Europe: Changes to Lufthansa's Miles & More

Europe: Changes to Lufthansa's Miles & More

As of Aug. 1, Miles & More members can expect a host of changes.

Let’s start with the good news. Almost all award travel in economy and business will be reduced, in some cases by up to 20 percent. The only high-traffic award that will increase is the North America-Europe route, which jumps 10,000 miles in business and 40,000 miles in first class.

In addition, the Fly Smart awards — fairly restricted flight awards at lowered mileage levels — will be reduced by a full 20 percent, but will only be available online. In the past, only economy-class awards could be booked with the Fly Smart program. Beginning in August, members will be allowed to book Fly Smart awards within Europe in business class as well.

Unfortunately, that’s about it for the good news.

The number of miles required for upgrades will now be based on the fare paid. The mileage required for upgrades to business class from a full-fare economy ticket will remain unchanged. For all other upgrades, more miles will be required.

North American members, it should be mentioned, may notice another development. Previously, there was a distinct advantage in being a Miles & More member based in the U.S., as they were privy to a separate award chart, often with awards available for less than what European members had to pay. In the future, there will be only one such chart.

In a blow to frugal flyers, it will no longer be possible to upgrade from deeply discounted economy fares. And, apparently taking its cue from American carriers, Miles & More will be lowering mileage earned on deeply discounted fares. Passengers who buy full-fare economy tickets (B and Y classes) will now earn 50-percent more miles, while those in deeply discounted economy (S and W) will earn 50-percent fewer miles.

All other fare classes, including other economy classes, remain the same.

Says Lufthansa: “Those who pay more also deserve more miles. Or, to put it another way: if you pay less for your ticket you will also earn less miles.”

A number of North American programs did something similar last year, and the outcry was deafening. What’s interesting, though, is that the U.S. programs only limited the earning of elite-qualifying miles — standard bonus miles remained the same. Lufthansa is taking the extra step of limiting all miles earned, period.

Asian flyers will not find this all that surprising — indeed, most Asian programs have limited, or completely denied, mileage earning on cheap seats since their inception.

Within Europe, members will find some changes to the minimum number of miles earned on short hops. Mileage will be strictly based on booking class, regardless of how short the flight is. In business class, passengers will earn 1,500 miles for domestic flights (previously 2,000) and 2,000 miles for international flights (unchanged). Economy-class passengers will now earn between 125 and 1,250 miles (previously they could earn between 500 and 1,000).

Elite-level members also need to brace for a change: Senators and Frequent Travelers will continue to receive an Executive Bonus of 25 percent of miles flown, but only on Lufthansa, Air Dolomiti, Air One, the Austrian Airlines Group, LOT Polish Airlines and United Airlines. No other Star Alliance partners will offer the Executive Bonus. In addition, the bonus will be calculated according to the distance flown or, in Europe, according to the set minimum-mileage values. In some cases, this means a larger bonus; in others, a smaller one.

What really has some elite members griping, though, is the change to the number of complimentary Senator upgrade vouchers that will be awarded. Currently, a Senator-level member receives one of these for every 50,000 miles he or she flies. As of August, however, Senators will get two every two years — period.

Will the changes prompt open rebellion by members? While it was inevitable that Europe’s largest frequent flyer program would introduce some degree of change — with the merger of KLM and Air France, the courtship of Iberia by British Airways, and the potential growth of alliances across the continent, competition among the major carriers is becoming increasingly intense — there’s no shortage of grumbling. Said one Senator-level member: “They’re shooting themselves in the foot, if not some other private part.”

Much of the dismay seems to be centered around the fact that once the changes go through, there will be little incentive for members to stay with Miles & More if their pet perks have been eliminated. Indeed, many are considering a move to Star Alliance partner United.

According to Lufthansa, “Changes and demands of the market, the airline industry in general and of our competitors influenced the development of the new Miles & More.”

It should be kept in mind, though, that these changes are not as radical as, for example, those imposed on Executive Club by British Airways in 2003. And Miles & More continues to offer some genuinely unique benefits. No other major program offers a two-year period in which to qualify for elite status, and none grants that elite status for a full two years. Members can still earn class-of-service bonuses that count toward elite status, and mileage minimums for short-haul flights remain among the highest in the industry.

We will no doubt be hearing from more members as August approaches — stay tuned for developments and feedback.

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