Lufthansa Miles & More Basics: Part 7 – How to Avoid Paying High Fuel Surcharges

Disclosure: Well Traveled Mile has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Well Traveled Mile and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.

Update 6/30/2014: The current welcome bonus has been reduced to 35,000 miles. All links in this post go to the following offer:

Lufthansa Miles and More World MasterCard

Application Link: Miles & More® Premier World MasterCard®

  • Earn 20,000 award miles after your first purchase or balance transfer
  • Earn up to 15,000 award miles with balance transfers (1 mile per $1 transferred) within 30 days of account opening
  • Earn 2 award miles per $1 on ticket purchases directly from Miles & More integrated airline partners
  • Earn 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases
  • Annual Companion Ticket after first purchase
  • No foreign transaction fees on purchases made outside the U.S.
  • Redeem miles for flight awards and upgrades on Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, SWISS, Star Alliance airlines and other partners
  • $79 Annual Fee, waived for SEN and HON Circle Members

The 50,000 mile Lufthansa Premier Miles & More World MasterCard® offer is currently one of the best airline credit card offers available. It’s one of the few welcome bonuses that is worth a roundtrip flight to Europe from the US. Since it’s a valuable recurring offer I’m updating and adding more info to this series that will cover the basics of the Miles & More frequent flyer program and using Lufthansa miles.

[The current 50k offer is a limited time offer and published to end on June 30, 2014. As always, if you decide to apply for the credit card through my links the support is greatly appreciated!]

Get 50,000 Lufthansa miles - 2 flights within the US or 1 flight to Europe!

Get 50,000 Lufthansa miles - worth 2 flights within the US or 1 flight to Europe!

Lufthansa Miles & More Basics Series

Part 1: The Program and Award Chart

Part 2: Best Ways to Earn Lufthansa Miles

Part 3: 10 Great Uses of Lufthansa Miles

Part 4: Stopover & Open Jaw Rules

Part 5: How to Book Awards

Part 6: Maximizing the 3 Region Award Chart

Part 7: How to Avoid Paying High Fuel Surcharges

The increased 50,000 mile bonus offer for the Lufthansa Premier Miles & More World MasterCard® is currently one of the best airline credit card offers on the market. You'll earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 within 90 days, and after meeting the spending requirement you will have enough miles for a round trip ticket to Europe from the US or two round trip flights within the continental US.

In my opinion this is a great offer considering it will get you a round trip award flight to Europe, if you end up grabbing this card be sure to read up on how to maximize your miles with this series!

Understanding Fuel Surcharges

When you use airline miles to book an award ticket you will always pay for government taxes and fees, but depending on what airline you fly on, you may also pay fuel surcharges. Fuel surcharges are additional fees that an airline charges to cover part of the cost of the ticket and are non-revenue earning. Essentially you are paying for the fuel cost to fly you to your destination.

Most of the time you will not be charged a fuel surcharge on award flights within the US, however, on international awards you are more likely to incur them. Lufthansa charges fuel surcharges on all of their award flights and also many of their partner airlines, so to maximize your miles it is best to book awards that do not include fuel surcharges.

You can unlock more value using Lufthansa miles by choosing to redeem the miles with specific airline partners or by flying to specific regions around the world.

If you end up applying for the The Premier Miles & More® World MasterCard® and earn the 55,000 miles from the card, you should consider the best options for using your miles.

What Fuel Surcharges Mean for You?

When you purchase a flight with cash, the cost of the ticket can be broken down into three parts:

  1. Base fare
  2. Fuel Surcharges
  3. Government and airport taxes and fees

On all paid tickets the bottom line is the total cost of the ticket, and it’s not necessarily important how much of the ticket is base fare vs. fuel surcharges.

One of the easiest ways to see how a ticket fare is broken down is by using the ITA Matrix. Fuel surcharges will almost always be listed under the codes “YR” or “YQ.” Here is an example of how ITA Matrix easily shows you how much you are paying in fuel surcharges:

Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 10.01.46 AM

Fuel surcharges are $290 flying on AA from PDX to NRT

In this example the fuel surcharges came out to be $290 on a one-way ticket from Portland to Tokyo flying on American Airlines.

However, when you book an award flight you can break down the cost of the ticket similarly, but you won’t always pay fuel surcharges:

  1. Airline miles needed for award
  2. Government and airport taxes and fees
  3. Sometimes: fuel Surcharges

It’s clear that to get the most value from your airline miles you always want to avoid paying fuel surcharges, afterall the lower your total fees are, the more you save. When you really start to research the cost saving opportunities on award tickets you can even go as far as flying into or out of different countries to avoid high airport taxes.

Unfortunately, Lufthansa passes fuel surcharges onto many of its partner airline award tickets booked with Lufthansa miles. However, depending on the airline you fly on, you can largely avoid or minimize the cost of fuel surcharges.

That means on many Lufthansa partner award flights you can still pay $0 or very low fuel surcharges. This will only leave you paying the normal government taxes and fees which are unavoidable. This post will outline which Lufthansa partners charge zero or low fuel surcharges on some routes.

Avoiding Fuel Surcharges with Lufthansa Miles

Lufthansa is part of Star Alliance and the Miles & More alliance which makes it possible to use Lufthansa miles on any of the 26 Star Alliance partner airlines as well as the 9 Miles & More partners.

You can use Lufthansa miles and pay no or low fuel surcharges for flights within North America and to Hawaii and Alaska, Europe, Central America, South America, the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia.

Overall the Lufthansa award chart is very competitive and their stopover and open jaw rules are among the most generous across all airline programs. You can get a stopover in each direction and can book a stopover on one-way awards. To easily compare award charts across different airlines see my Airline Award Chart Comparisons.

RegionNo or Low Fuel Surcharges ($0 - $100)Mid-level Fuel Surcharges ($100 - $300)High Fuel Surcharges ($300+)
North AmericaUnited
EuropeLOTCondor Airlines, Turkish AirlinesAir Canada, Austrian, Brussels Airlines, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines, Swiss, TAP, United
HawaiiUnitedAir Canada
Central American & CaribbeanAvianca, TACA, CopaAir Canada
South AmericaAvianca, TACA, Copa, United
Middle East/ N. & Central AfricaEthiopian Airlines, Turkish AirlinesUnited, EgyptAir
South AfricaSouth African Airways
South East Asia
Central Asia/Far EastAir ChinaAsiana Airlines, EVA, Singapore AirlinesANA, Air Canada, United, Thai Airways
Australia/New ZealandAir New ZealandAir Canada, United

An important point to remember when using Lufthansa miles is that if you connect through a third region on your itinerary, the award will automatically be priced out at the 3 region award level. That means that the airline and destination combinations included in this chart are not exhaustive, but rather include most of the options for one-way or round trip award options.

It is possible to fly to many more destinations on each partner,however you may connect through a third region and pay the three region award price. This is only a good value if you want to add a stopover within the third region to see more destinations.

No Fuel Surcharges on Flights from Brazil

You will never pay fuel surcharges on award flights out of Brazil. In fact, it is against Brazilian law to charge fuel surcharges on flights, which means you can fly out of Brazil on any Star Alliance partners and pay no fuel surcharges.

No fuel surcharges from Brazil to Istanbul

No fuel surcharges from Brazil to Istanbul

This means that you can book unique award tickets that includes Brazil and avoid fuel surcharges on some of the best airlines to Europe from South America. For instance, you can book a three region award from the US to Brazil to Europe and pay no to very low fuel surcharges. This award would look something like this:

US to Brazil: Avianca, Copa, United

Brazil to Europe: Lufthansa, SWISS, Singapore Airlines, Air China

Europe to US: Polish LOT (low fuel surcharges around $200)

You could also do something with an award to travel from the US to Africa or Asia with a stopover in South America.

Star Alliance airlines which fly in/out of Sao Paulo (GRU):

  • Air Canada (to/from US)
  • Air China (to China via Madrid)
  • Avianca (to/from US)
  • Copa (to/from US)
  • Ethiopian Airlines (to Addis Ababa via Lome)
  • Lufthansa (to Frankfurt and Munich)
  • Singapore Airlines (to Singapore via Barcelona)
  • South African (to Johannesburg)
  • SWISS (to Zurich)
  • TAP Portugal (to Lisbon, Porto)
  • Turkish Airlines (to Istanbul)
  • United

Star Alliance airlines which fly in/out Rio de Janeiro (GIG):

  • Air Canada (to/from US)
  • Avianca (to/from US)
  • Copa (to/from US)
  • Lufthansa (to Frankfurt and Munich)
  • SWISS (to Zurich)
  • TAP Portugal (to Lisbon, Porto)
  • United

Quick Recap

Lufthansa miles can offer amazing value if you know how to use them and by choosing the right airline to fly on, you can pay no fuel surcharges. On top of this you can incorporate stopovers on one-ways to create unique trips and get a ton of value from your miles. Because of this Lufthansa miles are among some of the best miles to use for award flights within the US, to South America, and flying on select airlines to Europe, China, and New Zealand.

On the other hand, you can expect to pay fuel surcharges using Lufthansa miles on partner airlines which were included in the mid-level and high fuel surcharge list within this post. This means award flights to many European cities and the Middle East may cost more using Lufthansa miles than on United or other airline miles.

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