Lufthansa Zeroes Out Most First Class Inventory: What’s Going On?

Filed Under: Lufthansa

We’re seeing some unusual trends at the moment when it comes to first class availability, ranging from Etihad zeroing out all A380 first class inventory for the rest of the year, to Japan Airlines seemingly blocking first class awards through partner programs.

We can now add another airline to the list…

Lufthansa blocks most first class inventory

In the past several days, Lufthansa has stopped selling first class seats on many flights scheduled to be operated by planes that feature a first class cabin. For the most part this applies effectively immediately, and for flights through late October, which is also when the summer airline schedule ends.

Looking at the schedule for later this summer for US routes that ordinarily feature a first class cabin (all of these flights are scheduled to be operated by 747-8s):

  • All three daily Frankfurt to New York and Newark flights no longer show first class
  • The Frankfurt to Miami route no longer shows first class
  • The Frankfurt to Washington route no longer shows first class
  • The Frankfurt to San Francisco route no longer shows first class
  • The Frankfurt to Houston route no longer shows first class
  • Only one of two daily Frankfurt to Chicago flights still shows first class
  • Only one of two daily Frankfurt to Los Angeles flights still shows first class

Those are just the US routes. Among routes to other international destinations we’re seeing even more cuts to first class availability, with first class cabins no longer offered on a vast majority of routes.

Lufthansa appears to be blocking first class availability on many flights

What’s going on with Lufthansa availability?

I’m working on figuring out what’s going on, but since several readers have brought this oddity to my attention, I figured I’d address it and share my take in the meantime. There are a few possible explanations here, in my view from least likely to most likely:

  • Lufthansa plans to remove first class from 747-8 aircraft; while Lufthansa has been removing first class from many planes, this seems highly unlikely, especially given that reconfiguring planes isn’t cheap, and the airline isn’t looking to spend money right now
  • Lufthansa plans on not selling first class on many routes, given the lack of premium demand at the moment, but planes will still have the cabin; this seems unlikely to me, given that if they’re going to have the cabin they’re likely to just sell the seats, given the incremental cost to the airline is minimal
  • Lufthansa just isn’t sure which routes they’ll operate in the coming months, and doesn’t want to sell seats they can’t deliver on; this also seems fairly unlikely to me, especially in markets like Frankfurt to Chicago, where there are up to two daily flights, and one flight shows first class availability
  • Lufthansa is planning some significant aircraft swaps for the remainder of the year, where many flights will be operated by planes without first class

That last option seems the most likely to me. Who knows how far along they are in this process, but it seems most reasonable to assume that Lufthansa may use smaller planes on many routes, given the lack of demand. Optimizing schedules is an ongoing process, so they could be trying to manage expectations right now by avoiding selling seats that they probably won’t offer.

Many long haul flights operated by 747-8s don’t show first class availability

Bottom line

Through late October Lufthansa has zeroed out first class inventory on a vast majority of long haul flights. While I’m working to get an official explanation, my guess is that Lufthansa is expecting to downgrade many flights to planes without first class, in which case it makes sense that they’d stop selling these seats.

Only time will tell what’s really going on, though if that’s the case, it seems like a lot of routes are in the process of being downgraded.

For what it’s worth, Lufthansa is one of the few airlines that has more or less maintained the quality of service in first class throughout the pandemic, and has changed very little about the experience.

What do you make of Lufthansa zeroing out most first class inventory?

(Tip of the hat to my colleague Jordan)

Comments
  1. Also add Qatar to your list. They’ve also zero’d out F availability on their A380 flights until June at the earliest.

  2. A vast majority of my flighst in 2019 were in First class (paid only, no points tricks). I never really like Lufthansa service for the money paid. Sources told me that they still allow paid first class but no booking with points as they desperately need cash

  3. They are used for crews to fly back to base, for their safety, they may not stay in the destination

  4. They are used for crews to fly back to base, for their safety, they may not stay in the destination.

  5. This was supposed to be the year I burned a pile of miles to fly first long haul on 2 or 3 different airlines. Now I just hope my miles can get me where I want to go, when it’s safe to go!

  6. It can also be using FC seats for Business Class, in order to space out seating. In spite of an extremely mediocre Business Class service, their cabins tend to be full (or at least tended) and I can see Private Messages to “Senators” and above members mentioning they guarantee a spacious flight.

    Just an idea… no info.

  7. Most of the former 747-8 and 380 destinations will be served by 330 and 350 for the time being. The designated aircrafts fo not feature F/Cl

  8. @ Ali – I agree with you. Logical to block out F for flight crew so they can rest on the return and not stay overnight at the destination.

  9. Most likely they are deadheading crew to/from destinations that still have high infection rates.

  10. May also be that they don’t want to deal with providing a separate soft product. For now only, hopefully.

  11. Seems logical on a few fronts. Business class won’t be full for a while so no need to upgrade some pax to F. Demand for Paid F is down drastically for sure… so with few paid passengers, the entire F product isn’t profitable so it makes sense to shut it down for now. Lots of airline view F as separate entity.

  12. Does LH make any money on first class and the associated amenities like the first class terminal in Frankfurt? Or is it mainly a branding gimmick?

    If the latter I’d be surprised if first class as we knew it before survives.

  13. I believe that they are using the First Class compartments of the aircraft, just to make the crew “happy” not resting on destinations. The most aircrafts seen in Oslo, Norway (OSL) does not involve crew change, as they carry “double-crew” for the mainly short flights going in – and out. This could be one of the demands of the Unions in Germany. No PAX in First Class, and use that as a rest-area for cockpit crew ???

  14. @Chucky

    This is nonsense…because crew dont need First Class seats to rest.
    They have a special rest compartment with beds for their own on every longhaul flight.

  15. Or quite simply because of service restrictions airlines don’t want to sell first class when they can’t offer any premium element to the purchase beyond the hard product. If the only enhancement from A to B is the hard product and then service modifications limit personalization and inflight amenities and service…, why even attempt to sell first?

  16. GRU is still available for sale in F

    @Lucky

    I can assure you that all flights to the US and other destinations with F compartment (747-8 and some A340) are still visible in the LH internal systems.
    No aircraft changes so far.

    There must be another reason why those flights are not on sale in F.

  17. My own theory is that F (and J) may be a surprisingly bright spot for airlines going forward, as people will be more willing to pay top $$ for more space and distance from other travelers. Some companies may relax travel allowance restrictions to get executives flying again. Which means bad news for award travel in premium classes, especially F.

    This may also mean that airlines will sense an opportunity and charge more for the hard product previously known as F while offering J service.

  18. My guess is that many flights may be cancelled due to unknown demand, and they can either try selling them when they are sure that there is sufficient capacity, or just sell them as upgrades when the situation is more certain. Nobody wants to upset their premium clients.

  19. The last time I flew LH first was on dec 29 from PVG and alone in the cabin. And I was in Wuhan all Christmas week.

  20. Crew rest with social distancing. Also, reduction of service capability like AA not serving alcohol anymore. Those paying F fares are not going to have expectations met.

  21. I don’t care about first class, but I do care about the first class terminal in FRA. Would make that obsolete 🙁

  22. Probably used as crew rest as the ordinary crew rest compartments don’t offer enough social distancing. Besides that, more flexibility to use the A330/340/350 fleet.

  23. UA did the same when it fazed out F in favor of Polaris. The first 2 rows of its 777’s which had been 3 cabin service were kept empty. For a while they assigned the seats to Business pax with status only and then just stopped assigning them at all which seemed like a waste. They could have sold them for a few bucks more. I would have paid it. The hard product was a definite upgrade but I guess they did not wish Polaris to appear to be a downgrade.

  24. @Lucky Avianca doesn’t seem to have any LH availability. Not even economy, not even one day out. Is there a points problem, bankruptcy problem or what is going on? Was hoping to fly LH to MEX this Nov using LifeMiles!

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