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.
The onboard First Class product is solid–a step above American carriers and a step below Asian and Middle Eastern carriers.
And the ground experience in Frankfurt is my favorite in the world. First Class passengers have their own terminal.
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.
Lufthansa First Class is bookable with all Star Alliance miles.
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.
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.
They are listed on individual tickets as YQ and YR.
In 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.)
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
- Get 50,000 Asiana miles
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 40,000 bonus points, $250 in airfare or airline fee credits per calendar year, access to Priority Pass lounges, and 3x points per dollar on air travel and hotels.
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.