The Poorly Kept Secret to Finding Lufthansa First Class Availability with United Miles

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For some, Lufthansa First Class is their aspirational goal. Using United miles, there is a (poorly kept) secret for how to get Lufthansa First Class seats: wait until the last week or even the last day!

Lufthansa only releases its first class availability to United right at the wire. For instance, I am sitting in the Lufthansa business lounge in Frankfurt right now, waiting to fly FRA-LHR-LAX on Lufthansa and United business class. (Flat bed here I come; I got three hours of sleep the last night in Frankfurt.)

I thought I would take a look online at the award availability for the Lufthansa direct flights from FRA-LAX. Here is the availability for today June 20:

As you can see, I can hop on the direct afternoon flight to LAX for 67,500 miles, the saver price, and $191. The $191 represents the too-high German air taxes and a $75 close in ticketing fee.

Of course, since I already have a flight booked, I’d actually only have to pay the 17,500 miles difference between my business class redemption and this redemption plus the difference in taxes and fees (about $70) and a $75 change fee.

I value 17,500 and $145 way too highly to make this change, plus I don’t want to wait around until 2 PM and arrive three hours later than I’m scheduled to arrive. I’ve got a big softball game at 6:15 PM!

But for those of you who want Lufthansa First Class award space, this is how you get it. Today is the only day on the 335 day booking calendar with First Class saver space on a direct FRA-LAX flight.

How to exploit this knowledge is beyond me. I think the best plan, for the ultra-flexible, is to plan a vacation without the flights, then book the flights in the last week. You will incur the $75 fee, but at least you will avoid change fees.

The downsides are of course manifold. Beyond having no certainty you will have a flight, you probably can’t book Lufthansa first on the way back unless your itinerary is less than a week or so.

So for now, Lufthansa First Class with United miles is inconvenient and unusable for most of us. But if you are set on flying Lufthansa First Class, this is how you do it.

14 Responses to The Poorly Kept Secret to Finding Lufthansa First Class Availability with United Miles

  1. Awesome!
    Might be my last minute travel go to plan
    Book flight, Priceline or hostel, and let the adventure take me

  2. Hey bro, I’ve been watching the Lufthansa and Swiss airlines and how they time their Bos-Zrh and Bos-Fra routes and it seems they open their 1st class 14-15 days before departure. Swiss about 24 hours!
    I already have a business class ticke to Bos-Fra but I’m hoping to either get a 1st class with Lufthansa or Swiss. But to avoid the change fees I signed up for the United Mileage Club card. You don’t pay the change fee with this card! Also if you secure message Chase they’ll give you the 1st year free. This’ll save me at least $150 in change fees and maybe up to $600 in change fees!

    • That’s a great tip. I will look into the card just for that.

      • I have an economy award booked from bos-cdg on Air Canada for August 10, since at the time of booking, that was the only saver option available. I just found business award availability on United for the same date/segment and called United to change my ticket. I was told that I’d have to pay a $75 change fee since there is an airline change in my new itenerary (change from air canada to United). I am a United Mileage Club card holder and dont have status with UA. Any chance I can avoid paying the fee? Ideally I’d like to fly Lufthansa First (if award space opens up closer to my departure date), but if I move forward with this booking, then I may incur another change fee for the airline change.

        • That card allows you to avoid close in fees–”Book award tickets close to the departure date without a fee. We’ll waive the fee for booking award tickets 21 days or less prior to departure. This benefit is reserved for certain Cardmembers and certain Premier levels”–but not change fees. Since you are changing the airline and carrier, you will have to pay the $75 fee, no way around it.

          • If I have a United award booked in F but F was only available on 4/6 flights, can I move up to F when it does open up without paying the $75 fee? I’m not changing the airline or flight and have already paid the F amount of miles.

  3. LH first is almost always open the day of. Its funny since I never really realized availability was a problem for most people as I only use miles for C/F travel when I have to book last minute since its the best value. I really like doing this if I have to fly to Asia. You can also add a stop-over in europe for no extra charge.

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  6. Personally, I’ve just accepted that change fees are part of the game. I book our big vacations 330 days out and usually get what I want, but on shorter notice I book itineraries that I find acceptable, but not perfect, and then pay the change fee if the dream space opens up. $150 to fly in LH F isn’t really a big deal a the end of the day.

    It’s also one of the reasons I usually book two one ways if I’m not doing a stopover–only downside is have to pay double to cancel both directions, but sometimes I’ve been successful at convincing them to only charge one fee if I cancel both directions as the same time and it’s obvious that it’s a round trip constructed as two one ways (i.e. IAD-FRA-LHR and LHR-FRA-IAD 5 days later).

    I’ve also had luck calling UA’s UK # and having them change awards without a fee when one should be charged. Don’t know why, but it seems to work about 50% of the time.

  7. Random question – flipping things around, if I want to book United flights with Lufthansa Miles and More points, do I have to do that on the phone with a rep? Will it cost the same number of Lufthansa points as it would United points?

    Thanks!

    • Lufthansa has a different chart. Lufthansa charges fuel surcharges also. If you want to use Lufthansa miles, call Lufthansa.

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