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Last week my friend flew 24 hours of Lufthansa First Class and had a 3.5 hour layover in the famous Lufthansa First Class Terminal, which he booked for 125,000 United miles and $58. I helped him book the award, and this post will illustrate:

  • Where to Search for Lufthansa Award Space
  • When Lufthansa First Class Award Space Opens Up
  • How to Predict Whether There Will Be Lufthansa First Class Award Space on Your Desired Flight
  • How to Book Lufthansa First Class with United miles
  • How to Save $75 When Booking Lufthansa First Class

My friend was in Tokyo and wanted to move to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had tons of United miles from opening United credit cards and cards that earn Ultimate Rewards in the past. He wanted to fly a fancy First Class product.

He contacted me in December, 2015 about a series of awards that he wanted to book to go from Buenos Aires to Southeast Asia to Japan and eventually to Rio. We booked most of his awards then, but I suggested we hold off on booking the flights from Japan to Brazil until the last minute. Why?

  1. There wasn’t award space in Business or First Class on any reasonable routing when we first searched
  2. I thought Lufthansa First Class would be a great product for him to fly with a great routing and fancy amenities, including the Lufthansa First Class Terminal in Frankfurt
  3. Lufthansa only opens up First Class award space for partners 15 days before the flight

When I made the suggestion, I wanted to be fairly sure that we could book him Lufthansa First Class when the time came. So I followed my own advice in “How to Estimate Your Chances of Last Minute Award Space.” I searched for award space from Tokyo to Rio de Janeiro for the next two weeks and found award space on 7 of 15 days. That was a good sign since he had some date flexibility, and May isn’t peak time on the routes.

He originally planned to fly May 10 +/- one day, so I set a calendar alert for April 25 and searched for award space for May 9 and May 10 on April 25.

I found some decent Business Class itineraries that I relayed to him, but I didn’t find the holy grail: Tokyo-Haneda to Frankfurt in Lufthansa First Class, 3.5 hour layover at the Frankfurt First Class Terminal, and Frankfurt to Rio de Janeiro in Lufthansa First Class.

That itinerary had First Class space on May 9…

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 12.45.01 AM …and May 7…Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 10.48.38 PM …but for a May 10 departure, he’d need to fly ANA Business Class on the first leg and have an all day layover in Frankfurt (a curse if you’re in a hurry, a blessing if you like to see cities on 23 hour layovers en route.)Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 10.47.04 PM
These First Class itineraries are very pricey since United devalued its award chart massively in February 2014, so I also mentioned the Business Class awards he could book, like 75,000 miles one way if he flew United Business Class (flat bed)…
Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 10.45.15 PM …or 85,000 miles if he flew partner Business Class.Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 10.43.33 PM

Finally I let him know that if we waited a few more days, I thought we could snag the all Lufthansa First Class award because at the time 5 of the next 7 days had First Class award space on that route.

He said he didn’t mind spending 125,000 miles one way. His main priority was ultra-luxury, and he would happily wait a few more days to book.

A few days later, he told me that he changed his ideal departure date by a week and now wanted to travel May 2. There had already been award space on May 2 when I first searched on April 25, and it was still there, so we were ready to book.

However, instead of heading straight to and booking the award for 125,000 miles + $58 in taxes + $75 for ticketing an award within three weeks of departure, I told him to use this trick to avoid the $75 close in ticketing fee.

He went to and booked himself an economy award from Haneda to Rio de Janeiro on Lufthansa for June 2016 for 55,000 miles + $58 and immediately called United at 800-UNITED-1. He told the agent he’d like to make a change to an award which he had booked within the last 24 hours and fed her the Lufthansa First Class segments on May 2. She made the change, deducting 70,000 extra miles (125,000 total as expected) and informed him that the taxes hadn’t changed. As we had hoped, she forgot to add a $75 fee for changing an award’s departure to within 21 days.

Update: United Airlines no longer charges $75 close in booking fee

The Product

Both his segments were on the Lufthansa 747-8, which I have flown in First Class from Frankfurt to Washington-Dulles. The Lufthansa 747-8 First Class product is a large seat

Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 7.34.41 PM

that folds into a comfortable flat bed.


There is unlimited wine (I’ve heard of people requesting wine tastings) and caviar onboard (ask for seconds since they serve everyone out of one large containers instead of individual small containers.

Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 7.35.41 PM

If you have a flight out of Frankfurt in Lufthansa First Class, you get access to the First Class Terminal, which is my favorite ground experience in the world.

This is an entire terminal just for First Class passengers with a top-notch buffet and a la carte food, a cigar bar, and warm baths with rubber duckies.

Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 7.35.00 PM

Since you are in a separate terminal, when it is flight time, you are ferried to your plane in a Porsche.

Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 7.35.19 PM

My friend loved his trip. He texted me from the First Class Terminal several times excitedly, and said that the ground experience alone was worth the miles.

While I think 125,000 miles is too much for a single one way trip, I think 62,500 would be an amazing price for either Tokyo to Frankfurt or Frankfurt to Rio de Janeiro in Lufthansa First Class (both of which are 12 hour flights), so I didn’t begrudge him the redemption.

Getting the Miles

You can get United miles by opening the United℠ Explorer Card and United℠ Business Card. You can get Ultimate Rewards, which transfer 1:1 instantly to United miles from the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Chase Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card.

Bottom Line

If you want to book Lufthansa First Class, do research many months out to figure out if award spaces usually opens on your route of interest within 15 days of departure. Have your miles ready (and ideally some date flexibility), and then start searching again 15 days before departure.