Redeem miles for Lufthansa business class to Oktoberfest today

Sep 5, 2019

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The world’s foremost beer festival — Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany — is set to kick off on September 21 and runs through October 6. And for any beer lovers who also happen to collect points and miles, you may be able to check this massive tradition off your lager-themed bucket list with minimal expenditure out of pocket, as we’re noticing a relatively wide-open swath of Lufthansa business-class award space from the US to Munich (MUC) throughout the two-week festival. Return availability is much more sparse — but still available on a handful of flights.

Photo by Emily McNutt/The Points Guy

At the time of writing, the following dates have at least one business-class award seat from the given city — though some have up to nine awards on a single flight:

Boston (BOS)

  • Outbound — September 21-25 and 28-30; October 1
  • Return — September 25; October 4

New York-JFK

  • Outbound — September 23 and 29; October 1
  • Return — None

Washington-Dulles (IAD)

  • Outbound — September 22-23 and 29-30; October 1 and 3
  • Return — September 26; October 4

Charlotte (CLT)

  • Outbound — September 22-24 and 28-30; October 1
  • Return — September 26; October 4-5

Unfortunately, nonstop availability from Miami (MIA), Detroit (DTW), Chicago-O’Hare (ORD), Denver (DEN) and San Francisco (SFO) is virtually nonexistent. However, I did see decent options to Frankfurt (FRA) out of MIA and DTW along with Orlando (MCO), so you could add a connecting flight from there to Munich. After all, a one-stop flight in business class during a peak travel time is still notable.

How to book

There are plenty of Star Alliance programs that could be used to book these award tickets — but you’ll need to balance the mileage costs with the added taxes and fees that some impose. Your best options to minimize your out-of-pocket costs are booking via United MileagePlus or Avianca LifeMiles.

United MileagePlus

Even though United is shifting to dynamic award pricing as of November 15, 2019, this doesn’t (as of now) impact partner awards. One-way, business-class awards from the US to Europe will price at 70,000 miles, but the biggest draw of booking through United is that you won’t pay any fuel surcharges. Unfortunately, if you don’t hold United Premier status or have a United Club Card (no longer available for new applicants), you’ll need to fork over a $75 close-in booking fee on awards booked within 21 days of departure — try to look at the second week of Oktoberfest if you want to avoid that charge.

There are many ways to earn United miles, but the quickest for the purposes of these awards is by transferring points from Chase Ultimate Rewards. You can do this if you hold any of the following cards:

You could also combine your earnings from select cash-back cards like the Chase Freedom Unlimited with the points from one of the above three accounts to enable transfers to partners. Note that transfers processed instantly in our tests.

Avianca LifeMiles

Like United, Avianca doesn’t impose fuel surcharges on Lufthansa-operated award tickets — or any partner airline, for that matter. Nonstop, one-way award tickets in business class from the US to Europe will only set you back 63,000 miles. However, if you book a mixed-cabin award with a connection in economy, your actual mileage rate will be even lower, like this ticket from Orlando (MCO) to Munich (MUC) via Frankfurt (FRA):

The main drawback to booking with LifeMiles is that the online search engine doesn’t always match what you’ll find on other Star Alliance award sites. If you need to call — or adjust a ticket after booking — you may then encounter inconsistent customer service, so it’s up to you to decide whether the mileage savings are worth it.

If you don’t currently have LifeMiles, you can transfer points from American Express Membership Rewards (1:1), Citi ThankYou Rewards (1:1) or Capital One (2:1.5). In our tests from Amex, Citi and Capital One, all transfers posted instantly.

Higher-priced programs

Another booking option for these awards is Air Canada’s Aeroplan program — one that partners with both Amex Membership Rewards (1:1) and Capital One (2:1.5). The mileage rates are noticeably lower, as you’ll need just 55,000 miles for a one-way, business-class award from the US to Europe. However, you will be subject to massive fuel surcharges — $1,790.30 CAD (~$1,353 USD based on current exchange rates) for this round-trip ticket from Boston:

Since Avianca shares both of Aeroplan’s card transfer partners, you’re likely much better off booking through LifeMiles — unless you can find a routing on Swiss or another carrier that doesn’t incur fuel surcharges on award tickets booked with Aeroplan miles.

Bottom Line

Oktoberfest in Munich is (I’m told) an incredible experience, and amazingly enough, you can currently use your points and miles to get there in style — even though the festival is just over two weeks away. Of course, flights are just part of the equation, so be sure you consider the best points hotels once you get there.

For additional tips on planning your trip, be sure to check out this Miles Away podcast.

Featured photo by Ryan Patterson / The Points Guy

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