Lufthansa Restricts Partner First Class Awards?

Lufthansa Restricts Partner First Class Awards?

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Historically, Lufthansa first class has been one of the best ways to cross the Atlantic using points, at least for those with flexibility. That’s true whether flying the Airbus A380, Airbus A340-600, or Boeing 747-8. However, there’s an indication that this may have recently become a bit more challenging.

While Lufthansa’s own Miles & More members can book first class awards as soon as the schedule opens (subject to capacity controls), Lufthansa has had significant restrictions for those booking first class through partner frequent flyer programs.

When it comes to redeeming partner miles for Lufthansa first class, the wisdom up until now has been that Lufthansa releases first class award seats at most 15 days before departure. That’s not to say that all available first class seats will be made available 15 days out, but rather that this is the outer limit of when space opens.

First class availability gets better the closer to departure you get, and the more first class seats are still for sale. However, some are suggesting that Lufthansa may have recently tightened these restrictions.

Seats.aero is an awesome tool for searching award availability, and it has a Lufthansa first class award tracker. Here’s what the website now writes about first class awards, as flagged by Frequent Miler:

Recently, Lufthansa seems to have changed their cadence for releasing first class awards to partners. Most awards are now only made available within 3 days of departure, including on the day of departure itself. Additionally, some routes are only made available in one direction at any given time (i.e. MEX/FRA but not FRA/MEX).

As of the time of this post, the only Lufthansa first class award space is for same day departures.

Lufthansa first class Boeing 747-8

What should we make of this change?

I’m not 100% sure what to make of this development. I’m of two different minds here.

It’s absolutely possible that Lufthansa has deliberately added new restrictions to partner first class award availability, and that they’re here to stay. Lufthansa has had the same policy for partner award availability for many years, and over time policies do change.

Also keep in mind that Lufthansa is soon introducing new cabins, so it’s possible the airline wants to add more restrictions around first class awards, just as you’ll find at sister carrier SWISS. We’ve also more broadly seen airlines update the ways they go about releasing award availability, given how much more popular miles and points have become.

However, I’m not totally convinced that this change is necessarily permanent. In the past we’ve sometimes seen short term quirks with Lufthansa first class award availability, which were hard to explain. Then eventually things just went back to normal.

Furthermore, keep in mind that in recent weeks, Lufthansa has been dealing with repeated strikes from ground staff, bringing the airline to a standstill. It’s not surprising that the airline would want to limit the number of people booking premium cabin award tickets, who may potentially have to be rebooked on other airlines, with Lufthansa paying out of pocket. It wouldn’t be unreasonable for Lufthansa to restrict availability in light of that.

Furthermore, the claim that Lufthansa is only making awards available in one direction of travel at a time suggests to me this may be somewhat of a glitch, or a temporary measure. There’s no reason in the long run that you’d make awards available in one direction of travel at a time, but not the other.

So if anything, it sounds to me like Lufthansa may just generally be more conservative with first class award availability, and when you combine that with strong paid demand for first class plus all the operational disruptions, it makes it appear like there are a lot of new restrictions.

Lufthansa first class Airbus A380

Bottom line

At the moment, Lufthansa seems to be restricting first class award availability through partner programs even more than in the past. For years, Lufthansa has made these seats available at most 15 days out, while now it’s being claimed that award seats are being made available at most three days out.

It’s entirely possible that this is a deliberate policy change that’s here to stay. It’s also possible (at least in my mind) that this is just a temporary quirk due to current conditions, like the repeated strikes.

What do you make of these updates to Lufthansa’s first class award availability trends?

Conversations (33)
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  1. Dave Guest

    This has been the case for many weeks. Some routes are NEVER available via partners (MUC-LAX A380 First). Other routes like FRA-LAX and FRA-SFO are also increasingly rare, even if there are plenty of seats open on day of departure. When the new First Class arrives there will likely be a Miles & More devaluation and a complete stop of partner FC awards

  2. Northern Flyer Guest

    Sadly this article is accurate. I use Aeroplan points and the furthest ahead I can book LH F class is three days and the availability (U.S. to Germany) is very patchy. A few years ago F seats indeed opened up 15 days ahead of time.

  3. Thierry_D Guest

    I am a miles and more member since 2006. I've had during all these years many millions miles... I did (beside many other flights) 8 times First Class with LHA.

    NOW I can clearly confirm : it is almost impossible to get a First Class flight.

    I also can confirm LHA and Miles and More are the MOST pathetic companies, client service I have ever experienced. EVER. I could spend one day to explain how miserable this company is. NEVER EVER again. Now you know.

    1. andre Guest

      i have the same experience; i am a M&M Senator since years and in the past, when i wanted to book a first flight to anywhere about 12 to 9 months out, i always got availability on the exact day i wanted or at most +/- day, for two, without any issue, even at peak tourist seasons for popular destinations (New York, Vegas, San Francisco etc) - either with LH or with LX, often it...

      i have the same experience; i am a M&M Senator since years and in the past, when i wanted to book a first flight to anywhere about 12 to 9 months out, i always got availability on the exact day i wanted or at most +/- day, for two, without any issue, even at peak tourist seasons for popular destinations (New York, Vegas, San Francisco etc) - either with LH or with LX, often it would go only over the phone; now, i have been trying to fly to India (flexible for BOM or DEL) later this year end and inside a 2 weeks timeframe, there is no single availability in First (althoug on many or almost all days there are still 8 free seats) and even for a business class i needed to be put on the waiting list (to be fair - it did clear, but not for the date i wanted)

  4. dwondermeant Guest

    Ive never seen First available on United in all the years Ive been a member
    Though I dont check at all 2 week's before departure
    I have booked it through LH on their points but expiring miles keeps me out
    So now its even worse than that for redemption with partners? lol
    Off topic I haven't seen a business or first class Qantas awards in the past year as I have...

    Ive never seen First available on United in all the years Ive been a member
    Though I dont check at all 2 week's before departure
    I have booked it through LH on their points but expiring miles keeps me out
    So now its even worse than that for redemption with partners? lol
    Off topic I haven't seen a business or first class Qantas awards in the past year as I have historically
    The programs mostly suck now
    I've moved to cash back as much as possible or using the points for hotel redemption's

  5. E D K Guest

    All that money for just a few hours that disappear with minimal benefits. I’d usecthe $10k plus for better hotels, future adventures or visit loved ones. Quit charging so much airlines and quick wasting your money or your company’s money which in the end adds to inflation.

  6. Cedric Guest

    Its not going to get any better when the 3 seat layout rolls out...

  7. Points and Miles Doc Guest

    I've been watching LH F availability for the better part of 2 years now, and I've slowly watched it go to 1-3 days out max, with extremely limited starting points.
    Finally I got smart, bought a Bundle & Go and booked my LH F leg on the exact date I wanted in the future, where there was plenty of availability.
    I feel like more and more programs are limiting F availability to their own and LH is showing signs they are next.

    1. Thomas Guest

      ....and take into account, that there will only be three (four) seats in the new F class. Don't know how they will handle 3/4 seats???

    2. Points and Miles Doc Guest

      Probably not well ... hoping the continued delays for their new weird first class will continue!

  8. InceptionCat Gold

    There might be something to that. As a LH Senator i can see availability in F to JFK in April, then to and from MEX almost every single day from end of March even over Easter. Same to some certain destinations is Asia.

  9. Hans Guest

    Even for the highest status customers of LH (HON) it is nearly impossible to get F awards in advance. And when ALLEGRIS, the new cabin with only 3 or 4 seats in F, comes, no awards at all will become available in the future.

    1. Gregg Guest

      Do we know that to be a fact?

  10. JMM Guest

    I had the luck of being booked with a 1st class award from FRA and due to a strike last year LH booked me on SWISS which is impossible to book with a partner award

  11. ConcordeBoy Diamond

    Honest question. Other than travel bloggers, who books F-class intercontinental travel, only 2 to 3 days out, using miles? Being serious.

    Business executives and the super-rich will travel at short notice, but they pay cash. Families who've been saving forever will plan out their itineraries far longer than that. And even normal (non aviation enthusiasts) who convert credit card points to miles, will still likely plan their trips much more in advance.

    So who does...

    Honest question. Other than travel bloggers, who books F-class intercontinental travel, only 2 to 3 days out, using miles? Being serious.

    Business executives and the super-rich will travel at short notice, but they pay cash. Families who've been saving forever will plan out their itineraries far longer than that. And even normal (non aviation enthusiasts) who convert credit card points to miles, will still likely plan their trips much more in advance.

    So who does releasing inventory 3 days out appeal to? I'm guessing upgrades, for people who already have a booked itinerary?

    1. Scooter Guest

      I’ve had a few flights where I’ve found super cheap refundable tickets or known that I needed the travel credit for later in the year. I’ll book the miles trip and cancel the cash one. But that’s about it.

    2. Gugs815 Guest

      I upgraded an already booked business class itinerary within that three day window when F space became available. Original flight was booked with aeroplan points 6+ months out as I needed to ensure I arrived at my destination on a specific day. I was open to a routing change however if F became available which in my case it did (ORD-FRA 747).

    3. vic Guest

      You are describing 99.9999% of people that would fly in first. I'm always happy to hop on a LH flight <72 hrs using some miles. The 3 day thing does exactly what you are detailing, its an empty seat that any super wealthy person would have paid for in advance or would pay in cash as a business expense at the last minute. At 3 days out, they know almost certainly, how many seats will...

      You are describing 99.9999% of people that would fly in first. I'm always happy to hop on a LH flight <72 hrs using some miles. The 3 day thing does exactly what you are detailing, its an empty seat that any super wealthy person would have paid for in advance or would pay in cash as a business expense at the last minute. At 3 days out, they know almost certainly, how many seats will go unsold, and generally keep 2+ just in case. What do they get for cashing in 80k avianca miles or whatever it is? I'm not sure, but it keeps the program relevant as a reason to be involved in airline loyalty. If F goes away on certain airlines, those customers will just fly with netjets or their own plane.

    4. edgie New Member

      I agree with each and every word you said!!

    5. Antwerp Guest

      Not true at all. I am traveling for work to Europe every 3-4 weeks. I can book a speculative in J on whoever and last minute cancel it when F opens up. Usually do this ex Germany as I could care less about F on the night flights. When I book paid J I do so ex Europe round trip at the last minute given it’s much cheaper originating in Europe and I know when...

      Not true at all. I am traveling for work to Europe every 3-4 weeks. I can book a speculative in J on whoever and last minute cancel it when F opens up. Usually do this ex Germany as I could care less about F on the night flights. When I book paid J I do so ex Europe round trip at the last minute given it’s much cheaper originating in Europe and I know when my return will be. If no award LH F two days out I will find a discounted J to buy. There are always last minute deals. Even around the holidays. Especially on TAP.

    6. snic Diamond

      "Ordinary people" can and do take advantage of last-minute F award availability. One strategy is to book an award trip in J, which has far more availability months in advance. Then keep checking for F availability and change your ticket when it opens up. That's the perfect strategy for an airline like LH that releases all it's F award seats at the last minute.

      Personally, I'm generally pretty happy with business class, so I don't...

      "Ordinary people" can and do take advantage of last-minute F award availability. One strategy is to book an award trip in J, which has far more availability months in advance. Then keep checking for F availability and change your ticket when it opens up. That's the perfect strategy for an airline like LH that releases all it's F award seats at the last minute.

      Personally, I'm generally pretty happy with business class, so I don't see much point in chasing the few unicorn F seats that remain after airlines began decimating their first-class cabins a decade or two ago.

    7. PCT Member

      You also must consider the vast number of current and retired airline employees that have access to standby travel on their own carrier! I assure you many of them play the points game and have the flexibility. If no mileage flights are available, they simply fly home standby on their own airline!

  12. Todd Diamond

    I wanted F from FRA to the US on the 747 back in January. I followed the release trend for several months beforehand and watched as F seats were released at best one day before and other times on the day of departure.

    For my flight, I would be in PRG and had 3 days of flexibility to fly to FRA to position for the flight. I used multiple tools to monitor and alert...

    I wanted F from FRA to the US on the 747 back in January. I followed the release trend for several months beforehand and watched as F seats were released at best one day before and other times on the day of departure.

    For my flight, I would be in PRG and had 3 days of flexibility to fly to FRA to position for the flight. I used multiple tools to monitor and alert me of the release of an F seat and not one single seat opened on any of those 3 days on the 747, so I had to "settle" for an A340.

    Flexibility and automated alerts are key.

    Good luck! It's worth it.

    1. Thierry_D Guest

      Hi there. How can you use "automated alerts" ? Thank you

    2. Todd Diamond

      As snic said, plus Award Nexus.

  13. Levy Flight Guest

    I don’t see first class availability on any airline through UA anymore.

  14. Andre the Travel Hacktivist Guest

    I’ve been checking for LH award space the past few weeks. I feel this is permanent.

  15. JoePro Guest

    Been following LH F availability for several weeks now, as Im trying to gauge if I'll be able to get my mother and I a flight in F out of FRA to any destination in the U.S (early June). Some days there have been 2 pages worth of availability, but on others only a couple dozen tops. Today is probably the most abysmal I've seen yet, but not sure that's indicative of a trend. I guess we'll see.

    1. snic Diamond

      Well, given the strike tomorrow I wouldn't take today's data as indicative.

    2. JoePro Guest

      @snic: fair enough. This has happened a couple times in the last few weeks, so that makes sense. Wasn't aware there was another one tomorrow.

  16. Watcher Guest

    That disclaimer has been on the website for weeks, if not months, by now, so this is hardly news if you've been paying attention. Must be a slow news day over at Frequent Miler. The same-day availability is interesting, although it might have more to do with the strikes canceling flights the next two days then actual restricting of availability. Only time will tell, I guess.

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edgie New Member

I agree with each and every word you said!!

1
Scooter Guest

I’ve had a few flights where I’ve found super cheap refundable tickets or known that I needed the travel credit for later in the year. I’ll book the miles trip and cancel the cash one. But that’s about it.

1
ConcordeBoy Diamond

Honest question. Other than travel bloggers, who books F-class intercontinental travel, only 2 to 3 days out, using miles? Being serious. Business executives and the super-rich will travel at short notice, but they pay cash. Families who've been saving forever will plan out their itineraries far longer than that. And even normal (non aviation enthusiasts) who convert credit card points to miles, will still likely plan their trips much more in advance. So who does releasing inventory 3 days out appeal to? I'm guessing upgrades, for people who already have a booked itinerary?

1
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