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.
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:
- This is the best price you’ll find if you’re looking for a straightforward routing
- LifeMiles is transfer partners with Amex, Capital One, and Citi, and also frequently sells miles directly
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):
- Aeroplan offers lots of routing flexibility, and allows stopovers for an additional 5,000 points one-way
- Aeroplan is transfer partners with Amex and Chase, has the Aeroplan® Credit Card (review) in the United States, and also frequently sells points directly
The United MileagePlus program charges 121,000 miles one-way between the United States and Europe in first class:
- This would be my last pick of these three options, but I know many people have a sizable balance of MileagePlus miles
- MileagePlus is transfer partners with Chase, has several co-branded credit cards, and also often sells miles directly
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.
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 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?