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Earlier this week I briefly mentioned that I have a trip on United miles to Europe coming up in early February (I traded the Olympics in Russia for a shorter trip with a friend to Europe), and I had hopes to being able to switch from my current itinerary to one that includes a Lufthansa First Class segment from the US to Germany, as paying for this flight using United miles will get a ton more expensive starting on February 1st. It will go from 67,500 miles each way to 110,000 miles each way after the award chart changes! It is pricey for me now, but will be insanely pricey starting in a week.
However, even though I want to fly in that cabin, as you likely know if you have ever tried to do this yourself, Lufthansa First Class flights are not that easy to find using United miles. They often don’t release first class space to partners like United until two weeks before the flight, and even then it is far from guaranteed that it will happen. They also have some planes with a very nice first class product, and some that still have an older first class product that I’m sure is nice, but if I’m spending extra miles to fly in first, I want the newer and nicer first class.
I have flown Lufthansa in first class once before and had a great and relaxing flight. I had hoped to do it one more time before it gets super pricey via United, but didn’t think it was realistically going to happen. However, today I was able to find a way to make it happen on my upcoming trip to Europe. I’ll share some of the methods I used to make it happen in case you are trying to squeeze in one more Lufthansa first class trip as well, plus several of the steps are useful when searching for any product or route, not just Lufthansa.
- Start looking for availability about two weeks out. I start looking for first class availability about 14-15 days before my outbound flight as that is usually the earliest that Lufthansa first class availability to partners might be available. I searched on united.com, but also cross-referenced that with other Star Alliance search engines such as ANA or LifeMiles since United sometimes shows some “phantom” Lufthansa availability that isn’t really there.
- Don’t let the computer do all the thinking. Don’t just put in your origin and final destination and expect the computer to find every possible routing. It will only show a fraction of what you can really do. If you are hunting for Lufthansa F availability (or any specific route/carrier for that matter), you are better off searching segment by segment and then piecing it all together in the end. You may have to book over the phone if you are trying to force routing that the computer doesn’t present on its own, but that is a small price to pay to get exactly what you want.
- Be familiar with the routes Lufthansa flies and search each one of them. If you aren’t going to let the computer do all the thinking, then that means that you need to be doing it. I searched virtually all of the US-Europe routes that Lufthansa flies, even though it would be most convenient for me to be on the Houston – Frankfurt flight. However, limiting myself to that one flight on that one day would dramatically lessen my chance of success. One Mile at a Time is really the “King of Lufthansa First”, so I utilized his post on “How to Predict Lufthansa First Class Availability” where he ranks the available routes in terms of how hard they often are to get. By manually searching those routes (for example searching ORD-FRA or BOS-MUC or DFW-FRA instead of my whole trip at once, I was able to find availability on a couple routes for my needed date. Then I wanted to narrow it down to which ones were supposed to have the new first class product.
- Search for which flights have the new first class product by using this tool on the Lufthansa site. I saw that the DFW – FRA segment I found is supposed to have the new first class seats, so because of that and the favorable flight time for my needs, I went with this segment. Though of course aircraft substitution could rear its head and it could ultimately have the old seats.
- Find the surrounding segments. I then had to make sure that I could find award segments with availability from Houston to Dallas and then from Frankfurt onto my final destination. That was pretty easy in my case, and the schedule should give me plenty of time to get a complimentary massage at the Centurion Lounge in DFW between my flights. Hey, if you’re going to do a fancy flight, do it all the way!
- Keep looking. I’m not done yet. I’m happy with my schedule as it since it isn’t rushed, gives me time both at the Centurion Lounge in DFW and the Lufthansa First Class Lounge (though not Terminal, I think) in Frankfurt, and gets me where I want to eventually be in Europe in amazing comfort. However, flying on the Lufthansa A380 in first directly from Houston to Frankfurt would save me some time, and I’d gladly trade my visit to the Centurion Lounge in DFW for some extra hours back at home. I see that flight is still showing F-6 according to my search on ExpertFlyer.com and directly on Lufthansa’s site (which means they are still selling six of the eight first class seats), so I haven’t given up that the flight may become available on United miles. However, it has to open up by January 31st or I won’t be able to afford it.
I am lucky to be able to make all of these changes to my trip for free due to my elite status with United, but even if I didn’t have status, I would have likely paid the change fee to grab these flights before February 1st. I’m in a unique position of having a trip that lets me just squeak in before the United devaluation, and since I am flying solo and meeting up with a friend in Europe, I only needed to find one first class seat available. Basically, I think it would have been crazy to not to put in the extra effort/miles to make this flight happen.
I’m looking forward not only to the trip itself (more on that later), but the process of getting there and back. A big thumbs up to pre-devaluation United miles for making it happen, as this is something I would absolutely never be able to afford if I had to pay cash! Were you able to squeak in any United bookings before the impending award chart change?