Lufthansa Discounts Upgrade Awards

The latest promotion from Lufthansa raises a question. But first, the promotion:

Through June 30, members of Lufthansa's Miles & More program can redeem fewer miles to upgrade from coach to business class on flights between North America and Germany.

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Upgrades from most coach fares normally require 50,000 miles each way. With the discount, it's only 30,000 miles. And upgrades from unrestricted coach (Y or B fares) are discounted from 35,000 to 20,000 miles.

Separately, and of little use to U.S.-based Miles & More members, Lufthansa is also discounting award flights between Germany and Asia or Brazil, from April 22 through June 3. Award tickets on those routes are discounted to 45,000 miles from the 60,000 to 80,000 miles normally required.

Oh, and the question alluded to above is this: With plenty of unsold seats, why aren't more airlines offering temporary award sales?

Among U.S. airlines, United was offering discounts on international awards, but that promotion ended on April 15. Delta/Northwest discounted awards on selected international flights through June 15, but the deadline for booking those awards was April 20. So today, the only award discount currently on offer from a U.S. airline is Alaska Airlines'—and that's limited to travel between Alaska and Hawaii.

Lufthansa's promotion also raises the question of whether it's best to participate in a U.S. mileage program or one hosted by a non-U.S. carrier. Throughout the history of airline loyalty programs, the U.S. has led the way, in terms of both generosity and innovation. That meant, among other things, that North America residents had little reason to look beyond U.S. carriers' programs to maximize their travel rewards.

At the moment, however, some American travelers are certainly wishing they'd chosen to invest their mileage-earning in the program of certain German airline.

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