How To Redeem Miles For Lufthansa First Class

How To Redeem Miles For Lufthansa First Class

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Maybe I’m biased, but Lufthansa first class is among my favorite first class products in the world. There’s something I love so much about flying the Lufthansa Boeing 747-8 in first class and visiting Lufthansa’s incredible First Class Terminal in Frankfurt.

The great news is that it’s very much possible to redeem a variety of points currencies for travel in Lufthansa first class, so in this post I wanted to take a closer look at the logistics of how that works.

Basics of redeeming miles for Lufthansa first class

Lufthansa offers first class on a variety of routes, including those operated by Boeing 747-8s out of Frankfurt, and those operated by Airbus A340-600s out of Munich.

While Lufthansa Miles & More members have access to first class award seats as soon as the schedule opens (roughly a year in advance), those redeeming miles through partner airline frequent flyer programs only have access to first class award seats at most 15 days prior to departure. If you’re flexible and patient, snagging Lufthansa first class award seats can be a piece of cake.

In this post I wanted to focus specifically on redeeming partner airline miles for travel in Lufthansa first class. I’m not focusing on Lufthansa Miles & More redemptions because:

  • These redemptions have fuel surcharges, which can cost $950 one-way in first class from the United States and Germany, which takes much of the value out of these redemptions; I’ll focus on programs without fuel surcharges
  • Lufthansa Miles & More doesn’t partner with any major transferable points currencies, so even if you were fine with those fuel surcharges, most people wouldn’t have a practical way to earn those miles

With that out of the way, let’s first talk about the best programs for booking Lufthansa first class, and then we’ll talk about general tricks for finding award availability.

Lufthansa first class cabin Boeing 747-8

Best mileage programs for booking Lufthansa first class

Lufthansa is in the Star Alliance, so you can redeem miles with most Star Alliance partners for travel in Lufthansa first class. Let’s take a look at how many miles you can expect to pay with some major programs for Lufthansa first class redemptions, focusing specifically on transatlantic flights.

The Avianca LifeMiles program charges 87,000 miles one-way between the United States and Europe in first class:

The Air Canada Aeroplan program charges 90,000-100,000 points one-way in first class for itineraries between the United States and Europe (90,000 points for up to 4,000 miles of travel, 100,000 points for 4,001-6,000 miles of travel):

The United MileagePlus program charges 121,000 miles one-way between the United States and Europe in first class:

Now, it’s worth emphasizing that there are other programs that could make sense as well, but they have some downsides. For example:

  • Aegean Miles+Bonus charges just 75,000 miles one-way, but you’re on the hook for fuel surcharges, and Aegean miles are also hard to come by
  • All Nippon Airways Mileage Club charges 165,000 miles roundtrip between the United States and Europe in first class, but you have to pay fuel surcharges and one-ways aren’t allowed
  • Asiana Club charges just 50,000 miles one-way, but fuel surcharges apply, and Asiana Club miles are also hard to come by

Personally my strategy is generally to redeem Avianca LifeMiles for Lufthansa first class, and if the itinerary is too complicated or isn’t showing up there, I book through Air Canada Aeroplan.

Lufthansa first class champagne & nuts

Tips for redeeming miles for Lufthansa first class

As mentioned above, Lufthansa releases first class award space to partner airlines at most 15 days out. “At most” is the operative term there. This doesn’t mean that Lufthansa will make every single first class seat bookable with miles at that point.

More often than not, you’ll find most Lufthansa first class award seats available within a week of departure, and even more so within a few days of departure. So the closer to departure you’re looking, the better your odds are of space opening up.

How to gauge odds of Lufthansa opening award seats

Lufthansa has a complicated algorithm for releasing award seats, so there’s not some easy rule-of-thumb policy I can share that will always be accurate. That being said, there are some general ways to determine your odds of seats opening up.

Lufthansa has eight first class seats on both the 747-8 and A340-600, so that means at most eight seats will ever be for sale. The first thing to do is to figure out how many first class seats are still available for sale on the flight you’re eyeing. You can use Google Flights for this, and just search the exact route and see how many first class seats are still for sale (by progressively increasing the number of tickets you’re trying to book).

Let me share a few very general trends I notice, and of course let me emphasize that these are just trends and not rules:

  • Don’t expect Lufthansa to open any first class award seats more than a week in advance if there aren’t at least four seats for sale
  • Even if all eight first class seats are for sale, don’t necessarily assume this means that there will be award seats at the 15 day mark
  • The most award seats will generally be made available within four days of departure, and within two days of departure you can expect that a majority of seats will be made available using miles
  • Lufthansa makes award seats available until the very last minute, so don’t be surprised to see first class award seats made available on the day of departure
  • Generally the last one or two first class seats for sale won’t be made available for awards
  • Sometimes there are just quirks with award availability based on a variety of factors, as there are lots of other considerations as well; for example, it could be that even if there are first class seats for sale, business class is oversold, and the airline is anticipating having to bump people up, so may not make award seats available

For example, this afternoon’s Boston to Frankfurt flight has all eight first class seats for sale, and they’re all even available for awards. So if anyone has seven friends and a lot of miles… 😉

Lufthansa uses married segment logic for awards

Lufthansa uses married segment logic for award tickets in all cabins, including first class. Rather than explaining this in great detail and complicating this unnecessarily, let me just share the takeaway.

Essentially Lufthansa will make different numbers of first class award seats available depending on whether you’re connecting or not. For example:

  • Lufthansa might not have first class award availability on a Chicago to Frankfurt flight if you’re simply booking a ticket between those two airports
  • Meanwhile Lufthansa might have first class award availability on the Chicago to Frankfurt flight as part of a larger itinerary, like if you’re connecting to Paris on the same ticket

So if you want to maximize your odds of finding first class award availability, search for a connecting itinerary. Sometimes significantly more award seats are released in those cases.

Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt

Bottom line

Lufthansa offers an excellent first class product, and it’s bookable with miles within 15 days of departure. While it can take some work to find availability, and while the timeline isn’t ideal for those who like to plan in advance, I’d still say it’s the best and most readily available way to cross the Atlantic in first class using miles without paying fuel surcharges.

Just start looking within a couple of weeks of departure. The closer to departure you are and the more first class seats are still for sale, the better your odds of finding award availability.

Let me just note that this might just be the trickiest summer ever for Lufthansa first class award availability. I’ve never seen Lufthansa first class cabins this consistently sold out in advance, as even at the 15 day mark I’m seeing many flights with just one or two first class seats left for sale.

If you’ve redeemed miles for Lufthansa first class, what was your experience like?

Conversations (48)
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  1. Craig Guest

    I have played the Nile game for nearly 20 years. I travel extensively and lately, there are few to no award seats in either business or first. I have t seen anything Lufthansa to or from LA in months

  2. Oliver Guest

    I have accumulated a vast amount of Miles on M&M. I would be pretty flexible re. destination and date. What would be the best path to determine what bookable F seats LH has on offer?

  3. Cap Guest

    Will BofA bring back the Asiana card? Now that SPG option is out, Asiana hard to use.

    This was my preferred method - 40k SP into Asiana and fly from EU (Scandanavia was usually the cheapest IIRC) to US.

  4. Brodie Guest

    Looks like Lifemiles is blocking F access again. For example: BOS-MUC currently has 4 F seats available for departure tonight. I can book all 4 on Singapore Airlines, however Lifemiles shows no avail. I continue to strike out trying to use my Lifemiles.

  5. Max Johnson Guest

    Thanks for this; it is most interesting and "inspiring" - there is hope!

    However, one point to note. You suggest that people request seats through booking engines to determine the actual load. This can actually be counter-productive.

    The carriers' algorithms also record the number of "requests", and use this to determine potential demand for a particular seat. The logic being that people are seeing if a seat is available because they want to...

    Thanks for this; it is most interesting and "inspiring" - there is hope!

    However, one point to note. You suggest that people request seats through booking engines to determine the actual load. This can actually be counter-productive.

    The carriers' algorithms also record the number of "requests", and use this to determine potential demand for a particular seat. The logic being that people are seeing if a seat is available because they want to buy it. If they see substantial "interest", the algorithm will sense a real (revenue) demand and not put those seats into FQTV inventory.

    So, constant checking will show you the loads, but fool the airline into sensing a real revenue demand.

    Better to befriend a travel agent who has access to a GDS and can see the whole inventory without the fake booking request.

  6. FDW Guest

    Just flew from IAD to FRA to BCN on LH first. As always a lovey experience that has not suffered from any cuts that I can tell. I booked this in march using some leftover LH miles. My return was booked in C using AC miles but at T-7 the cabin was F3 ans 3 seats opened up to IAD. However AC was unable to switch my business award ticket to a first award ticket...

    Just flew from IAD to FRA to BCN on LH first. As always a lovey experience that has not suffered from any cuts that I can tell. I booked this in march using some leftover LH miles. My return was booked in C using AC miles but at T-7 the cabin was F3 ans 3 seats opened up to IAD. However AC was unable to switch my business award ticket to a first award ticket even though I used HUACA multiple times (and long hold times). Finally I canceled my biz ticket and book the first award.

    1. Andrew Guest

      Hi all,
      Thanks lucky for the blog, I love it - it has now formed part of my daily travel blog diet!

      You make a good point FDW. Does anyone know if your strategy is the best approach, book a J ticket when award availability exists and then try to upgrade it to C if availability exists nearer the time? Is this possible with LH M&M and are fees involved?

      Andrew

  7. Thijs Guest

    While I realize that this blog is primarily focused on the US market, I do want to mention that Miles & More is an AMEX Membership Rewards transfer partner in Belgium & Luxembourg.

    However, the 1:2 transfer ratio doesn't make it that appealing. It makes more sense to get the Miles & More American Express card and earn miles at a 1:1 ratio.

  8. James Guest

    So can someone use miles for F ex-usa to FRA only to continue on to GRU on the same award? Assume thats not a valid connection for one award.

    1. AA70 Gold

      That would not be possible on one award

  9. Ernie Guest

    What time of day are first class seats released? I’ve been checking for weeks departing SFO/LAX/IAH/ORD to Milan and haven’t been able to find one LH first class seat.

    Thanks Ben

    1. Brodie Gold

      Lately I have seen a few seats open up before noon PST.

    2. Mick Guest

      I saw the best availability recently on the a340 from Boston to Munich.

      But In general I see so little availability on all airlines. It’s run dry not surprisingly.

  10. Beachfan Guest

    Does going through MUC and continuing on F on. a340 to LAX give you the full experience?

    Great post!

    1. AA70 Gold

      I'd personally want to connect in FRA and leave a good margin to visit the FCT, even though its seemingly watered down these days.

  11. Kbulo Guest

    Agree with most commentators here. Basically nothing available for redemptions out of US gateways from May onwards, even on LX C. Only Y seats on UAL pop up.

    TATL business is going strong as LH group probably sold out all seats.

    1. Alan Guest

      Have found the occasional J seat on LH... but nothing in F.

  12. Mick Guest

    Lh has some cheap biz and first class flights out of Europe right now courtesy of god save the points

  13. Mick Guest

    I like lh f and have snagged plenty of times out of ord. Last month I found almost none until the day of travel with my son. For better or worse he wanted upper deck 747 biz instead lolll. It was actually the right decision for a day flight. 6 747s lines up in a row at Frankfurt. Awesome. Sharing in biz upstairs more than fine

  14. JD Guest

    I’ve snagged 2 F seats many times to FRA and beyond and back within days of travel. (I do not live in the USA so that is helpful.) in fact we have never had to fly LH Business over “the pond”. Superb use of miles , and we’re always up to experiencing the experience again!

  15. Frank Valentino Guest

    I thought Bos to Munich was the only flights that had first . Did the Frankfurt flight just recently get added ? I thought it was discontinued for good .

    1. Brodie Guest

      It switches back to business only in a few days.

  16. Euro Member

    Miles and More redemptions in J/F from US to Europe have high surcharges, yes, and with LH it's about $850-$950, yes. But redemptions from Europe to US have much lower surcharges. I paid about 350 EUR in surcharges for my LH F redemption 3 years ago.

  17. NBT Guest

    Hey Lucky,

    Any idea why United seems to be restricting award availability close-in for LH? Thursday May 26th there is econ/biz/first award availability for FRA-IAH on Air Canada's site, but not UA for any class of service.

    1. VoytekNYC Guest

      Something is going on between LH and United. That something is not looking good for us. For me it was to-go place for miles (business expenses) and rewards (business class on LH as best for miles). It gets harder every year while now it gets close to impossible. I hope its just temporary fluke

  18. AA70 Gold

    Fingers crossed for this summer. I booked AC home through YUL but am hoping something opens up out of FRA in LH F

  19. Jromi Guest

    A few days ago 4 seats opened up from FRA-EWR and I snagged 3 for my family using Lifemiles.

  20. Brodie Guest

    I have been searching the last few days and only the flight you mentioned has shown avail in F, from any US destination. Hopefully they flip the switch in a couple days. So they still release at roughly 11am PST daily?

  21. VoytekNYC Guest

    Anyone knows what is happening with lack of any Business or First class availability this June from any NYC airports? Very strange and bummer. We had Reward flight with SWISS which was cancelled and now have to fly from Boston as NYC has nothing for the whole month of June and I think July

    1. AA70 Gold

      They are probably out of award inventory, availability doesn't stick around forever

    2. VotekNYC Guest

      Maybe so but if you look up rewards for LH from NYC for the next 5 months, you can count them all on your one hand-literally. Something is cooking up here

  22. Alonzo Diamond

    Until LH changes their first class, I'd rather redeem Lifemiles for Turkish biz class.

  23. mrl New Member

    How does adding a stopover affect married segment availability? Will the search engine return it as though you are still booking a connecting flight or will the greater than 24 hour gap mean such an itinerary can only be booked if there is nonstop availability?

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ mrl -- Great question! Generally you wouldn't benefit from married segment logic if you have a stopover (of more than 24 hours), since the agent would have to piece together the routing segment-by-segment.

  24. Stan P Guest

    Aeroplan is charging 100 000 miles for LH F, but your screenshot shows 90 000 miles . Although the saver availability chart is fixed , they could go for less closer to departure?

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Stan P -- Sorry, I updated the post just now to reflect that. The cost is 90,000 Aeroplan points for up to 4,000 miles of travel, or 100,000 Aeroplan points for 4,001-6,000 miles of travel. The Boston to Frankfurt route is one of the few that falls under that 4,001 mile minimum, so that's why it's cheaper. Hopefully makes sense now. :-)

    2. Stan P Guest

      Great, thank you . I am based between BOS & NYC , so should work for me.
      Although , I could have sworn during my spring time searches for one way FRA-JFK F , it always showed 100k, never saw availability MUC/FRA-BOS , because I think F was not offered at the time.
      Ended up taking TK J for that trip.

    3. mrl New Member

      It's only 90,000 for routes under 4,000 miles. So basically BOS, EWR, JFK - FRA and only BOS-MUC

  25. HangGoMae Guest

    50,000 Asiana airlines mileage
    One way first class from US to Europe.

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ HangGoMae -- Good point, added that to the post. While the miles are hard to come by, that's definitely the single best value in terms of number of miles required.

  26. Stu Guest

    Ben,

    I wanted to thank you for previous articles about LH first class redemptions. I wasn't able to find availability for my preferred dates out of the U.S., but did find a first class seat on a 748 out of MEX. I used a few points to stage myself there and had a delightful experience checking off the bucket list item of 1A on a 747. It does take a bit of searching and patience, but I would recommend this redemption to anyone.

    Again, thank you for a great blog.

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Stu -- Thanks for the kind words, so happy to hear you had that experience! 1A on the 747-8 sure is a special place to sit!

  27. Alan Guest

    This summer is brutal for LH F. Clearly they are doing an excellent job at monetizing it (either that, or they have totally screwed the pooch by selling out early). Would have been nice to fly to FRA in seat 1A with a glass of LP Alexandra- oh well, I'll survive their 3 star business class and shoddy champagne.

    1. hp12c Member

      Agreed. Used to be pretty easy to find availability within 15 days, but I've had zero luck on any trips lately.

    2. VoytekNYC Guest

      Its Beyond brutal for flights out of NYC-ZERO availability for few months now. United used to have plenty options 4 months in advance and thins you get closer 2-3 weeks. Now nothing

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

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Stu Guest

Ben, I wanted to thank you for previous articles about LH first class redemptions. I wasn't able to find availability for my preferred dates out of the U.S., but did find a first class seat on a 748 out of MEX. I used a few points to stage myself there and had a delightful experience checking off the bucket list item of 1A on a 747. It does take a bit of searching and patience, but I would recommend this redemption to anyone. Again, thank you for a great blog.

4
Jromi Guest

A few days ago 4 seats opened up from FRA-EWR and I snagged 3 for my family using Lifemiles.

2
Brodie Gold

Lately I have seen a few seats open up before noon PST.

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