Nick Ewen covers a data project at the Points Guy website using Expert Flyer to search for Lufthansa first class award space between 4 and 15 days prior to departure.
Lufthansa generally doesn’t release first class award seats to partner frequent flyer programs until at least two weeks prior to departure. If you want to book Lufthansa first class awards farther out, you need to use Lufthansa’s own Miles & More miles which are tough to get outside of using a Lufthansa credit card (Barclays). Over the summer Lufthansa shut down points-to-miles transfers from other programs over German legal concerns.
TPG confirmed what’s largely the conventional wisdom about booking Lufthansa first class.
- The Detroit and then Chicago flights offered the best change of security Lufthansa first class awards.
- San Francisco and Los Angeles are the toughest flights
- Newark availability is better than New York JFK, though taken together the flight options between the two airports give good redemption options. Boston and Washington Dulles are easier than Miami and Houston.
- Munich, which is a less premium market, offered somewhat better availability than flights to and from Frankfurt.
What this largely correlates with is how many first class seats Lufthansa is selling on a given route and how likely they believe they are to sell more. Detroit’s not much of a first class market. Chicago isn’t either compared to New York. The West Coast flights are longer.
The way to tell whether or not first class is likely to be released on a given flight is to watch how many seats are left for sale.
- The more seats are left, the earlier they’ll be released.
- If you find 7 or more first class seats left for sale you can generally be confident of first class seats releasing closer to two weeks out. However the tougher flights need more seats to be available than the easy ones before seats are released.
- If there are 4 or 5 first class seats left for sale you can expect that something will eventually open.
- Lufthansa may open just one seat at a time. So you may need to split up or book a passenger in first and business and trade up later.
- Use all of the airline’s flights which offer first class. If you’re on the East Coast consider everything but Los Angeles and San Francisco. If you’re on the West Coast or middle of the country consider everything and domestic connecting flights. You may need to buy the domestic flight if award space isn’t available.
Generally the airline will also release seats at the very last minute, close to departure. For instance one person I’d helped book Chicago – Frankfurt – Hong Kong with one passenger in first class and the second in business for the second leg we rebooked so both could fly first while they were about to board in Chicago. Keep looking to improve your itinerary!
You can book Lufthansa awards without fuel surcharges using United or Avianca LifeMiles. Programs like Aeroplan, ANA, and others add Lufthansa’s significant surcharges onto awards.