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Beginning September 1, Lufthansa will add a €16 (about $18) surcharge to tickets purchased through third-party travel agencies, including online travel agencies such as Expedia and Orbitz. It’s not uncommon to see fares pricing out a bit higher through OTAs than when you’re booking through an airline’s own website, but this €16 charge will be in addition to any third-party fees charged by a booking site. Lufthansa’s clearly hoping that the move will encourage customers to purchase tickets directly from its own websites and ticket agents, which you’ll need to do if you want to avoid the surcharge.
The easiest way to ensure that you won’t have to pay the fee is to book through Lufthansa’s own channels, including lufthansa.com, brusselsairlines.com and swiss.com. You can also avoid the surcharge by purchasing tickets through a Lufthansa call center and ticket counters at airports with Lufthansa service. Based on the airline’s press release, it sounds like corporate customers will be affected as well — if you’re used to booking business travel through a third-party service such as Concur, you’ll still likely need to book directly through Lufthansa to avoid the €16 charge (note that you’ll be able to book at negotiated discounted rates directly on lufthansa.com).
Of course, there are still some cases when booking through a third-party site may make sense, such as when a you’ll benefit from a portal bonus and you’re booking more expensive tickets. For example, the Amex Premier Rewards Gold Card awards 3x points for all travel booked directly through the airline, but 4x points for travel booked through Amex’s site. Despite the surcharge for using a third-party service, sticking with Amex in this situation would be more lucrative if the additional 1x points for booking through Amex are worth more to you than the €16 fee. If you purchase a $4,000 business-class ticket, for example, you’ll earn an additional 4,000 Amex Membership Rewards points. In his June monthly valuations, TPG values MR points at 2 cents each, so the extra points you’ll receive are worth $80 — obviously making the €16 fee worthwhile.