How to redeem miles for Lufthansa First Class

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I may be biased, but Lufthansa First Class is among my favorite First Class products in the world. There is something I love so much about flying Lufthansa’s Boeing 747-8 in first class and visiting Lufthansa’s amazing first class terminal in Frankfurt.

The good news is that it’s entirely possible to redeem a variety of point currencies for travel in Lufthansa First Class, so in this article I wanted to take a closer look at the logistics of how it works.

Basics of redeeming miles for Lufthansa First Class

Lufthansa offers first class on a variety of routes, including those operated by Boeing 747-8s from Frankfurt and those operated by Airbus A340-600s from Munich.

While Lufthansa Miles & More members have access to first class award seats as soon as the calendar opens (approximately one year in advance), those redeeming miles through the frequent flyer programs of partner airlines only have access first class award seats only 15 days before opening. Departure. If you’re flexible and patient, landing Lufthansa First Class seats can be a piece of cake.

In this article, I wanted to focus specifically on redeeming partner airline miles for traveling in Lufthansa First Class. I am not focusing on Lufthansa Miles & More redemptions because:

  • These buybacks carry fuel surcharges, which can cost $950 one-way first class from the US and Germany, taking away much of the value of these buybacks; I will focus on programs with no fuel surcharge
  • Lufthansa Miles & More doesn’t partner with any of the major transferable points currencies, so even if you were ok with these fuel surcharges, most people wouldn’t have a convenient way to earn these miles.

That said, let’s first talk about the best programs for booking Lufthansa First Class, and then we’ll talk about general tips for finding award availability.

First class cabin Lufthansa Boeing 747-8

Best mileage programs for booking first class Lufthansa

Lufthansa is part of Star Alliance, so you can redeem miles with most Star Alliance partners to travel in Lufthansa First Class. Let’s take a look at how many miles you can expect to pay with some major Lufthansa First Class redemption programs, focusing specifically on transatlantic flights.

The Avianca LifeMiles program charges 87,000 one-way miles between the United States and Europe in first class:

Air Canada’s Aeroplan program charges 90,000 to 100,000 points one-way first class for itineraries between the United States and Europe (90,000 points for travel up to 4,000 miles, 100,000 points for a trip of 4,001 to 6,000 miles):

The United MileagePlus program charges 121,000 one-way miles between the United States and Europe in first class:

Now, it’s worth pointing out that there are other programs that might also make sense, but they have certain downsides. For example:

  • Aegean Miles + Bonus only charges 75,000 miles one way, but you are liable for fuel surcharges, and Aegean Miles are also hard to come by
  • All Nippon Airways Mileage Club charges 165,000 round-trip miles between the US and Europe in first class, but you have to pay fuel surcharges and one-ways are not allowed
  • Asiana Club only charges 50,000 miles one way, but fuel surcharges apply, and Asiana Club miles are also hard to come by

Personally, my strategy is usually to redeem Avianca LifeMiles for Lufthansa First Class, and if the itinerary is too complicated or doesn’t turn up there, I book through Air Canada Aeroplan.

Lufthansa First Class Champagne and Nuts

Tips for redeeming miles for Lufthansa First Class

As mentioned above, Lufthansa releases first class award space for partner airlines for a maximum of 15 days. “At most” is the key term here. This does not mean that Lufthansa will make every first class seat bookable with miles at that time.

More often than not, you’ll find most Lufthansa First Class seats available within a week of departure, and even more within a few days of departure. So the closer you get to the start, the better your chances of getting space.

How to assess the chances of opening Lufthansa reward seats

Lufthansa has a complicated algorithm for releasing award seats, so there is no simple rule of thumb I can share that will always be accurate. That being said, there are some general ways to determine your chances of opening seats.

Lufthansa has eight first-class seats on the 747-8 and A340-600, which means at most eight seats will be for sale. The first thing to do is to determine how many first class seats are still available for sale on the flight you are considering. You can use Google Flights for this, just search for the exact route and see how many first class seats are still on sale (gradually increasing the number of tickets you’re trying to book).

Let me share some very general trends that I notice, and of course let me point out that these are just trends and not rules:

  • Don’t expect Lufthansa to open first-class seats more than a week in advance if there aren’t at least four seats for sale
  • Even though all eight first class seats are for sale, don’t necessarily assume that means there will be award seats after 15 days.
  • Most award seats will generally become available within four days of departure, and within two days of departure you can expect a majority of seats to be made available using miles.
  • Lufthansa is making award seats available until the very last minute, so don’t be surprised to see first class award seats made available on the day of departure
  • Generally, the last one or two first class seats for sale will not be available for rewards
  • Sometimes there are just quirks with the availability of rewards based on a variety of factors, as there are a lot of other considerations as well; for example, it may be that even though there are first class seats for sale, business class is oversold and the airline anticipates having to move passengers, so it may not be offering premium seats

For example, this afternoon’s Boston-Frankfurt flight has all eight first-class seats up for sale, and they’re even all available for rewards. So if someone has seven friends and a lot of miles… 😉

Lufthansa uses married segment logic for awards

Lufthansa uses married segment logic for award tickets in all cabins, including first class. Rather than explain this in detail and complicate it unnecessarily, let me share the takeaways.

Essentially, Lufthansa will make different numbers of first-class award seats available depending on whether you log in or not. For example:

  • Lufthansa may not offer first class rewards on a Chicago-Frankfurt flight if you simply book a ticket between these two airports
  • Meanwhile, Lufthansa may have first-class award availability on the Chicago-Frankfurt flight as part of a wider itinerary, like connecting to Paris with the same ticket.

So if you want to maximize your chances of finding first class award availability, look for a connecting route. Sometimes many more allocated places are freed up in these cases.

Lufthansa Frankfurt First Class Terminal

At the end of the line

Lufthansa offers an excellent first-class product, and it is bookable with miles within 15 days of departure. While it might take some work to find availability, and while the calendar isn’t ideal for those who like to plan ahead, I would still say it’s the best and most readily available way to get through the Atlantic in first class using miles without paying fuel surcharges.

Just start looking within a few weeks of departure. The closer you are to departure and the more first class seats there are for sale, the better your chances of finding available rewards.

Let me note that this may well be the trickiest summer ever for the availability of Lufthansa First Class Rewards. I have never seen Lufthansa first class cabins so sold in advance, because even after 15 days I see many flights with only one or two first class seats for sale.

If you redeemed miles for Lufthansa First Class, what was your experience?

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