Lufthansa Business Class Awards: What Happened?

Lufthansa Business Class Awards: What Happened?

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Something strange is going on, and I’m not quite sure what to make of it yet. For now we’ll have to mark this as “developing.”

Where are all the Lufthansa business class awards?

It would appear that sometime in the past few days, Lufthansa has pulled a vast majority of its long haul business class award availability through partner airline frequent flyer programs.

Until recently Lufthansa had a huge amount of award availability through partner airline frequent flyer programs, while now I’m primarily seeing space:

  • Close to departure
  • On Mondays and Tuesdays across the Atlantic, though only in very limited markets

Availability on other Lufthansa Group airlines (including Austrian and SWISS) continues to be good, so this seems to be specific to Lufthansa.

Historically Lufthansa has been pretty good about consistently releasing business class award seats to partner frequent flyer programs, so the lack of availability is noteworthy.

Where did all the Lufthansa award availability go?

What could be going on?

A couple of readers have contacted me about this, so first of all I just wanted to acknowledge the situation and agree that this is a thing.

I’m working on figuring out what’s going on here, though that often isn’t as simple as you’d expect. In case you’re wondering why I am publishing this story without having reached out to Lufthansa, the reality is that this is something that airline executives never publicly speak about, and at best I’d get a canned response (and if I did get any useful info officially, it would likely be off the record).

One possible explanation is that this could be some sort of a glitch that hasn’t been resolved yet, and that this will resolve itself in a couple of days.

I think the more likely explanation (given that this has been the case for a couple of days now) is that this is deliberate. If that’s the case, what could Lufthansa be thinking here?

  • Perhaps Lufthansa intends to start limiting partner airline business class award seats more than in the past, deciding the economics no longer make sense; the airline only makes first class award seats available to partner frequent flyer programs at most 15 days out, so could we see something similar?
  • Perhaps Lufthansa just doesn’t want to issue a lot of award tickets at the moment in light of the pandemic, especially as airline schedules keep changing, since having to rebook people constantly is a bit of a pain
  • Perhaps there’s just a cyclical element to this; for example, sometimes Qatar Airways makes lots of business class award seats available, and sometimes the airline makes few of these seats available, and there’s nothing unusual about that (though that hasn’t historically been how Lufthansa has gone about it)

Lufthansa used to be reliable about award availability

I’m certainly hoping that this is temporary, and will work on figuring out what’s going on. While Lufthansa’s business class isn’t exactly amazing, the airline has been a reliable way to cross the Atlantic with miles. Furthermore, many have enjoyed flying the airline during the pandemic, given that inflight service is more or less as usual.

Lufthansa continues to offer a full service in business class

Bottom line

Lufthansa seems to have cut a vast majority of business class award seats for those booking through partner airline frequent flyer programs. While there’s no 100% consistent pattern I’m seeing here, I do see significantly less award availability than I’ve seen from the airline anytime in the past several years, and for some routes there’s not a single award seat more than a few weeks out.

Here’s to hoping that this is temporary, given what a reliable option Lufthansa has been for awards. If anyone has any insights into what’s going on here, I’d love to hear them.

What’s your take on Lufthansa’s severely limited business class award availability?

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  1. Charles C.

    I´ve been tracking bussiness awards from fra to lax, iah and ord, for dezember and february 2022, in united mileage and there are nothing available on LH, or almost zero options. Even in the 15 days windows there aren´t no first class availability. Is there something going on with LH and partner awards?

  2. Carol Straforini

    I've been tracking Lufthansa business awards from Capetown, SA n to San Francisco for a month now for next May (optimistically assuming COVID will be better by then. Nothing available any day, much available for economy.

    Does anyone have suggestions about which is the better alternative—fly from CPT to JBG then JGB back to SFO through Newark or pay for Emirates economy? I won't fly either United or Lufthansa economy even if it's free. It's...

    I've been tracking Lufthansa business awards from Capetown, SA n to San Francisco for a month now for next May (optimistically assuming COVID will be better by then. Nothing available any day, much available for economy.

    Does anyone have suggestions about which is the better alternative—fly from CPT to JBG then JGB back to SFO through Newark or pay for Emirates economy? I won't fly either United or Lufthansa economy even if it's free. It's torturous. All suggestions gratefully accepted. Thanks.

  3. Wes

    I believe this move is reciprocal.

    I’m a Lufthansa Senator, and have been unable to book award space on United using my LH miles since January.

  4. Chris jensen

    Forget whether you can get flights, I just tried to book EWR - FRA - KRK through Asiana. The taxes were over $800 per person. I thought it must be a joke, until I checked the ITA Matrix. Outrageous. In December of 2019 I booked EWR - BSL using Asiana and the taxes were $120 OW.

  5. Remo

    United and other Partnerairlines do the same . Newer found 1 seats avbl on UA or SK in C to any European destination till December. Sometimes LOT to WAW ….

  6. Dmodemd

    Wasn't it always normal for them to hold back business class until about 4 to 6 weeks prior? I always had to wait it out for SEA-FRA.

  7. Rob

    @Steve SQ has been that way for at least the past 10 years, it's certainly not new news.

  8. AW

    I'd argue that they probably pulled it for the opposite reason. Instead of "uncertainty," I'd guess that they are forecasting a huge (relative) surge in demand in the third and fourth quarters and want to have as much salable inventory on hand as possible. It's hard to blame them for wanting to sell the tickets given the catastrophic losses that they've endured for the last 15 months.

  9. Russ

    Airlines have been selling miles like crazy during the pandemic, LU is cutting back in the face of a run on award tickets. United is a big offender. Just a guess.

  10. Steve

    SQ isn't allowing any partner airlines to book using ff miles right now in premium cabins. They say it's covid-related. Meanwhile, I'm needing to book a trip and really do NOT want to fly coach! ;-)

  11. Kirk

    I was looking at ATL-FRA with LifeMiles and there are 0 seats of any class currently.

  12. Max

    Looked at LH capacity this morning for September to Canada in business - wide open...

  13. Christian

    LH management still under the delusion that they have a world class 5 Star Skytrax product probably decided that they better pull awards since what they offered was such a superior product. With less planes in the sky they likely are betting on increased demand and thus reducing the award seats available.

  14. Randy

    LH flying smaller aircraft, more demand if Europe lists restrictions for those vaccinated.

  15. RC

    will be a lost for me as it has gotten me out of some off the beaten path places in central europe and central/western asia, but their food is pretty bad, uncomfortable on A320s and less than noteworthy seats on their longhair....so not sure what to think.

  16. Steve

    No *A C/J awards available from IAD or EWR to Europe via UA or LM for May when I was looking during February/March/April on any days. Only found availability out of ORD and IAH, and even that was very limited.

  17. Donato

    @ Greg
    Your facts might be correct but it really seems as though they are holding out, trying to sell seats still operating as revenue before throwing in the towel and offering them as bookable with partner miles.

  18. Greg

    @Donato - They have been eliminating routes from the June schedule the last two weeks not adding. They were over optimistic on demand.

  19. Donato

    There appears to be much pent up demand and a rush to reopen that is catching LH by surprise. The would rather keep those seats free at this time while they evaluate if those seats go for revenue . They can always make them available 15 days out.

  20. anon

    It's probably same cause as for why they stopped marriott point transfer.

  21. Endre

    HON Circle says they are making changes to the schedule

  22. Sam G

    I too think its probably (hopefully) related to the fact the schedule currently is more or less a work of fiction beyond the next few weeks and partner issued tickets are a headache them and the issuing carrier to deal with once they start getting disrupted at scale

  23. ChrisC

    Dom

    Your question was answered in the article.

  24. Max

    Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr has just announced on the shareholder meeting this week that he expects the transatlantic market to open up within the next 2-3 weeks. Pent up demand will therefore be enough to fill the planes.

    Another reason is reciprocity: More and more Star Alliance airlines are restricting awards to their own frequent flyer programs. Mirroring this will increase Lufthansa's negotiation power for the next annual Star Alliance meeting where they negotiate reimbursement...

    Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr has just announced on the shareholder meeting this week that he expects the transatlantic market to open up within the next 2-3 weeks. Pent up demand will therefore be enough to fill the planes.

    Another reason is reciprocity: More and more Star Alliance airlines are restricting awards to their own frequent flyer programs. Mirroring this will increase Lufthansa's negotiation power for the next annual Star Alliance meeting where they negotiate reimbursement rates for award flights.

  25. Steve_CC

    They pulled it "for your safety" this is going to be the new excuse by airlines, hotels, etc. for all negative traveler changes.

  26. Dom

    What di LH say when you contacted them?

  27. Jay

    I'm also wondering what's going on. I have a rewards flight in October and booked an excursionist leg (BCN-MUN-AMS) but a few weeks ago the BCN-MUN flight disappeared. Nothing else shows up on reward searches. I wrote it off to pandemic - related scheduling and was going to re-check 90 days out, assuming there's a bit of normalcy (?) by then.

  28. Dominic

    Been trying to finish the last leg of a trip from ATL - IST - ATH - MUC - ATL this September via points I have "stuck" with ANA after a previous trip fell through and can confirm - J on LH is super limited if not impossible to find right now.

  29. Elsie

    Sorry I didn't proofread :

    I went ahead and booked it....

    ....one of about six passengers more than once.

  30. Greg

    It's also possible UA and/or other partners requested the change as they ended up having to rebook on their own metal and mess up their inventory plans

  31. Elsie

    I just booked ATL-FRA-MUC yesterday for a Monday in September. I don't think they're opening award space because they have no idea what demand will be like. I will not be surprised if the flight is cancelled.

    I sent ahead and booked it because then Aeroplan will have to offer an alternative.

    Lufthansa has not been serving MUC-AMS for months now. When it did I was one of about six passengers now than once.

  32. Greg

    Jason's theory makes sense - they made some big pullbacks from June that probably became a mess do deal with on the partner award side.

  33. Marc

    I noticed that the EWR to Munich is available at LM/UA. The EWR to Frankfurt was available a few weeks back but then they cancelled the route. They must have reinstated it (different airplane) a week back or so. But they never release any business availability for LM/UA.
    Side note on United: The availability to use trains from intra germany connections was always a hit and a miss in the past, but this got...

    I noticed that the EWR to Munich is available at LM/UA. The EWR to Frankfurt was available a few weeks back but then they cancelled the route. They must have reinstated it (different airplane) a week back or so. But they never release any business availability for LM/UA.
    Side note on United: The availability to use trains from intra germany connections was always a hit and a miss in the past, but this got worse too. Looks as if the release of "business" tickets for the train is reduced too (could be UA problem but somehow I think this is due to some LH change)

  34. Jason

    They're probably just limiting it now because their schedule is very uncertain this summer. Just this past weekend they shut down a lot of flying for the summer. Lots of flying from the US to Europe. For example, IAD-MUC was supposed to fly in June/ July/ August/ September. They just pulled that market entirely. Like this weekend they pulled those flights out of the schedule. Less than a month in advance. Same with many markets...

    They're probably just limiting it now because their schedule is very uncertain this summer. Just this past weekend they shut down a lot of flying for the summer. Lots of flying from the US to Europe. For example, IAD-MUC was supposed to fly in June/ July/ August/ September. They just pulled that market entirely. Like this weekend they pulled those flights out of the schedule. Less than a month in advance. Same with many markets between the US and Germany. I'd imagine they dont want the liability at this point, are rebooking passengers whose tickets were cancelled, and are just going to have a lot less capacity this summer so they're being careful about releasing mileage tickets as everybody has reduced capacity and it's hard to rebook mileage tickets in this environment. Not really a surprise.

Featured Comments Load all 34 comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

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Charles C.

I´ve been tracking bussiness awards from fra to lax, iah and ord, for dezember and february 2022, in united mileage and there are nothing available on LH, or almost zero options. Even in the 15 days windows there aren´t no first class availability. Is there something going on with LH and partner awards?

Carol Straforini

I've been tracking Lufthansa business awards from Capetown, SA n to San Francisco for a month now for next May (optimistically assuming COVID will be better by then. Nothing available any day, much available for economy. Does anyone have suggestions about which is the better alternative—fly from CPT to JBG then JGB back to SFO through Newark or pay for Emirates economy? I won't fly either United or Lufthansa economy even if it's free. It's torturous. All suggestions gratefully accepted. Thanks.

Wes

I believe this move is reciprocal. I’m a Lufthansa Senator, and have been unable to book award space on United using my LH miles since January.

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