Recently, Lufthansa announced some changes to the way their Miles & More programme works, specifically around earning award miles. The changes seem to have generated quite a lot of publicity in that they are following Air France / KLM in going “revenue based”, however in reality, the programme already was very reflective of the revenue you spent.
I’ve looked at the changes, and done some analysis on a couple of types of fares that I’m likely to buy to see how they would fare under the old and new systems.
What is not changing
Let’s start by listing what is not changing with the programme.
- No changes to earning status. Promotion to FTL, Senator and HON Circle remains exactly as it was.
- No changes to redemptions. There are no changes to any of the reward charts.
- No changes to earning miles with Star Alliance partners. Earning miles with any non-LH Group carrier remains exactly as it is today.
What does change
Currently, you earn miles on Lufthansa flights according to the fare bucket. This can be as little as 125 miles one-way on a K class fare. The current table for LH Group flights is below.
C, D, J
K, L, T
Complicated right! This goes out of the window and is replaced with something much simpler.
If you are a basic member, then you will earn 4 miles per € spent.
If you’re a FTL, Senator, or HON Circle, you’ll earn 6 miles per € spent.
This is unless you’re flying on Eurowings or Brussels Airlines, in which case you’ll only earn 5 miles per € spent.
This includes money spent on “carrier imposed surcharges”, “fuel surcharges” or what is sometimes called “YQ”. It does NOT include government taxes, or taxes levied by airports.
If you have booked a ticket on one of the following partners, then the way they calculate award miles will change:
- Austrian Airlines
- Brussels Airlines
The most important thing to check is the e-ticket number. If it starts with 220 for Lufthansa, 724 for SWISS, 257 for Austrian Airlines or with 082 for Brussels Airlines and Eurowings then it will be on the revenue based system.
If it starts with any other ticket number, such as 016 for United, then it will be under the current system. Even if your flights are for carriage on Lufthansa.
The changes come into effect for tickets issued on or after 12th March 2018. That means if you book before that date, and travel after, it will be under the old rules.
Analysis – Example 1
I recently flew on a £95 return fare from London to Munich. Under the current rules, as a basic member, I earned 125 miles each way, so 250 in total.
Under the new system, it’s a little harder to work out. At the moment, the cheapest fare I can find for the same route is actually £111.70 return, so around £5 more. The breakdown on ITA Matrix is as follows:
Of that, the £13.50 each way qualifies, as do the LH YQ and LH YR surcharges. In total therefore, it’s £47.10.
That £47.10 needs to be converted to Euros, which at the time of writing is €53.60 according to Google.
As a basic member, I’d take that €53.50 and multiply it by four, leaving me with 214 miles earned. If I were an elite member, it would be multiplied by six, giving me 321 miles.
So under the new system, I’m earning around 15% less as a basic member, but for such small amounts of miles, I’m not sure it matters that much.
Analysis – Example 2
Lets now look at a cheaper transatlantic business class fare from Europe to the West Coast of the USA. Traditionally, these have booked in to P class, which has only earned 1x in Miles & More. Oneworld carriers have traditionally incentivised these fares significantly more, either by being more generous with their EQDs/EQMs or tier points depending on where you credit.
I’ve found the following reasonably good fare form Stockholm to Los Angeles outbound with Lufthansa and returning with Austrian.
Under the old system, we’d be earning 750 miles for each of the European segments, totalling 1,500 miles. Then for Frankfurt to Los Angeles we would earn 5,806 miles and back to Vienna is 6,137 miles. In total, that’s 13,443.
Under the new system, the fare breakdown looks like this.
When we add up the base fare, the LH YQ, the LH YR and the OS YQ, we come to around £1,506 which converts to roughly €1,713.
Let’s take that €1,713 and multiply by four, giving us 6,852 miles for a basic member, or 10,278 miles for an elite member.
As a basic member this is almost a 50% reduction on a fare that earns poorly already. For example, the same P fare when credited to United (as opposed to Lufthansa) earns 200% of base miles.
For this fare, it would make sense to buy it as a UA coded flight, on UA ticket stock (starting 016) which would double your credit. Given there’s a transatlantic joint business agreement between Lufthansa and United, the fare should be identical.
From the limited analysis I’ve done on the kind of fares that I’m likely to buy i.e. discounted business class, the news doesn’t appear to be good. Given the loss of the MBNA credit card for UK based members, this does appear to be a bit of a double whammy for UK residents who want to use a Star Alliance programme.
Despite my many moans about British Airways, the Executive Club is actually a very strong frequent flier programme that provides many benefits for a relatively moderate spend.
These changes to Miles & More, especially given the limited opportunities to earn miles for UK based members, I believe is a step backwards in their competitiveness with British Airways.
This could have been a great opportunity for them to put forwards a really attractive proposition, especially given the strength of their overall product, however instead they appear to have gone backwards.