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
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)