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