I have been traveling with Lufthansa for over 15 years, and until very recently had nothing but good experiences with the company. My latest experience with the Star Alliance affiliate, however, made me aware of a few company policies that are extremely unfavorable to consumers.
To give you some context, I typically fly back and forth between Washington, D.C. and my native Greece a few times a year. As a result, I have racked up literally hundreds of thousands of rewards miles, which until recently made me a Star Alliance Silver Status customer. Before losing this status, I noticed that miles I should have earned for a number of flights had not been credited to my account even though I had presented my Miles and More card at check-in.
As a result, I decided to take a closer look at my account, and what I found was a poorly-run rewards program lacking in both transparency and customer service that actually provides an incentive for many of its customers to establish a relationship with another airline. In short, there are four main problems with Lufthansa’s rewards program.
First, Lufthansa is not nearly transparent enough about how customers earn their rewards miles. I came to this conclusion after examining my flight history and discovering that I had not always earned the same number of miles for the flights I routinely took between Washington, D.C. and Athens. Does the distance between cities fluctuate? Did I sleep through that Geography class?
Nope, apparently Lufthansa has merely come up with a deceiving strategy of giving more rewards miles (up to 70% more) to one economy class ticket vs. another economy class ticket and one business class ticket vs. another. As most people purchase their tickets through travel-related websites and travel agents, this makes it nearly impossible to determine how rewarding a given flight will be at the time of booking a ticket.
Second, Lufthansa’s policies are geared toward tricking customers out of the miles that they have earned rather than crediting them for loyal business. More specifically, any miles discrepancies must be reported within two weeks of an account being updated, or Lufthansa will assume that the balance is correct. On the phone, a customer representative told me that because my flights had been more than six months ago, the company could not credit my miles. Regardless of whether it’s two weeks or six months, there should be no time limit because customers are entitled to the miles they have right fully owned, no matter what.
Third, Lufthansa essentially places the onus for its own mistakes on customers. Two months after my initial inquiry about my missing miles, I called back to see whether they had been credited. Not only were they still missing from my account, but I was informed that I now needed to contact a different department in order to get an update because I was no longer a Silver Status customer. Regardless of the fact that the miles mix-up was Lufthansa’s fault, I had to put in the extra effort to start all over again in hopes of resolving the issue.
Last but not least, Lufthansa’s rewards expiration policy gives customers incentive to use other airlines. When a customer loses preferred status, his already-earned miles are given an expiration date. The logical reaction to this occurrence is for the customer to therefore use these miles as quickly as possible, which decreases the likelihood of regaining a preferred status (one does not earn new miles on flights booked with rewards). As a result, once these original miles have been used, there is no incentive to continue using one particular airline. Considering the attractiveness of offers like the British Airways Credit Card from Chase, which offers 100,000 bonus miles in the first three months, this policy will surely result in Lufthansa losing business.
Ultimately, Lufthansa’s Miles & More program has some fundamental flaws that must be tended to. My experience as a member of this rewards program left me with a bad taste in my mouth and I therefore caution other consumers to be extremely careful in their dealings with Lufthansa. I, for one, know that I am looking forward to seeing how other airlines operate their rewards programs.
[Disclosure: Some of the links within this article point to CardHub.com, which is owned by the same parent company as Wallet Blog.]