Lufthansa vs. British Airways

Each of these international giants comes with a complex mix of pros and cons, but British Airways wins by a hair.
JT Genter
By JT Genter 
Updated
Edited by Meg Lee

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Lufthansa and British Airways are two of the largest full-service airlines in Europe. Each flies dozens of routes to the U.S. and to hundreds of destinations around the world. Both offer loyalty programs that get mixed reviews, providing some niche value but charging high taxes and fees on many award flights.

So, let's compare these two airlines head-to-head to see who comes out on top in the battle of Lufthansa versus British Airways.

Where they’re based and where they fly

Winner: Tie

When it comes to route networks, British Airways and Lufthansa are tied. Both airlines fly to over 200 destinations across more than 70 countries, including 20 or more routes to the U.S. As both airlines are based in Europe, U.S.-based travelers will likely need to connect in one of their hubs — unless they're flying to London (British Airways), Munich or Frankfurt (Lufthansa).

British Airways

British Airways currently flies to over 200 destinations across 74 countries. Greater London serves as both the airline's headquarters and its sole hub. Almost all British Airways flights depart from or return to one of three major London airports — Heathrow, Gatwick and London City.

British Airways' extensive route map has dozens of U.S. routes, including the following:

  • Atlanta.

  • Austin, Texas.

  • Baltimore.

  • Boston.

  • Chicago-O’Hare.

  • Cincinnati.

  • Dallas-Fort Worth.

  • Denver.

  • Houston-Intercontinental.

  • Las Vegas.

  • Los Angeles.

  • Miami.

  • Nashville, Tennessee.

  • New Orleans.

  • Newark.

  • New York-John F. Kennedy.

  • Orlando.

  • Philadelphia.

  • Phoenix.

  • Pittsburgh.

  • Portland, Oregon.

  • San Diego.

  • San Francisco.

  • San Jose.

  • Seattle.

  • Tampa.

  • Washington-Dulles.

Lufthansa

Cologne, Germany-based Lufthansa primarily operates from its two major hubs in Frankfurt and Munich. Lufthansa serves over 210 destinations across 73 countries. That includes the following 20 destinations in the United States:

  • Atlanta.

  • Austin, Texas.

  • Boston.

  • Charlotte.

  • Chicago-O'Hare.

  • Dallas-Fort Worth.

  • Denver.

  • Detroit.

  • Houston-Intercontinental.

  • Los Angeles.

  • Miami.

  • Newark.

  • New York-John F. Kennedy.

  • Orlando.

  • Philadelphia.

  • San Diego.

  • San Francisco.

  • Seattle.

  • St. Louis.

  • Washington-Dulles.

Travel credit card availability

Winner: British Airways

Chase British Airways Credit Card
NerdWallet rating 

British Airways and Lufthansa both offer credit cards for U.S. travelers. However, the British Airways Visa Signature® Card offers more enticing perks and a higher earning rate on flights. Plus, travelers can easily accumulate British Airways Avios indirectly through several transferable bank programs. That's not the case with Lufthansa.

British Airways credit cards

U.S. travelers can earn British Airways Avios and get perks on British Airways by signing up for the British Airways Visa Signature® Card. Eligible new cardholders can earn the following sign-up bonus: Limited time offer! Earn 85,000 Avios after you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. The British Airways Visa Signature® Card charges a $95 annual fee.

Cardholders earn 3 Avios per dollar spent on British Airways flight purchases, 2x Avios at hotels and 1x Avios on all other purchases. In addition, cardholders will get a 10% discount on British Airways flights, statement credits for certain reward flights and the ability to spend toward a Travel Together Ticket.

Travelers can also gather Avios by transferring points from the following major transferable points programs:

  • American Express Membership Rewards (1:1 transfer rate).

  • Capital One Miles (1:1).

  • Chase Ultimate Rewards (1:1).

  • Marriott Bonvoy (3:1).

That means that travelers can also effectively earn British Airways Avios using credit cards such as The Platinum Card® from American Express, Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card and Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. Terms apply.

Lufthansa credit cards

Lufthansa offers the Lufthansa Miles & More Credit Card to U.S. travelers. You can currently earn the following welcome bonus: Earn 80,000 award miles if you spend $3,000 in purchases and pay the annual fee, both within the first 90 days.

Cardholders earn 2 Miles & More miles per dollar spent on airlines associated with Miles & More (including Lufthansa) and 1x miles on all other purchases. The card doesn't have foreign transaction fees but charges an annual fee of $89.

Lufthansa Miles & More isn't a transfer partner of any major U.S. transferable points program. That means you'll only be able to accumulate miles through flying and the Lufthansa Miles & More Credit Card.

Airline loyalty programs

Winner: Lufthansa

Both British Airways and Lufthansa are infamous for charging high fees on their award flights, driving down redemption rates. Although Lufthansa miles are harder to earn, Miles & More miles are generally more valuable and unlock more aspirational redemption options.

British Airways loyalty program

In NerdWallet's analysis, British Airways Avios is one of the least-valuable rewards currencies with a miserable baseline value of 1 cent per Avios. However, don't write off the British Airways program entirely. There are still ways for travelers to redeem British Airways Avios for maximum value — mostly on partner airlines. Redemptions on British Airways-operated flights can have extraordinarily high taxes and fees, particularly in premium cabins.

Travelers currently earn British Airways Avios based on how much money they spend with the airline, with bonuses for premium cabins and elite status members.

Lufthansa loyalty program

As we covered above, Miles & More miles aren't easy to accumulate. Earning options include flying on Lufthansa or partner airlines, spending on a Miles & More credit card or booking hotels and rental cars through Miles & More partners.

NerdWallet doesn't have a valuation of Miles & More miles. However, other valuations vary between 1.2 and 1.3 cents per mile. Lufthansa is infamous for charging high fees on awards. That means options for redeeming Lufthansa miles for outsized value are generally found on partner airlines.

With that said, the Miles & More program is the most reliable way to book Lufthansa First Class. Lufthansa typically restricts first class award availability from partners until two weeks before departure. However, Miles & More members have access to a lot more availability.

Extra fees

Winner: Lufthansa

When flying either British Airways or Lufthansa, you'll need to watch out for extra fees for things like seat selection. However, Lufthansa's fee policy isn't as punitive as British Airways.

British Airways

From "Hand Baggage Only" fares to seat selection fees, British Airways is known for tacking on additional costs to your ticket price.

British Airways charges seat selection fees on most fares. Only travelers that booked flexible fares, first class tickets or have elite status can select a seat for free more than 24 hours before departure. That means that even business class fares don't include free seat selection.

While standard economy and higher fares generally include a free checked bag, travelers must pay up to $75 each way to check a bag across the Atlantic on British Airways' cheapest economy fares.

Lufthansa

Like British Airways, Lufthansa charges seat selection fees for economy and some premium economy fares. However, you won't have to pay to select a seat in Lufthansa business or first class. Avoid this fee by booking an X-fare class ticket or having Lufthansa Miles & More Senator or HON Circle elite status. All Lufthansa passengers get at least one free checked bag on intercontinental routes.

In-flight experience

Winner: British Airways

While Lufthansa has teased some impressive improvements, British Airways has already completed much of the hard work to refresh its in-flight experience.

British Airways

Way back in 2000, British Airways introduced its first lie-flat business class seat. And for decades after, the airline barely improved the product. That changed in 2019 with the rollout of British Airways' new Club World Suites. Add in improvements to British Airways economy, premium economy and first class cabins, and British Airways has taken great strides recently to improve its onboard experience.

In NerdWallet analysis, British Airways earns 3.4 out of a potential 5 stars for its in-flight entertainment experience. British Airways earns top marks for movies, but only 3 stars for Wi-Fi availability and cost. A lack of free texting, live TV and extra in-flight perks for credit card holders and elite status members dragged the score lower.

Lufthansa

Like British Airways, Lufthansa is making improvements to its aging cabins. However, these improvements have been a long time coming. A new business class seat was originally announced in 2017 before being re-announced in October 2022. If all goes to plan, these new business class seats — along with stunning new first class seats — will start flying in 2023. But, it will take a couple of years for this new product to roll out fleetwide.

Lufthansa vs. British Airways, recapped

In the competition of Lufthansa versus British Airways, British Airways narrowly comes out as the winner. Both airlines fly to an equivalent number of destinations — in the U.S. and worldwide. And both British Airways and Lufthansa are known for adding excessive fees to award tickets.

British Airways comes out ahead by offering a more compelling credit card for U.S. travelers, a greater number of points transfer partners and a refreshed in-flight experience.

But it's not a clean sweep for British Airways. Lufthansa generally charges fewer fees for baggage and seat selection. Plus, Miles & More miles are quite valuable — if you can find a way to earn them.

All information about the Lufthansa Miles & More Credit Card has been collected independently by NerdWallet. The Lufthansa Miles & More Credit Card is no longer available through NerdWallet.


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