German Politicians No Longer Get Free Lufthansa Elite Status

German Politicians No Longer Get Free Lufthansa Elite Status

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Lufthansa is ending its decades-long practice of giving German politicians free elite status.

German Bundestag members no longer get Senator status

For many years now, Lufthansa has awarded members of Germany’s Bundestag Miles & More Senator elite status. This is Lufthansa’s status that ordinarily requires 100,000 elite qualifying miles in a year. It offers perks like first class check-in, Senator Lounge access, Star Alliance Gold status, and more. This policy goes back to when the airline was largely government owned, back in the 1990s.

The practice of awarding elite status to politicians won’t be renewed as of this year, though those members who had a Senator card in the last term can extend their status through February 2024 for a cost of 170 Euro. Germany’s Bundestag is massive, and has 736 seats, so that’s potentially a lot of people with Senator status.

In fairness, odds are a significant number of members would earn Senator status naturally through their flying, at least for those who live far enough from Berlin that they don’t take a train.

Lufthansa Senator members get Senator Lounge access

Why do German politicians no longer get Lufthansa status?

Lufthansa received nine billion Euro in state aid during the pandemic, which has been repaid since (and the government even made a good profit on it). So, is Lufthansa somehow annoyed at the government, and is yanking status as a result? Nope, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Neither Lufthansa nor government officials are commenting on the cause for this policy change. However, reading between the lines it’s pretty clear that this comes down to an updated ethics policy for German politicians.

Bundestag members have a limit on the gifts that they can receive for ethical reasons, and that limit is currently 25 Euro. It goes without saying that Lufthansa Senator status is likely worth more than 25 Euro, though it seems that up until now this was just a generally accepted practice. It was viewed more as a perk of the job rather than a gift, in the same was that Bundestag members get free train travel.

However, it would appear that this is now being cracked down on, and that’s what’s causing this policy change.

It goes a step further, though. A spokesperson for the Bundestag administration states that “insofar as business award miles are collected, these are to be used exclusively for business purposes.” It sounds like the miles that members earn can only be used for more business flights, and not for personal travel. I’m not sure if this has the been the policy all along, or also represents a policy change.

German politicians will no longer get free Lufthansa elite status

Bottom line

As part of a major policy change, German politicians will no longer receive Miles & More Senator status with Lufthansa. While no official reason is being given, it seems that this change was prompted by a request from the government related to ethics policies.

What do you make of politicians getting free airline status — is it a fair practice, or no?

(Tip of the hat to Ralph)

Conversations (34)
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  1. MdB Guest

    It’s going to be very simple. 50% of members commute by plane to Berlin. They will easily earn Senator Status. The other 50% use other transportation and only will fly occasionally and won’t be very interested in the status perks.
    On the negative side: The Bundestag administration had 100% transparency and access to all 700 Miles and More accounts. This will change now and all members will have private accounts.
    In addition some...

    It’s going to be very simple. 50% of members commute by plane to Berlin. They will easily earn Senator Status. The other 50% use other transportation and only will fly occasionally and won’t be very interested in the status perks.
    On the negative side: The Bundestag administration had 100% transparency and access to all 700 Miles and More accounts. This will change now and all members will have private accounts.
    In addition some members will definitely be encouraged doing milage runs to reach status levels. I don’t think this will be in the interest of taxpayers.
    Lastly: Lufthansa is a major German company and still an important strategic asset. They flew 250.000 Germans back home when Covid started and also during other crisis there has been close cooperation. So German lawmakers will support Lufthansa also in the future even without Senator status by default.

  2. Wyatt Guest

    United gives free Global Services to members of the Transportation Committee. Former MileagePlus employee here.

  3. Max Guest

    Both LH and DB were at one point fully state-owned public services, and there is an argument to be made that a member of parliament (MdB) ought to be able to travel between parliament and his constituencies free of charge in order to fulfill her mandate - indeed, that was & is the argument for the award of a BahnCard 100 1st Class to MdBs to this day. And its part of a package that...

    Both LH and DB were at one point fully state-owned public services, and there is an argument to be made that a member of parliament (MdB) ought to be able to travel between parliament and his constituencies free of charge in order to fulfill her mandate - indeed, that was & is the argument for the award of a BahnCard 100 1st Class to MdBs to this day. And its part of a package that aims to allow people from all walks of live to serve as MdBs (e.g., travel & office allowances, legal requirement for employers of new MdBs to allow them to return upon completion of the mandate, health insurance, etc.)
    I guess LH's award of SEN to MdB was a holdover from the time they were owned by the German public to allow MdBs a greater level of privacy when travelling for business as the expectation was that they would travel and work at the same time (hence lounge access, complimentary upgrades, etc.). Most MdBs use LH only to travel outside of Germany, as for most a train or car is a faster way to shuttle between Berlin and their constituencies.

  4. jane blogs Guest

    Australia should do the same. The airline benefits awarded to politicians, their staff and senior public servants are just corruption. Both Qantas and Virgin offer top Club Membership and a never ending supply of upgrades although the preference seems to be for Qantas. Even on the 20 minute Canberra/Sydney sector the few rows of Business class are invariably occupied by those with their noses in the public trough - try getting on a flight out...

    Australia should do the same. The airline benefits awarded to politicians, their staff and senior public servants are just corruption. Both Qantas and Virgin offer top Club Membership and a never ending supply of upgrades although the preference seems to be for Qantas. Even on the 20 minute Canberra/Sydney sector the few rows of Business class are invariably occupied by those with their noses in the public trough - try getting on a flight out of Canberra on a Thursday afternoon or Friday morning during the very few sitting weeks, it is disgusting to watch! Much to the chagrin of many of the Qantas commercial high flyers, Alan Joyce has recently done a clean out of the Chairman's Club so it will be interesting to see if it also includes some of the lesser politicians.

  5. Bill Guest

    Handing out free status sounds more like a bribe to government officials. Surprised this was allowed to go on for soo long.

    1. GroeneMichel Member

      Well if everyone gets it, bribing isn't really possible...

  6. Mike Guest

    Small thing, but since you correctly used the plural "euro," the English style guide from the European Commission does say it's written with a lower case.

    "The euro. Like ‘pound’, ‘dollar’ or any other currency name in English, the word ‘euro’ is written in lower case with no initial capital. The plural of ‘euro’ is ‘euro’ (without ‘s’)."

  7. Eskimo Guest

    If this was done in the American cancel culture way.

    Let's rename the elite status from "Senator" to something more liberal and politically correct.

  8. DenB Diamond

    Let's attract smart, effective, self-respecting people to Public Service. Government is expensive enough as it is, without inconveniencing, delaying and generally punishing public servants who fly a lot. I've got no problem with clawing back the points, but denying elected representatives status seems petty. Populist cries to force politicians to queue "like everyone else" and sit at the back are ill-informed. If someone, working for me, spends hours a week on airplanes, I expect the...

    Let's attract smart, effective, self-respecting people to Public Service. Government is expensive enough as it is, without inconveniencing, delaying and generally punishing public servants who fly a lot. I've got no problem with clawing back the points, but denying elected representatives status seems petty. Populist cries to force politicians to queue "like everyone else" and sit at the back are ill-informed. If someone, working for me, spends hours a week on airplanes, I expect the airline to make it as time-efficient and seamless as possible. Most elite perks are timesavers and time is money. If you work for me, don't waste the time I pay for. And from Lufthansa's point of view, if I were Lufthansa I'd look for every possible way to "delight" the people who make the rules under which I operate. Denying the people we elect comfort and convenience, out of petty resentment, is petty and unworthy of an important prestigious nation.

    1. Christina Von Truppen Guest

      Let’s attract smart, effective, self-respecting people to the private sector too, as well as to public service, and treat all the smart, effective, self-respecting people the same. In terms of airline status, those public servants who fly a lot will get the status regardless, pretty quickly. Those who don’t, won’t. And all will experience the difference it makes as they move up from Blue, to Silver, to Gold, to Diamond, to Senator or whatever. That...

      Let’s attract smart, effective, self-respecting people to the private sector too, as well as to public service, and treat all the smart, effective, self-respecting people the same. In terms of airline status, those public servants who fly a lot will get the status regardless, pretty quickly. Those who don’t, won’t. And all will experience the difference it makes as they move up from Blue, to Silver, to Gold, to Diamond, to Senator or whatever. That way, all these public servants can achieve airline status *after* doing some publicly-funded flying in the name of public service, not simply by turning up on their first day to a life of comparative luxury. Earn it, bitches!

  9. GUWonder Guest

    Isn’t it in Germany that miles earned from business-paid/reimbursed travel are taxable if those miles are used for personal travel?

    1. Stefan Guest

      Lufthansa Miles&More pays a flat rate to the government so that M&M awards are exempt from the "Geldwerter Vorteil" regulation.

    2. LEo Diamond

      but according to every airline t&c, miles are worth nothing, therefore, there shouldn't be any taxes.

  10. claudiusk New Member

    Regarding the use of miles collected on business/parliament travel for personal flights: That practice has been forbidden by the parliament for years, probably since frequent flyer programmes became a thing.

    In 2002 (so 20 years ago already) there was actually a somewhat major political scandal surrounding members of parliament using their miles for personal travel: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonusmeilen-Aff%C3%A4re Several, at least at the time, well-known members of parliament were involved, most importantly Cem Özdemir, who currently...

    Regarding the use of miles collected on business/parliament travel for personal flights: That practice has been forbidden by the parliament for years, probably since frequent flyer programmes became a thing.

    In 2002 (so 20 years ago already) there was actually a somewhat major political scandal surrounding members of parliament using their miles for personal travel: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonusmeilen-Aff%C3%A4re Several, at least at the time, well-known members of parliament were involved, most importantly Cem Özdemir, who currently serves as secretary of agriculture. He is, ironically, a member of the Green Party.

  11. Endre Guest

    Maybe another reason is the new lobby register for members of the German parliament.

  12. Reyyan Member

    Your comment about whether LH Senator Status is worth more than 25 euro’s made me think. Is it really worth more than 25 bucks?

    “First class” checkin is business class checkin at most airports which you can also use as an economy passenger with no status since most of the time they don't ask anything anyway.

    +1 Luggage is a pretty useless feature because this benefit doesn’t apply to a hand luggage only fare....

    Your comment about whether LH Senator Status is worth more than 25 euro’s made me think. Is it really worth more than 25 bucks?

    “First class” checkin is business class checkin at most airports which you can also use as an economy passenger with no status since most of the time they don't ask anything anyway.

    +1 Luggage is a pretty useless feature because this benefit doesn’t apply to a hand luggage only fare. So it’s either 2 bags or none.

    And then lounge access… is a pre-packed sandwich in an overpacked senator lounge worth anything? I don’t think so.

    Priority boarding. Does anyone like to enter a 4* Lufthansa plane quickly? I rather board last.

    I can barely put a 25 euro value on the status in my opinion.

    1. Matrix.RX1 Guest

      my experience:

      Check-In: Y gets turned away.
      Luggage: true, that is annoying.
      Lounge: SEN have more than sandwiches.
      Boarding: early = rack space guarantee.

      For me that is worth 25 EUR per flight!

    2. Michael Guest

      Well, to me it's definitely worth at least EUR 25 per flight:
      - F/J check-in (it's not true that you can simply check-in at F/J check-in counter as Y passenger; while it's correct that you typically won't be asked for your SEN/*G card the check-in agent will see your status on the screen;
      - fast track (I typically arrive at the airport max. 1h before the flight);
      - lounges (Ok, so I'm...

      Well, to me it's definitely worth at least EUR 25 per flight:
      - F/J check-in (it's not true that you can simply check-in at F/J check-in counter as Y passenger; while it's correct that you typically won't be asked for your SEN/*G card the check-in agent will see your status on the screen;
      - fast track (I typically arrive at the airport max. 1h before the flight);
      - lounges (Ok, so I'm a bit biased here as I'm based in WAW and as SEN have access to the LOT Elite lounge which has free flowing champagne and really decent food unlike the cr*p in FRA/MUC);
      - I agree that it's annoying with the luggage on LH group (although but again being based in WAW it's less of an issue as LO allows you an extra bag even if you buy their light fare);
      - free selection of extra-legroom seats (although again this only works for lite fares on LO and not on lite fares with LH/LX/OS);
      - free seat next to you (conversely this actually does not work on LO but works pretty well on LH/LX/OS).

      So yeah, all in all I'd say that it's worth at least EUR25 per flight.

  13. Greg Guest

    Can we surmise that the moniker "Senator" was chosen in part because a similar practice occurred before the program was formalised? That is, were airline privileges originally given to 'senators' before being extended to the flying public at published thresholds?

    1. Florian Guest

      Unlikely, we don't have many politicians with the title "Senator" in Germany. Some states like Hamburg call their government "senate" and their ministers "senators", but that's the exception. The equivalent, sort of, to the US Senate is called council and the members are based on the results of state elections. I assume Senator Status goes back to LH calling their first business class in 1958 "Senator Service", which again wasn't exclusively available to politicians.

      Unlikely, we don't have many politicians with the title "Senator" in Germany. Some states like Hamburg call their government "senate" and their ministers "senators", but that's the exception. The equivalent, sort of, to the US Senate is called council and the members are based on the results of state elections. I assume Senator Status goes back to LH calling their first business class in 1958 "Senator Service", which again wasn't exclusively available to politicians.

    2. Greg Guest

      Didn't realize they called the cabin service Senator, thanks

    3. GUWonder Guest

      Probably based on the idea that the status was to represent a club for well-propertied, upper class males. The kind of people who would be eligible to Senators in the annals of Ancient Rome.

    4. GUWonder Guest

      A reference to being part of a club/area for well-propertied, upper class males. The kind of people who would have been eligible to qualify for being Senators in the classic Senate of Ancient Rome.

    5. YULtide Gold

      FWIW, Senator derives from the Latin "senex" or old man. Also the root of "senile".

  14. Dingbat Guest

    Maybe if those in charge have to deal with the same issues as “ordinary” people have to deal with, instead of being treated like VIPs, all the problems will magically disappear

    1. Florian Guest

      Yup, some German politicians already proposed closing fast lanes claiming they make the problems around staff shortages worse...now we know why. They can't use them anymore so nobody else should be allowed either. Crackheads.

    2. LEo Diamond

      In my home country, officials lower than the province( state) level are not allowed to fly business class on planes, however, in pratice they will be booked on economy, and as their name is on the VIP roaster of many airlines, the airline will somehow "just" happen to operational upgrade them to premium classes.

  15. Jürgen Guest

    I used to work for miles and more. We had a separate team who booked the travel of these members of parliament. For a good reason the team was created as there were some leaks of information that clearly showed that some members were using their miles for private trips. For Lufthansa this was never an issue but even back 20 years ago for Bundestag members this was already abolished and I remember it was...

    I used to work for miles and more. We had a separate team who booked the travel of these members of parliament. For a good reason the team was created as there were some leaks of information that clearly showed that some members were using their miles for private trips. For Lufthansa this was never an issue but even back 20 years ago for Bundestag members this was already abolished and I remember it was quite a scandal when Gregor Gysi visited Cuba on a miles and more ticket. Ending this practice of giving away the highest status is long overdue. Lufthansa had a high grip on all lawmakers and it’s quite obvious why Emirates never got more landing rights in Germany.

    1. Alex Guest

      Senator is not the highest Miles & More Status. HON Circle Member is.

  16. LEo Diamond

    If a politician fails to be re-elected or retires, what happens to those miles collected? Do they just disappear or will those miles transfer to the government's account for miles? Seems very complicated when you have to spend those miles "exclusively for business purposes".

    1. Florian Guest

      I guess they use a miles & more account number that points to an organization instead of an individual, like some companies do

  17. LEo Diamond

    Donald Tsang's(Hong Kong) administration, in which he calls running the region like a corporation, and he would always pay with his own credit card and then file a paper for reimbursement later during government travels just to earn points for his credit card(for his own benefit anyways), don't think it's illegal considering the chief executive is the one that started this practice.

  18. AJ Guest

    Australia should do the same and ban politicians and celebrities from being bribed with Qantas Chairman’s Lounge status

    1. John Guest

      @AJ
      Hear, hear! Australians whinge about everything political, but the average punter can't see that QF effectively bribes and corrupts by handing out this coveted status to Greens, Labor and Libs alike. I've scratched my head for two decades wondering why this scandal hasn't broken!

      Just look at how SQ was repeatedly denied '5th Freedom' flights to North America, when the economic argument was actually very good (i.e. increased competition, lower fares, more...

      @AJ
      Hear, hear! Australians whinge about everything political, but the average punter can't see that QF effectively bribes and corrupts by handing out this coveted status to Greens, Labor and Libs alike. I've scratched my head for two decades wondering why this scandal hasn't broken!

      Just look at how SQ was repeatedly denied '5th Freedom' flights to North America, when the economic argument was actually very good (i.e. increased competition, lower fares, more seats, more flight options etc. etc.) and of real benefit to aussie fliers!! It was a puzzling decision, until you consider QF's corrupting hand behind the scenes with their craven political stooges.

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Florian Guest

Yup, some German politicians already proposed closing fast lanes claiming they make the problems around staff shortages worse...now we know why. They can't use them anymore so nobody else should be allowed either. Crackheads.

2
claudiusk New Member

Regarding the use of miles collected on business/parliament travel for personal flights: That practice has been forbidden by the parliament for years, probably since frequent flyer programmes became a thing. In 2002 (so 20 years ago already) there was actually a somewhat major political scandal surrounding members of parliament using their miles for personal travel: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonusmeilen-Aff%C3%A4re Several, at least at the time, well-known members of parliament were involved, most importantly Cem Özdemir, who currently serves as secretary of agriculture. He is, ironically, a member of the Green Party.

1
Reyyan Member

Your comment about whether LH Senator Status is worth more than 25 euro’s made me think. Is it really worth more than 25 bucks? “First class” checkin is business class checkin at most airports which you can also use as an economy passenger with no status since most of the time they don't ask anything anyway. +1 Luggage is a pretty useless feature because this benefit doesn’t apply to a hand luggage only fare. So it’s either 2 bags or none. And then lounge access… is a pre-packed sandwich in an overpacked senator lounge worth anything? I don’t think so. Priority boarding. Does anyone like to enter a 4* Lufthansa plane quickly? I rather board last. I can barely put a 25 euro value on the status in my opinion.

1
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