What Is Lufthansa HON Circle?

Reader James sent me an email to ask if I could write about what Lufthansa’s HON Circle status is, given that I’ve mentioned it in my past couple of Lufthansa trip reports (including my first class review from Frankfurt to Los Angeles and business class review from Montreal to Munich). HON Circle is one of the toughest and most expensive airline statuses to earn, so here are the basics.

How do you earn Lufthansa HON Circle status?

HON Circle is Lufthansa’s uber-elite status, above their Frequent Traveller and Senator status. While HON Circle isn’t invitation only in the same sense that American Concierge Key and United Global Services are, it’s probably just about as tough to earn.

You receive HON Circle status by earning 600,000 elite qualifying miles with Miles & More over the course of two consecutive calendar years. That’s a lot of flying, and there are even additional restrictions on top of that. Only flights in first and business class qualify towards HON Circle status, and only miles earned on Lufthansa, Lufthansa Private Jet, Adria Airways, Air Dolomiti, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Croatia Airlines, Eurowings, Germanwings, LOT Polish Airlines, Luxair and SWISS, qualify towards HON Circle status.

The good news is that Lufthansa offers accelerated mileage accrual for premium cabin travel. Here’s their mileage earning chart for longhaul travel:

In other words, to earn HON Circle status you’d have to fly an average of:

  • 100,000 miles per year in paid first class
  • 150,000 miles per year in full fare business class
  • 200,000 miles per year in discounted business class

That’s a good amount of expensive flying! At the same time, for a business traveler who can book full fare business class, it’s not necessarily actually that much flying. For example, a single monthly longhaul full fare business class trip would just about get you to HON Circle. Still, that takes a lot of consistency.

What are the benefits of HON Circle status?

Generally European frequent flyer programs aren’t as generous as US programs (though I suppose the gap is narrowing), so the benefits aren’t that huge on paper. The benefits of HON Circle status include:

  • A 25% mileage bonus
  • 6 eVouchers (it takes 1-2 vouchers per upgrade, so this equates to 3-6 upgrades every two years)
  • Senator status for a spouse
  • A meet-and-greet service in Frankfurt and at all intercontinental destinations
  • An additional baggage allowance
  • First class check-in (though all Star Alliance Gold members get that)
  • The highest priority for operational upgrades, and also special treatment from the crew

Oh, and most importantly of all, HON Circle members always get access to the Lufthansa First Class Terminal, Lufthansa First Class Lounges, and Swiss First Class Lounge, regardless of what cabin they’re flying.


Swiss First Class Lounge Zurich

That’s such a cool benefit. If I were a HON Circle member I’d probably book cheap tickets between Frankfurt and Munich every weekend just so I could hang out in those lounges. Then again, if I were a HON Circle member I’d probably be so tired of those lounges that I wouldn’t want to visit them anymore. 😉


Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt

To me the First Class Lounge access is the biggest perk of this status, given how exceptional Lufthansa’s First Class Lounges are.


Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt

It’s especially cool if you’re Frankfurt based, since you’ll never have to use the actual terminal again. You can just be dropped off at the First Class Terminal, enjoy the lounge, and then be driven to the plane. What a perk!


HON Circle members get driven to the plane in Frankfurt

How many HON Circle members are there?

I have no clue. I’ve seen estimates that there are anywhere between 3,000 and 5,000, which probably sounds about right to me. In my experience there are typically 1-5 per longhaul flight. It all depends how premium the route is, the day of the week, etc.

Am I jealous of HON Circle members?

On one hand I’m super jealous of HON Circle members, since they get to use the Lufthansa First Class Terminal so often. On the other hand, I feel bad for how much time most HON Circle members spend in Lufthansa business class. I imagine a small minority of HON Circle members exclusively fly paid first class, but the number of people who are in a position to do that is limited.


Lufthansa business class

So instead most HON Circle members are spending most of their time in Lufthansa’s sub-par business class. Sure, Swiss’ business class is a bit better, but ultimately these products still aren’t really competitive to the best out there. So it’s one thing if you work for a company with a corporate contract and flying Lufthansa business class is the only option, but if you have any flexibility, you’re giving up a better onboard experience by choosing to fly Lufthansa. I’d much rather fly business class on an airline with a better business class product and forgo the the first class ground experience, but that’s just me.

Bottom line

Miles & More HON Circle status is one of the most exclusive status levels out there, as it requires 600,000 status miles every two years. While the perks aren’t that huge, access to first class lounges is a very nice benefit that especially nice if you’re based in Frankfurt, given the First Class Terminal. So the next time you’re on a flight with a HON Circle member, now you know just how much time they spend on the airline.

Comments

  1. I was HON for 4+ years. One of the biggest benefits is(was) no restrictions on award availability – if there is a seat on the flight (on LX/LH/OS) in C, it’s yours. I have got seats to places like Maldives with no problem.
    Also free seating in F seats on TLV flights.
    And excellent treatment in case of IRROPS.

    You also get presents a couple of times a year, and invitations to HON events every so often.

  2. It’s interesting you consistently find LH product subpar (and even LX got a bad sign now), but at the same time you think SU has a great product and KL has a good one. I’m yet to try LH new business class, however after really too much flights in KL new business class I can definitely say I’m a bit surprised with your opinion. It seems you try to find good reasoning when you come to any conclusion (a long time reader here), but it must be something personal in this particular case. And I’m not an LH fanboy by any means (I used to take their ARN-MXP every Friday in euro business when short lived Lufthansa Italia operated the route in 2010-2011 and haven’t flown with LH since 2013 or 2014).

    KL hard product (which is identical to SU 77W hard product and to AM 787 and to RJ 787 and to many other out there, so nothing wow) is almost identical to LH hard product + LH has generally a way better lounges and onboard dining. I can’t stand this overcrowded disaster called Crown lounge anymore (and it’s getting a way worse since they’re closing half of the space for 18 months renovations). I can stand KL ever-getting cheaper and cheaper onboard offering (omg AA is so much better now on TATL).

    SU. Ok, flight attendants could provide great and very attentive service (and it’s true on 95% of flights), longhaul dining is decent and hard product ok (again, similar to LH), but ground service is simply shame from the tip to the bottom. The flagship lounges at SVO with all terrible interiors, finishes, absolutely disgusting furniture, no windows and entire strip club attitude, plastic “china”, pathetic food and cheapest wines/beers. Must be among the most disgusting lounges in Europe and on par with lounges in China.

    Still, SU is great, KL is good, LH – boo! Just can’t get that.

  3. Hey Lucky FYI these are just the official HON Circle benefits and truth be told it the unofficial hon circle benefits that are to most valuable…

  4. “I’d much rather fly business class on an airline with a better business class product and forgo the the first class ground experience, but that’s just me”

    Which airline for example?

  5. Which airline has a better business class product for crossing the Atlantic ocean? There can’t be that many.

  6. @thenewone –

    You can’t seriously tell me a 2-2-2 configuration as Lufthansa has is the best you can imagine? *ANY* airline offering 1-2-1 is better, in my opinion. And there are lots and lots of them from Europe to the US.

  7. I heard Paul van Dyk (international DJ) is one of the top 10 HON circle members. Any details on this?

  8. I imagine a majority of HON members are based in FRA/MUC/ZRH/GVA or travel to those destinations from wherever they are based. So sure, if you’re based in HKG, I’d probably rather fly CX, but unless your base is also a 5* airline hub, flying LH/LX and getting HON benefits beats flying anyone else (especially TATL) and connecting.

  9. “I’d much rather fly business class on an airline with a better business class product and forgo the the first class ground experience, but that’s just me.”

    Are you fully factoring in the ducks?

  10. Lucky, you missed some more benefits.

    For me the most valuable one is the award guarantee. If there is a seat available for sale (even J or Y class) it’s yours – and that for up to FOUR seats. And no surcharges.

    No more hassle to find award availability.

    Also you get a black credit card with concierge service, etc. for free.

    Planes will wait for connecting HON members a little bit when your inbound flight is late.

    Last but not least: the onboard service becomes exceptional and you’ll get First Class treatment on all your travel. Depends of course on the crew but it’s not a problem to get a pyjama on a long-haul flight even when not flying LH first.

    You also get free seat reservations including emergency exists ef n when flying cheap economy fares.

    The 24h booking guarantee on sold out flights might also be helpful for the time-constraint traveler who simply needs to be on this plane.

    All this and especially the award guarantee for four people makes the HON program for me the most valuable currently out there.

  11. I’m Star Alliance Gold and I believe I don’t have access to First Class check-in in Berlin – there’s no Gold sign there, only at the business class check-ins, but maybe I’ve been doing it wrong?

  12. an Exec in our Company flies this route 30+ annually
    (Sunday)TLV-ZRH-JNB
    (Tuesday eve)-ZRH
    (Wednesday night)-BRU-TLV

    Many times Swiss and Lufthansa (they depart out at almost same time) held the plane in South Africa for him when he is late (he comes onland from Botswana and calls them from the road if hes delayed).

    He Says Elal Doesn’t hold planes for him, so even though they fly it direct he does this detour.
    These type of HON passengers don’t care about lounges. These are the Perks they really look for.

  13. For the same amount of flying on Delta, I will be Delta 360. And as a Delta 360 I will always be upgraded plus have all my airport transfers from gate to gate by car, rather than walking through the airport. pretty sure, if I’m going to invest that many miles and dollars in a single airline, I would rather be a Delta 360. #JustSaying

  14. Since M&M offers an “executive bonus” of 25% on earning miles to all its status members and you qualify for Frequent Traveller (=silver status) pretty quickly when running for HON, the mileage chart actually reads as follows:
    A,F: 325%
    C,D,J: 225%
    Z: 175%
    P: 125%

    So that brings you down to only 92,300 miles per year in First, 133,300 miles in Full Fare Business and 171,400 / 240,000 miles in discounted Business… 😉

  15. Your estimate on hon number is way to little. Most of MPs in European countries are hon and all of EuroMPs are. There was even article showing their abuse of business class trips just to gain hon earlier than the other EMPs. they fly business biweekly. And of course some businesses. It should be around 10k people bearing it.

  16. been HON for a few years. losing it the end of this year (job change, not as much travel).
    – no award restrictions
    – all the ducks
    – FCT (though they don’t let you do the porsche usually unless you’re also flying F. sometimes i’ve gotten it but usually not
    – yellow pair of wayfairers with lufthansa logo
    – did i mention the ducks?

    protip: they don’t like it when you tell people you’re hitler on lufthansa, but i still do this every chance i get

  17. I’m HON based in London, because BA is just dreadful.

    As mentioned above, the *excellent* HON Circle team (also unpublished is that you get a personal contact at the airline too – including their cell phone number), their handling in IRROPS, wide open award availability (in Y and C) and 24-hour booking guarantee are also up there with access to the lounges and the limo transfer service in FRA/MUC/VIE/ZRH/GVA.

    Since changing from SEN to HON I have noticed more personalized service on intercontinental flights (in F). No change on European flights however unless a flight is in a sold-out situation I always have the seat next to me (in Business, so both the middle and the aisle seat if I’m on the window) blocked as soon as I seat-select myself.

    On a related note: Van vs Porsche vs Merc transfer methodology is a myth… it totally depends on what is available and how many pax are being picked up.

  18. Been there done that with UA, DL and EK in their premium FF tiers and can honestly say that there is no comparison between HON and other airline ultimate tiers. The most important difference to me is that LH/LX demonstrate in words AND actions that as a HON you really do matter and the personal attention is sincere and efficient. While the “wow” factor and “bling” on the Gulf carriers is a novelty that wears off in the fullness of time, the consistency and understated attention to service in the LH/LX “F” cabin is what makes loyalty to their brand so worthwhile. The personal contact available to HON members is an overlooked perk that takes the hassle out of dealing with the logistics of all aspects of reservations, lost baggage and other special situations. Based in NYC and flying often to India there are few options of F Class other than the Gulf carriers or AI. The LH/LX F Class is – to me – the best alternative on this route by far and the reason for achieving HON on a regular basis.

  19. A major difference between LH and the US based frequent flyer programs is that the US carriers loyalty programs offer lifetime status tiers. United’s Mileage Plus program grants Star Gold for life to 1 Million Mile flyers. Lufthansa’s Senator and Business class lounges offer amenities far beyond what most US based carriers offer. Their FCT is one of the best experiences for top elites or paid First class customers. These are things to consider when deciding which status and program best suits one’s needs.

  20. A similar question has been asked above, but I would honestly be extremely interested in Lucky’s answer (and anyone else with the experience to answer):

    What airlines fly direct between the US and Schengen Europe that have “a better business class product”??

    (Hopefully with service beyond only NYC; in my case LAX)

    Someone above said any 1-2-1 is better, and I sympathize with that. But Swiss was included here and they are close to 1-2-1. And is new KLM 787 better? Some say feels worse and very cramped and no love for KLM in comments above. Maybe Air France (not A380)? SAS?

    Thanks in advance!

  21. @ Zczc — I’d say Air France’s new business, KLM’s new business, American’s new 777/A330 business, and Delta’s A330 business, just to name a few.

  22. I qualified (or would have qualified?) for HON membership in the late aughts, however after doing the analysis of the published benefits, I credited all the flights to UA and maintained 1K (back when 1K was actually decent) for those years, using LH metal frequently on long-haul first class flights, as the published HON benefits just didn’t seem particularly useful to me. At all.

    That said, in reading about some of the unpublished benefits in this thread, it certainly looks to be a pretty compelling program for those who can make use of it, especially for those based in Europe.

  23. SAS’ business class flies from Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo across the Atlantic.
    Routes: CPH-EWR/IAD/ORD/BOS/SFO/MIA /// ARN-EWR/LAX /// OSL-EWR/MIA.

    It is probably the best hard product across the Atlantic in business class. Service can be a bit up and down, but the hard product is hard to beat.

    Far, far, far better than Lufthansa’s business class.

  24. Helpful, thanks! I have a ticket on SAS for June and look forward to seeing for myself. Would love to read more comparisons amount these options.

  25. My boss is a HON circle member and when you travel with a HON circle member you automatically become HOC (HON – companion) and get basically the same treatments. HON baggage tags etc. Even when then HON member is flying in first and you are in business class. The LH cabin crew will pay special attention to you and always attend to you first before other business passengers. You also always get a mercedes / Porsche / Van pick up as soon as your plane has an apron position. There will be a car waiting for you as soon as you disembark.

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