Swiss Air vs. Lufthansa: Which Is Best?
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Swiss International Air Lines and Lufthansa both belong to the Lufthansa Group, an aviation group consisting of five European carriers:
All of these airlines, except Eurowings, are Star Alliance members, meaning Swiss and Lufthansa are alliance partners.
If you’re faced with a choice of Swiss Air versus Lufthansa for your next trip, we’re here to help you pick the right one for your situation.
Where they’re based and where they fly
Based on Lufthansa’s larger global footprint and number of destinations served — about twice as many as Swiss — Lufthansa wins this round.
Winner for number of destinations served: Lufthansa
The Lufthansa brand started in Berlin, Germany in 1926 with a single flight carrying two passengers and a load of mail. Today, Lufthansa is Germany’s largest airline with hubs in Frankfurt and Munich.
The airline serves about 220 global destinations in 72 countries.
The roots of this airline go back to 1931, when two carriers merged to form Swissair. After a bankruptcy in 2002, that airline ceased operations, and Swiss International Air Lines, known as it is today, was formed.
Swiss is Switzerland’s largest carrier, serving more than 110 destinations in 48 countries out of its Zurich and Geneva hubs.
Airline loyalty programs
There is no winner in this category because both airlines belong to the same loyalty program: Miles & More.
Winner for ease of miles: Tie
Miles & More loyalty program
Lufthansa and Swiss are both part of a frequent flyer program called Miles & More.
In fact, several major European airlines participate in the same loyalty program, including Air Dolomiti, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Croatia Airlines, Eurowings, LOT Polish Airlines and Luxair.
The Miles & More elite status program has three tiers:
Frequent Traveler members get preferential check-in, increased baggage allowance and access to business lounges.
Senator members have access to both Senator and Star Alliance Gold lounges, two upgrade vouchers and preferential baggage pick-up.
Meanwhile, top-tier HON Circle members can enjoy limo transfer service on arrival and departure, six upgrade vouchers, access to first class lounges and top waiting list priority.
You can earn and redeem Miles & More miles for travel on up to 40 airlines, including Lufthansa and Swiss.
As for award redemptions, one of the best reasons to become a Miles & More member and start earning miles with the program is access to first class awards.
For example, Lufthansa doesn’t release its first class award seats to partner airlines until 15 days before departure, and actual availability is a huge gamble. Many travelers don’t have that kind of flexibility and therefore are unlikely to take advantage of the premium cabin on Lufthansa.
Miles & More members can book Lufthansa first class award seats up to 360 days before departure, which is a significant leg up on those trying to grab the seats through a partner.
Unfortunately, Miles & More awards to and from the U.S. incur high fuel surcharges.
If you’re not an elite status member, award miles earned in the Miles & More program expire after 36 months of inactivity on your account.
» Learn more: Best uses of Lufthansa miles
Travel credit card availability
The two airlines are close in this category — that’s because they offer the same credit card to earn Miles & More miles and other airline perks.
However, Lufthansa gets a slight edge as some benefits are only redeemable through its airline, notably the companion ticket and lounge access vouchers.
Winner for most valuable airline credit card: Lufthansa
Lufthansa Miles & More Credit Card
The Lufthansa Miles & More Credit Card from Barclays is available to U.S.-based travelers for a $59 annual fee. As a card member, you’ll receive the following benefits:
50,000 award miles after spending $3,000 on purchases and paying the annual fee in the first 90 days.
2 miles per dollar spent on tickets with airlines participating in the Miles & More program.
1 mile per dollar on all other purchases.
Two complimentary Lufthansa Business Lounge vouchers per year.
Companion ticket in Lufthansa economy class after each account anniversary (must depart from the U.S. to Europe, Middle East, Africa or Far East).
Option to convert award miles into status miles at a 5:1 ratio.
No foreign transaction fees.
Because the two airlines share a loyalty program, the Lufthansa Miles & More Credit Card is useful for those who choose to fly Swiss as well. However, keep in mind that the companion ticket is valid for Lufthansa flights only.
Unfortunately, the Miles & More program doesn’t partner with any transferrable point bank programs.
» Learn more: The best airline credit cards right now
Additional travel fees
To no one’s surprise, Swiss prices are higher than German prices, therefore Lufthansa wins this round with a slight edge.
Winner for lowest fees: Lufthansa
Advanced seat reservation: starts at $13 (12 euros).
Seat in the preferred seating zone: starts at $19 (17 euros).
Seat with more legroom: starts at $28 (25 euros).
Oversized baggage: starts at $45.
Advanced seat reservation: starts at $16 (14 Swiss francs).
Seat in the preferred seating zone: starts at $22 (20 Swiss francs).
Seat with more legroom: starts at $33 (30 Swiss francs).
Oversized baggage: starts at $46.
Winner for best first class: Tie
Honestly, it’s hard to go wrong with either airline’s first class product.
If you’d like to be pampered on the ground and in the sky, Lufthansa has something to offer with its personal assistant service and in-flight caviar. Swiss, on the other hand, tempts flyers with local gourmet specialties and access to an exclusive airport lounge.
You’re probably not going to notice too much difference between the airlines in economy classes of service.
When flying Lufthansa first class, however, you’ll have access to a valet parking service at select airports, a personal assistant at Frankfurt’s First Class Terminal and First Class Lounge, and limousine service to the aircraft.
Onboard, you’ll be able to enjoy culinary delights (including caviar), a lie-flat bed featuring a duvet and washrooms large enough to move around in.
Flying economy with Swiss does offer a small perk: Anytime you fly from either Zurich or Geneva, you’ll be treated to a bottle of pure mineral water and some Swiss chocolate on board the aircraft.
When you fly first class with Swiss, you’ll have access to a dedicated airport terminal in Zurich as well as the Swiss First Lounge. On board, seats turn into lie-flat beds with complimentary pajamas to sleep in. Some flights also feature 32-inch in-flight entertainment screens, the largest in the industry.
The airline also provides a variety of gourmet Swiss specialties to dine on, including smoked salmon, with flexible meal times. When you land, a chauffeur service will meet you at the aircraft door.
If you’re choosing between Lufthansa and Swiss
When picking between Swiss and Lufthansa, the margins are fairly narrow.
The airlines share the same loyalty program, are in the same alliance and provide similarly excellent service in their first class cabins. Lufthansa has a small edge overall due to its larger number of destinations and a few more credit card perks.
However, if both carriers fly to your destination and the price point is the same, you can’t go wrong with either option.
(Top photo courtesy of Swiss International Air Lines)
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