How – and When – to Book Lufthansa First Class Awards

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.

Principles:

  1. The more seats are left, the earlier they’ll be released.
  2. 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.
  3. If there are 4 or 5 first class seats left for sale you can expect that something will eventually open.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Good information. If someone uses your booking service, is it normal to keep checking until the last moment for award space to open up? If so, this would add a ton of value for clients.

  2. In July I was able to book two seats from FRA to EWR (747-8). Sat in 1K. Loved every minute. Award space opened up two days out with only one seat filled out of 8 at the time award space was released. Space from MUC to JFK on the A340 opened up a day earlier.

  3. What a difference a decade makes!
    In May, 2009, I took my daughter to Tel Aviv in Business on Lufthansa (ORD-FRA-TLV); then TLV-FRA-PRG using UA miles-fantastic!

    One year later, I traveled May, 2010 in Lufthansa first class on United miles between ORD-FRA-TLV. In fact, I stayed overnight in FRA just to ensure I flew all 747s in F on the upper level!

    Lufthansa was terrific in their treatment despite flying on miles. Interesting note for F class flights to/from Israel: very few traveled in F class; those who did, were very religious and deferred on the caviar and champagne. On both flights FRA-TLV, I suggested the FAs set-up at my seat the caviar tin, bucket of chilled champagne, and take a seat with their favorite book. A good life thanks to Lufthansa.

    BTW-I have used United miles between ORD-FRA-MAD in Lufthansa Business to visit my daughter overseas from 2010-2018. No better way to fly-real champagne, great food, and superb service.
    But now, even better, Business is on the upper level of the 747.
    I will never forget the excitement and wonderful experience in F class on Lufthansa!

  4. Before Emirates reinvented first class with closed suites at reasonable mileage levels, one of the best flights I ever had was in Lufthansa first class, with the bed next to the chair. I think that it was upstairs on a 747,

  5. @Christian Not so difficult to do yourself. Just use expert flyer and watch the F availability. Lufthansa is always good at opening up award seats in F relative to the bookings within two weeks…often within the week of the date you need. It’s fairly reliable and there are a lot of sources online that will help you understand what the thresholds are and the odds relative to the days before travel. There are even sites that tell you exactly when they release them each day (usually 4:00PM EST if my memory is right). With a little knowledge it’s faster and easier to do it yourself. And you can always book business and switch out the last minute to F if you need. Aeroplan is the best for that despite the surcharges.

  6. @Gary Probably shouldn’t add this 9as it will give it away) but YVR for those on the west coast is often a sweet spot for F awards and is even better than Detroit I find. Fairly easy to connect to/from the NW and California.

  7. @Stuart – I have an expert flyer subscription and I’m familiar with the patterns. This is for other people who may not be in the same position who may feel a lot more comfortable using Gary’s service. Either way, thanks so much for posting the information. It was really good of you.

  8. Thanks, very informative as I consider LH 1st in the top 5. Especially from FRA on a B747-8i. My first RT IAD-FRA was a few years back right before United devalued. I was paying bills on last night before devaluation and on a whim checked availability. There was for Monday return Tuesday, but I thought my boss would have a fit. There was availability Tuesday – Wednesday so I booked it, the boss rolled his but off I went. Early this year in RTW19 1.0 I flew HND-FRA-IAD both on the B747-8i. Tremendous fun! ✈️

    I have the Barclays cc and transferred points, but have only 31,000 now, so wondering if I can churn the cc 🙂

  9. Thanks
    Great data. In the event that somebody utilizes your booking administration, is it normal to keep checking until the last moment for award space to open up?

  10. Question – If I am booked in business class on a UA award from, say, GVA-FRA-LAX, and have already flown the first portion of the itinerary into FRA, and a first class seat is released, will I be able to change the class from business to first on the FRA-LAX leg during my layover?

  11. While LH may release first class inventory to partners within two weeks it apparently is not guaranteed. My wife and i snagged two first class seats from Mia to Fra a couple of weeks ago about five days before departure. This inventory did not show up at united and i booked using miles and more points.

  12. @Gary

    In regards to
    1: The more seats are left, the earlier they’ll be released.
    2: 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.

    Do you have any advice on how and where to check that quickly?

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