroplan charge fewer miles, but do collect fuel surcharges of several hundred dollars each way depending on the exact routing. United doesn’t collect fuel surcharges but charges a silly 110,000 miles each way.

Hat Tip One Mile at a Time

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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3

All 106 Lufthansa longhaul planes now feature fully flat beds in Business Class, following the completion of Lufthansa’s four-year retrofit.

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 12.19.48 AM

That’s great news since Lufthansa offers a ton of transatlantic Business Class award space that you can book with United, or any other Star Alliance, miles.

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 12.20.24 AM

Lufthansa serves 18 American destinations.

Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 11.37.43 PM

If you don’t live in one of those, you can connect to the United hubs easily in United First Class for zero extra miles. Lufthansa has great connections from its Frankfurt and Munich hubs throughout Europe and the rest of the world.

Check this recent post comparing which Star Alliance miles are best for booking Business Class awards to Europe. Hint: it’s not United miles!

Hat Tip The Points Guy

 

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

Screen Shot 2016-06-05 at 4.28.39 PM

Update: LifeMiles are now on sale for as little as 1.4 cents each through September 30, 2015, which allows you to follow the steps in this post.

Last week I published How to Consistently Buy Business Class Tickets to Europe for about $1,000, which explained how to purchase Avianca miles and use them to book award tickets, so that the total cash outlay is far less than just purchasing a ticket.

Yesterday, I had the chance to book my friend into Lufthansa Business Class from Tallinn, Estonia to Chicago for $1,050 for a flight this weekend.

Booking one way flights at the last minute is usually extremely expensive. The cheapest one way in economy on the day he wanted to fly was over $700 and had two stops. The cheapest pleasant itinerary was over $1,100 in economy.

Screen Shot 2015-07-03 at 2.37.07 PM

For Business Class, you’d have to pay over $2,000 to get a one stop itinerary without an overnight stay somewhere.Screen Shot 2015-07-03 at 2.37.38 PM

He’s paying less money than the cheapest one stop itinerary in economy for a Business Class itinerary with a fully flat bed.

Why LifeMiles?

LifeMiles is the frequent flyer program of Avianca, a Colombian airline that is a member of the Star Alliance. You can use Avianca miles to book awards on all Star Alliance members including United, Lufthansa, Austrian, Brussels, Singapore, TAP, Turkish, and other airlines with service to and within Europe.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 9.14.50 PM

Of the many types of Star Alliance miles you can use for awards to Europe, LifeMiles stand out for how cheaply it sells miles, and the fact that it imposes no fuel surcharges on awards, allowing for ~$1,000 one way Business Class tickets to Europe.

Three Steps

  1. Sign up for an Avianca LifeMiles account and select a country of residence in Europe.
  2. Buy 26,400 LifeMiles during the next 120% bonus sale for $396.
  3. Book a Business Class trip to Europe, for 26,000 LifeMiles plus $587+.

The Steps Broken Down

1. Sign Up for a LifeMiles Account

My friend signed up for a free LifeMiles account here a few months ago because I told him that you need to have an account at the start of a LifeMiles sale to participate.

When signing up, he selected Estonia as his country of residence, which confers an advantage over selecting the United States. During the most recent sale (Step 2), accounts registered in North and Central America got a 100% bonus on miles purchased. Accounts from other countries got a 120% bonus.

2. Buy 26,000 LifeMiles during a LifeMiles Sale

You can always buy LifeMiles for 3.3 cents each. Every few months, LifeMiles offers a bonus on the purchase of miles of at least 100%. The most recent bonus was from May 5 through May 29 and was a 100% bonus for North and Central America and a 120% bonus for the rest of the world. That made the price 1.5 or 1.65 cents per mile total.

If the next sale is identical–I bet it will be–you can buy 12,000 miles with 14,400 bonus miles (26,400 total) for $396. Or if for some reason you’ve signed up with an American address, you can buy 13,000 miles with 13,000 bonus miles (26,000) for $429.

I will cover the next sale on MileValue, so check back daily or sign up to receive one free daily email with all of the day’s posts.

During the last sale, my friend bought 105,600 LifeMiles for $1,584. That was 48,000 miles purchased and 57,600 bonus miles.

Why 105,600 miles? Because a one way Business Class award costs 63,000 LifeMiles but LifeMiles allows awards to be booked with 40% of the necessary miles–26,000 in this case–by putting up cash to pay for your miles discount (Step 3).

He bought 26,000 miles for each one way Business Class ticket he thought he’d want to book in the next few months, and 105,600 miles was as close as he could get to 104,000 miles (four one-ways.)

There is a limit of 150,000 miles purchased per calendar year including bonus miles during sales, so you are limited to booking five Business Class one way tickets per account per calendar year. But you can always open multiple accounts, since LifeMiles accounts can always be used to book tickets in anyone’s name.

3. Book a Business Class trip to Europe, for 26,000 LifeMiles plus $587+

To book a LifeMiles ticket, sign into your account and click “Air Tickets” under “Enjoy.”

Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 2.34.47 PM

Search for your cities, date, number of passengers, and cabin. If you’d like, you can select the carrier you want to fly or have the engine search all Star Alliance carriers. We selected Lufthansa because that’s the most convenient itinerary and best product from Estonia to Chicago.

Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 7.40.55 PM

Ideally the search reveals award space on several options like his did.

Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 2.40.42 PM

However, award space is far from guaranteed (as I’ll discuss below in the caveats section.) Not all flights have award space in all cabins.

Once you’ve decided on your flight, select it and at the bottom of the screen, toggle “More Money” to the maximum. This will change the price from 63,000 miles and $0 to 26,000 miles and $557.10.

Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 7.41.54 PM

Clicking “Continue” takes you to the screen that shows the total price, which will include all applicable government taxes and a $25 booking fee. Estonia has low aviation taxes, so he’s dinged only $58 by the governments of Estonia, Germany, and the United States.

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He’s using one-fourth of the miles he bought for $1,584 in Step 2, which is $396 worth. The award costs those miles plus $640.36 for a total price of $1,036.36 for a one way Business Class flight from Europe to the United States. How else can you consistently get Business Class tickets to Europe for around $1,000?

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He’ll get to use a lounge in Tallinn, a Lufthansa lounge in Frankfurt, and fly the Lufthansa 747-8 for the longhaul flight from Frankfurt to Chicago in this seat/bed.

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Confirmation

The confirmation number that Avianca emails to you include a six digit alphanumeric record locator. You can use that record locator on this page to select options like your seats and meals and to check in on lufthansa.com.

Caveats

I hope you’re excited, but don’t rush off to copy my friend without reading these important caveats:

  1. These are the current prices from LifeMiles, but the only thing certain with miles is eventual devaluation. One day, LifeMiles will charge more than 63,000 miles one way in Business Class. When that happens, you don’t want to be stuck with a lot of miles in your account. That’s why you should go slowly and only buy enough miles to cover your very likely trips. Even then, you cannot completely eliminate devaluation risk.
  2. There is not award space on every flight in Business Class. You could buy the miles and then not be able to use them when you want to use them. However, I think this is only a minor concern because there is award space on most days from the United States to Europe with Avianca miles as long as you book within a few weeks of departure, which is when I assume most people who routinely book paid Business Class book their tickets. Here is award space from Chicago to Paris for the next two months. All green and blue days have Business Class award space for one passenger.
    Screen Shot 2015-07-03 at 3.19.44 PM
    This is peak time and space is almost perfect. Space is bout the same to other cities in Europe because intra-Europe space is a gimme. Space is a bit worse to the west coast of the United States and much worse if you need to book more than two seats on the same flight.
  3. Every flight of a LifeMiles award must be in the same cabin. If you want Business Class across the Atlantic, you must also fly Business Class intra-Europe and United First Class (considered a business class) within the United States. This isn’t much of a problem intra-Europe, since almost all planes have Business Class, but there are many one-cabin planes in the United States operating to small airports. These cannot be booked with LifeMiles on a Business Class award. To see if your route is affected by this silly rule, go to united.com and search your award. Any award with a “Mixed Cabin” icon is off limits.

Bonus

Buy your LifeMiles in Step 2 and book your ticket in Step 3 with a Citi Prestige® Card for $250 off the first purchase and 3x points on all purchases. With the Citi Prestige® Card, the first $250 in award taxes, fuel surcharges, airfare, or airline fees per calendar year are refunded to you as a statement credit. If you’ve already maxed out the statement credit, you will still earn 3x ThankYou Points on the LifeMiles miles purchases and award purchases.

The card also comes with 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points after spending $3,000 in the first three months, international lounge access, and a host of other features.

Bottom Line

For most people, the best way to get transatlantic Business Class is to open credit cards and use the sign up bonuses for the free flights.

For businessmen who fly the routes too often to get all free tickets and ordinarily pay $4,000 to $8,000 for a roundtrip in Business Class, there is a better plan. Buy LifeMiles and book Business Class awards for around $1,000 each way.

 

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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Cash is great because it can buy everything from travel to your basic necessities. But sometimes miles are better. There are a lot of things I can easily do with miles that I would never do with cash (at least until my bank account had a few more zeroes.)

Dream big with your miles. Better yet, dream big before your miles. Then get the right miles to turn that dream into a reality. Here are five dreams, five things I can do with miles that I wouldn’t do with cash.

  1. Fly Singapore Suites, a double bed in the sky
  2. Fly Lufthansa First Class and access the First Class Terminal
  3. Fly Etihad First Class for its shower, couch, and bed
  4. Fly Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy to London for a big upgrade from economy
  5. Hop around South America to 11 cities on one award with Asia Miles

1. Singapore Suites Los Angeles to Singapore: $8,700 or 92,000 miles + $276

Singapore Suites is famous for its double bed. The two middle seats in the 1-2-1 configuration can have their divider lowered to form an enclosed double bed that no other First Class cabin matches.

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Singapore is also famous for its food and wine selections and service from the Singapore girls. I flew Singapore First Class and would love to fly Suites Class, but I wouldn’t pay $8,700 for the one way flight from Los Angeles to Singapore.

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 6.13.23 PM Instead I’d pay 91,375 Singapore miles + $276 (or less to fly Los Angeles to Tokyo or New York to Frankfurt.)Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 6.14.22 PM

Singapore miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Citi, Chase, AMEX, and SPG, so getting just two cards like the Citi Prestige and Citi ThankYou Premier with 50,000 and 40,000 ThankYou Points respectively after spending $3,000 in the first three months is enough to fly one way anywhere that Singapore Suites flies.

2. Lufthansa First Frankfurt to Washington: $8,700 or 40,000 points + $300

Lufthansa First Class is the most widely available excellent product between the United States and Europe.

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Within two weeks of departure, Lufthansa releases a lot of First Class award space to partners. If you can only fly Lufthansa First Class one way, fly it home from Europe via Frankfurt, where Lufthansa has an entire First Class Terminal. Spend a few hours at the buffet, a la carte restaurant, cigar room, and in the bathtubs with your own Lufthansa rubber ducky.

I flew Lufthansa First Class from Frankfurt to Washington DC once. I never would have done that if my only option were to pay $8,730 one way.

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 6.22.19 PM

Luckily you can book the same flight for 50,000 Asiana miles (40,000 SPG points transfer to 50,000 Asiana miles) + ~$300 in taxes and fuel surcharges.

3. Etihad A380 First Class New York to Abu Dhabi: $16,700 or 90,000 miles + $6

Etihad begins flying its A380 from New York to Abu Dhabi on December 1, 2015. Award space has been intermittently very good and completely non-existent on the route. (Right now, it is non-existent.)

When space was very good last month, I booked myself an award from India to Los Angeles with the longest part in First Class on the Etihad A380. I am eager to fly in am enclosed suite with a couch/bed and seat. The amount of space is unreal. Plus the cabin features a shower, only the second airline that offers that.

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I’m not an oil sheik, so I can’t pay the $16,653 one way fare from New York to Abu Dhabi.

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But the same flight can be had for 90,000 American Airlines miles + $5.60, what you can get from two credit cards. Or you can connect anywhere in the Middle East or Indian Subcontinent for zero extra miles.

4. Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy Washington DC to London: $2,800 or 22,000 points + $235

Flying Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy from the United States to London is like flying domestic First Class within the United States. You get the bigger seat with more leg room and more recline, better food, free drinks, and better service.

Virgin Atlantic charges quite a premium, though, at $2,764 one way.

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Why pay that when the seat can be booked with 27,500 Virgin Atlantic miles + $234.60? Especially right now when Citi ThankYou Points have a 25% transfer bonus that makes the award cost 22,000 ThankYou Points + $234.60.

You can get enough points for two people by opening either the Citi Prestige or Citi ThankYou Premier with 50,000 and 40,000 ThankYou Points respecively after spending $3,000 in the first three months.

5. 11 City Tour of South America: thousands of dollars or 85,000 miles + a few hundred dollars

Yesterday I broke down the Asia Miles award chart and rules. Asia Miles allows you to book 11 city awards. I recommend going to South America to avoid the fuel surcharges you’d normally pay on Asia Miles awards.

Screen Shot 2015-06-14 at 6.56.24 PMWhile booking a trip like this with cash would cost thousands of dollars–I’d estimate around $5,000–the same trip would cost 85,000 Asia Miles + taxes–I’d estimate around $300.

Asia Miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Citi, AMEX, and SPG, so getting just two cards like the Citi Prestige and Citi ThankYou Premier with 50,000 and 40,000 ThankYou Points respectively after spending $3,000 in the first three months is enough to fly an Asia Miles award with up to 20,000 miles of flying!

Bottom Line

Everything is bookable with cash, but sometimes the price is so outrageous that only multi-millionaires would consider the ticket a good value.

With miles, the premium cabins and the mega-awards are democratized. Open one or two credit cards and enjoy the nicest cabins in the world like Singapore Suites, Etihad First Class, and Lufthansa First Class; the biggest adventures in the world like an 11 city trip in South America; or the simple pleasure of a little more space and comfort in Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy.

What’s an amazing thing you’ve done with miles that you wouldn’t have done with cash?

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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25

Updated June 3: The Asiana miles showed up today, meaning the transfer took 14 days. My last transfer in September 2014 took 17 days. In the interim, I’ve decided not to book Lufthansa First Class from Europe to the United States in June, but the Asiana award chart is so good that I don’t mind have 60,000 points on hand. That’s almost enough for Business Class one way USA to Argentina (35k) + First Class USA to Hawaii (27.5k).

You can book Lufthansa First Class for 50,000 Asiana Club miles–40,000 Starpoints–one way. This is Asiana’s award chart from the mainland United States for roundtrip awards. One ways are half price:

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 7.39.26 PM

There are a lot of STEALS on the chart. This post will focus on Europe for 40,000 miles one way in Business Class and 50,000 miles one way in First Class. How good of a deal is this?

  • United charges 57,500 to 70,000 miles one way in Business Class to Europe
  • United charges 80,000 miles one way for its First Class and 110,000 for Lufthansa First Class.

Even with the mild fuel surcharges on Asiana awards of Lufthansa flights, these are great deals. And if you want to avoid fuel surcharges, book United flights with Asiana miles.

Test #1: Lufthansa First Class

I wanted to call Asiana and price out awards to see whether I could get agents to follow the award chart and to see what the taxes and fuel surcharges would be.

I’m considering flying Tallinn, Estonia to Washington, DC next month, so I took a look at that routing though there’s nothing special about it.

Lufthansa First Class would be awesome to get into the Lufthansa First Class Terminal again, and to enjoy the luxury onboard.

First I found this award space on two Lufthansa flights.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 7.28.59 PM

In case you’re not adept at reading united.com (which is where I searched because Asiana should have access to all Star Alliance space found on united.com):

  • There is award space in Business Class from Tallinn to Frankfurt
  • There is award space in Business and First Class from Frankfurt to Washington DC

I noted the date, flight number, and cabin of the award space. I called Asiana and these are the prices I got:

  • For Business Class on both flights (what United is charging 70,000 miles for), Asiana charges 40,000 miles + $311.44.
  • For Business Class on the short hop and First Class on the long one (what United is charging 110,000 miles for), Asiana charges 50,000 miles + $311.44.
  • Drop the short hop altogether. For just Lufthansa First Class from Frankfurt to Washington DC, Asiana charges 50,000 miles + $348.34.

A few notes:

  1. I can’t quite figure out how they got that amount of dollars though each agent was consistent.
  2. One agent priced Business + First at 75,000 miles, but two priced it at the 50,000 price quoted above.
  3. Taxes and fuel surcharges vary by country and route, so fewer flights actually can actually result in higher charges.

1. The Dollar Amount

I would expect Lufthansa to collect the taxes and fuel surcharges of an equivalent paid ticket. Here’s the equivalent paid ticket to Tallinn to Frankfurt to Washington DC in Business and First Class.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 7.38.03 PM

That’s 223.37 euros ($248) of taxes and fuel surcharges. Asiana wanted $311. I don’t know why.

2. Differing Miles Prices

I called Asiana a few times, and I got different miles prices. Two out of three agents priced the short hop in Business plus longhaul in First Class at 50,000 miles total. One said 75,000 total. When pressed she explained that it was because I had the shorthaul Business Class segment, which was another 25,000 miles on the Asiana chart. Her computer was adding inta-Europe Business (25k) to Europe-to-USA First (50k.)

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 7.45.39 PMScreen Shot 2015-05-20 at 7.45.53 PM

I believe she was wrong and that Asiana agents should price your Lufthansa First Class award, even if there is an intra-Europe segment, at 50,000 total miles.

The agent who said 75,000 miles said the computer had priced it like that. That might be because I had first priced Business/Business with her and then switched to Business/First and for that reason the computer saw my trip as two awards.

Bottom line: please report if a connecting segment in Europe drives up your miles price in the comments, but I don’t believe it will happen.

3. Taxes and Fuel Surcharges Vary

The dollar price went up by dropping the Tallinn to Frankfurt segment. That’s just because airlines price fuel surcharges by origin/destination city pair and taxes and vary by country.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 7.46.48 PM

Play around with your country of origin if the taxes and fees are very important to you.

Test #2: United Premium Cabins

Asiana doesn’t collect fuel surcharges on United award flights. I tested that out by pricing out this itinerary on the same route.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 7.29.10 PM

I tested out:

  • Lufthansa Business Class TLL-FRA + United Business Class FRA-IAD (57.5k United miles above)
  • Lufthansa Business Class TLL-FRA + United First Class FRA-IAD (80k United miles above)

The agents all priced them at:

  • 40,000 Asiana Miles + $133.71 for the all Business Class award
  • 50,000 Asiana Miles + $133.71 for the mostly First Class award

The short Lufthansa flight had slight fuel surcharges plus the rest is taxes. Overall, these are steals.

Searching

Asiana is a member of Star Alliance. You can book any of these partners with Asiana miles.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 9.14.50 PM

Almost all of these are searchable on united.com very quickly, so that’s where to search. Here’s how. When you find award space in the Saver column, note the date, cabin, and flight number.

You will pay a different number of miles and dollars than the amount shown on united.com.

Booking

Booking, or pricing out awards is a bit of a hassle. You have to call Asiana at 800-227-4262 from 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM Pacific Time Monday through Friday.

First you need to talk to reservations and have them piece together and price the award. Then you are transferred to Asiana Club to pay.

When the phone connects, hit 2-5-# to get to reservations. You need an Asiana Club account. If you have zero miles, just tell the agent you want to know the price in miles and taxes and fees before transferring points to Asiana Club. There is occasionally a language barrier, but you can usually get done what you need to.

Asiana can only ticket departures that are more than 72 hours in the future.

Pay your award taxes with the Citi Prestige® Card. The first $250 in award taxes, airfare, or airline fees per calendar year are refunded to you as a statement credit. If you’ve already maxed out the statement credit, you will still earn 3x ThankYou Points on the award taxes and fees.

Getting Asiana Miles

SPG Starpoints transfer 1:1 to Asiana miles with the customary 5,000 bonus miles for every 20,000 points transferred. At that rate:

  • 35,000 Starpoints transfer to 40,000 Asiana miles
  • 40,000 Starpoints transfer to 50,000 Asiana miles

Unfortunately, in my experience, SPG points take 14-17 days to show up in my Asiana account.

The bonus on the SPG card is 25,000 Starpoints, and the minimum spending requirement just dropped to $3,000 in three months.

Bottom Line

It’s a bit of a hassle to book Asiana Club tickets and tough to get the miles, but you can’t argue with 40,000 miles + $131 for United flat bed Business Class to Europe or 50,000 miles + $311 for Lufthansa First Class.

 

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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I just booked myself a trip to Cuba with miles. One direction I am flying on a single award from the United States to Cuba. On the return, I am flying two awards: Cuba to Colombia and Colombia to the United States.

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 1.11.07 AM

I used American Airlines, Asiana, and Lufthansa miles, all of which are easily available to Americans.

Can Americans Travel to Cuba?

Here is the State Department’s page on visiting Cuba.

I am going to travel to Cuba on a general license as a journalist. A “general license” means that I do not have to contact any government agency in advance to receive permission. Here are the 12 categories of general licenses:

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 1.35.54 AM

I’ll need a valid passport and a tourist card to enter Cuba. I can buy the latter for $20 in Panama before boarding my flight to Havana.

It is still technically illegal for Americans to travel to Cuba for the purpose of tourism. Figure out for yourself whether you can fit one of the 12 general licenses, so you can legally travel to Cuba.

Awards

In a previous post, I ruled out charter flights to Cuba because they’re impossible for folks traveling to Cuba on a general license, and I ruled out paid flights via third countries as very expensive. I was determined to book my trip to Cuba with miles.

But booking a trip to Cuba with miles is not 100% straightforward.

If you go to united.com and type Havana into the search box, you get no results. The US-based airlines are not going to let you use their miles to fly to Cuba for the time being, even if you just want to use the miles to fly from Panama to Cuba.

Any awards you book to Cuba will have to be with foreign miles. There are a lot of options:

  • Avianca LifeMiles, Singapore KrisFlyer miles, Asiana Club miles, Lufthansa Miles & More miles on Avianca or Copa to Cuba
  • Air France Flying Blue miles from Mexico City to Havana, flying AeroMexico

I looked into using Singapore, Asiana, Lufthansa, and Avianca miles. Here was my experience.

Searching for Award Space

I tried to use the miles of four Star Alliance carriers, all of which have equal access to Saver award space released by Avianca and Copa on their flights to Cuba. As I mentioned, not all award search engines will display award space to Cuba, but lifemiles.com will. Search for Star Alliance award space to Cuba on lifemiles.com.

There are several routes to Havana from the Americas on Star Alliance carriers: Copa, Avianca, Air Canada, and Air China.

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 1.59.25 AM

 

There are also routes to Cayo CocoCayo Largo del SurHolguínSanta Clara, and Varadero on Star Alliance carriers.

To search for any of these routes on lifemiles.com, click on Air Tickets under the Enjoy tab.

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 1.51.59 AM

You may need to log in to a LifeMiles account to search. Sign up for a free account here.

On the search screen, next to “Preferred carrier,” select the carrier that serves the route you’re searching. Not specifying an airline will cause the search engine to miss results.

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My Searches

I was interested in combining Cuba with Colombia. I need to start and end my trip in Washington DC. I searched:

  • Washington-Dulles <-> Havana on Copa
  • Havana <-> Bogota on Avianca
  • Bogota <-> Washington-Dulles on American and Avianca

I searched all three itineraries in both directions because I was willing to visit Bogota and Havana in either order. I let my search results dictate my order.

In the end, I found much better award space on my dates from Havana to Bogota than vice versa, which sealed my plan to fly USA to Cuba to Colombia to USA.

Spending an Afternoon in Panama City

Here are sample results for economy awards from Washington to Havana.Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 2.28.55 PM

All of the options go from Washington to Panama City to Havana on Copa with varying layovers in Panama City. I decided to choose a seven hour layover in Panama City. From a quick search, I learned that I can visit the Miraflores Locks of the Panama Canal with a five hour layover. That sounds fascinating, and I plan to save money by hiring taxis instead of a tour company.

American Airlines Space to the United States

I was hoping to book Avianca’s direct flight from Bogota to Washington-Dulles for my return. There is award space on the flight in economy on many dates (yellow on the calendar below), but I couldn’t make it work for my trip.

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 2.39.05 AM

My back up plan was American Airlines miles with one stop in Miami. The benefit is that American Airlines charges only 15,000 miles one way between the United States and Northern South America for much of the year. United would have charged me 20,000 miles one way for the Avianca flight.

American Airlines award space is wide open between Bogota and Miami, and from there to anywhere else in the United States or Canada for the same 15,000 mile price.

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 2.37.54 AM

I noted the date, cabin, and flight number of the award space to Cuba on Copa, to Colombia on Avianca, and to the United States on American Airlines. Now it was time to book.

Booking the Award

I wanted to get all three of my awards or zero. The first step was to put the American Airlines award on a free five day hold while I investigated my booking options with Star Alliance miles for the Star Alliance flights.

Avianca LifeMiles

Selecting the Copa award flights from Washington-Dulles to Havana brings up a price of 17,500 Lifemiles + $31.85. Or you can toggle the “More money” button to book the award for 7,500 Lifemiles and $181.85.Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 2.29.42 PM

The problem is that I don’t have LifeMiles. Getting LifeMiles is a bit of a challenge. You basically need to buy them. They are often on sale for 1.65 cents each, though not currently. Once you have 7,500 LifeMiles, you can book the award for another $181.85.

I would consider buying the 7,500 miles when they are on sale for 1.65 cents each which happens every few months, but right now they cost 3.3 cents each.

The Havana to Bogota award was only 10,000 LifeMiles, but that was 10,000 more than I had.

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 11.12.33 AM

I went looking for other foreign Star Alliance options to book the flights.

Lufthansa Miles & More

Lufthansa is also a member of the Star Alliance, so it partners with Copa and Avianca. The Miles & More award chart shows a great price of 17,000 miles one way from the United States to Cuba or Colombia to Cuba.

I called the Miles & More call center for the United States and tried to book Washington to Havana. The agent said he could not book flights to Cuba.

Next I called the British service center at  +44 371 – 945 97 37 for 1 cent per minute via gmail. I fed the agent the Copa flights from Washington to Havana and she priced them at 17,000 Miles & More miles and 4.5 GBP ($7.) These were the same flights that the agent at the US call center couldn’t price.

She priced Bogota to Havana at 17,000 miles + $15.

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 12.24.21 PM

Fantastic! I had 18,000 Lufthansa miles, so I could book one of the awards with Lufthansa miles.

I continued my research.

Singapore KrisFlyer

The Singapore award chart shows a price of 17,500 miles from the United States to the Caribbean. Havana to Bogota would be 25,000 miles.

I called KrisFlyer and tried to price my Copa award. Three different agents priced it at 35,000 miles one way. For whatever reason, the computer wanted to collect Washington to Panama and Panama to Havana as two separate awards.

I didn’t bother to price Havana to Bogota because I knew it would be cheaper with Lufthansa miles, but I am confident it would have cost 25,000 Singapore miles.

Asiana Club

The Asiana chart shows Colombia to Cuba costing 17,500 miles and the United States to the Caribbean at 17,500 miles also.

I priced out Havana to Bogota at 17,500 miles + $15.

I didn’t bother to price out Washington to Havana because I had all the information I needed.

How I Booked

I had the perfect amount of Lufthansa and Asiana miles to book the two Star Alliance awards. If I hadn’t had those perfect amounts, I would have transferred Starpoints to Lufthansa miles. Starpoints transfer 1:1 to Singapore, Lufthansa, and Asiana miles. And every 20,000 points transferred earns a 5,000 mile bonus.

When the Asiana agent priced Havana to Bogota at 17,500 miles one way, I immediately booked. I got the following email a few minutes later with my confirmation number.

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 3.02.29 AM Next I called Lufthansa back. Because of the time of day, I called the Australian Miles & More center at +61 1300 – 655 727 for 2 cents a minute through gmail. I booked Washington to Havana for 17,000 miles + $7. My confirmation came quickly via email.Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 3.02.42 AM

 

Last I signed into my American Airlines account and ticketed Bogota to Washington, which I had held earlier in the day. It cost 15,000 miles + $95 (though I’ll get about $35 back upon check in.)

Bottom Line

Lufthansa, Avianca, Singapore, and Asiana are all willing to ticket award tickets to Cuba, even if they begin in the United States. Copa has several destinations in America from which you can get to Cuba with only one connection in Panama. If you don’t live in one of those cities, you can connect on United and Copa flights to Panama and then to Havana on your Miles & More award.

Search for the award space on lifemiles.com and call the non-US call center of the airline whose miles you want to use. You can book a roundtrip for as little as 34,000 Lufthansa miles, which is 29,000 Starpoints.

To get Starpoints, open the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express with 25,000 bonus Starpoints after spending $5,000 in the first six months. Just meeting the minimum spending requirement gives you more than enough points for a roundtrip award to Cuba.

 

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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19

I’m considering a trip to Cuba next month, so I wrote about the paid flight and award flight options last week. I can now confirm that Americans can use Lufthansa Miles & More Miles to book Avianca and Copa flights to/from Cuba.

You can even book these commercial flights from the United States to Cuba via Panama, and the awards are super cheap.

In Cheapest Flights and Awards To & From Cuba, I mentioned that there is award space from the United States to Panama to Havana on Copa Airlines.

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These flights are not bookable with United miles because United pretends like Havana doesn’t exist online and by phone.

These flights appear to be bookable with LifeMiles. Unfortunately the only easy way to get LifeMiles is when they are on sale for 1.65 cents each (not currently), and I don’t have any.

I went looking for other foreign Star Alliance options to book the flights. Lufthansa–the German airline–is also a member of the Star Alliance, so it partners Copa and Avianca. Its Miles & More award chart shows a great price of 17,000 miles one way or 35,000 miles roundtrip to Central America or the Caribbean from the United States. I called Lufthansa to try to book awards to Cuba, and it worked!

First I tried to book Bogota to Havana on Avianca because I may want to combine Cuba with a return to Colombia, but the flight costs $400+ one way between Colombia and Cuba.

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I searched lifemiles.com for award space on the direct Avianca flight. I found plenty of award space in both directions. (I believe partners have access to all the space in the “Limited Seats” columns.)

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I called the British Miles & More service center at +44 371 – 945 97 37. Perhaps the American service center would be just as able to book Cuba flights, but at 1 cent per minute via gmail, I’d rather just call a foreign service center.

I fed the agent my date, and she priced the Bogota to Havana segment at 17,000 LifeMiles + $15. Fantastic!

I asked her to check on the award flights I’d found from the United States to Havana.
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She priced that award–Washington-Dulles to Havana–for 17,000 Miles & More miles and 4.5 GBP ($7.)

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We got to me handing over my credit card, and I disconnected. I’m still not 100% sure I’ll travel to Cuba, but hopefully I’ll decide this week and book my flights.

Will I Have Trouble in Washington?

When I check in at Dulles, and the agent sees I have a flight to Cuba, will my flights be cancelled? I don’t know. In a worst-case scenario, I’d ask her to just print my boarding pass to Panama, and I’d collect my boarding pass to Havana there. If anyone has booked an award from the United States to Cuba and actually flown it, please share your experiences.

Bottom Line

Lufthansa is willing to ticket awards from the United States to Cuba for 17,000 miles one way plus minimal taxes. Copa has several destinations in America from which you can get to Cuba with only one connection in Panama. If you don’t live in one of those cities, you can connect on United and Copa flights to Panama and then to Havana on your Miles & More award.

Lufthansa Miles & More is a 1:1 transfer partner of SPG Starpoints, and every 20,000 Starpoints transferred earns a 5,000 mile bonus. You can get the 35,000 miles you need for a roundtrip to Cuba by transferring 30,000 Starpoints to Miles & More.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

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Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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Off peak awards allow us to stretch our miles further by booking discounted awards to select regions during certain pre-determined dates. Off peak awards are offered by several airlines, and this post will put all the off peak awards I know of in one place.

While off peak awards are often less desirable dates, there are some off peak dates that are actually my favorite times to visit a country. For instance, March is a fantastic month in Argentina, and you can book an award to Buenos Aires or Bariloche every March for 10,000 fewer American Airlines miles than if you travel in July, a worse time to visit in my opinion.

Bariloche, Lake District of Patagonia, in March

American and US Airways have set off peak awards every year to select regions. Air France Flying Blue and Lufthansa Miles & More have discounted awards that are kind of like off peak awards. United and Delta occasionally have award sales that are like off peak awards, but are not as regular as American and US Airways’ off peak awards.

  • What are the off peak awards offered by American, US Airways, Delta, United, Lufthansa, and Air France?
  • What dates are they offered?
  • Do you have to fly the airline offering the deal or can you fly a partner?
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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines lounge access for you and guests. My full review of the card.

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