Airlines that release Airbus 380 first class award seats

One of the most common award requests I get is for Airbus 380 first class. People don’t care which airline they fly, they just want the seats in the pointy end of the Airbus 380. With that in mind I figured I’d compile a quick list of which Airbus 380 first class products are attainable on miles/points, and which aren’t.

Air France

This isn’t specific to the Airbus 380, but first class award tickets on Air France are exclusively available to elite members of the Flying Blue program, and can only be redeemed for at the “flex award” level. So even if you are an elite member with Air France, expect to pay 250,000+ miles for roundtrip first class between Europe and the US. On the plus side, “flex awards” more or less come with last seat availability, so it’s not a bad option when there are no “saver” level alternatives.

Emirates

Emirates actually releases a fair bit of Airbus 380 first class award space. The problem is they don’t have all that many partners through which you can book first class awards. One of the few decent opportunities to score an Emirates first class award ticket was through United, though they terminated their relationship last May.

The only decent partner they have left is Japan Airlines, for which the Emirates award chart can be found here. The award rates actually aren’t that bad. London to Dubai will run you 80,000 miles in first class, while New York to Dubai will run you 180,000 miles in first class. Keep in mind that JAL Mileage Bank is a transfer partner with SPG, so if you have a big SPG balance it might not be a bad use of points.

Looking to the future, Alaska recently added Emirates as a Mileage Plan partner, and by the end of the year they’re supposed to introduce an award chart for redemptions on Emirates. So I’ll be watching carefully for that.

Keep in mind there are also other inexpensive ways to fly Emirates first class without redeeming miles.

Korean Air

Unfortunately Delta SkyMiles can only be redeemed for business class on Korean Air, though you can redeem Korean Air SkyPass miles for travel in Korean Air first class. As I explained in detail here, Korean Air SkyPass is a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, so it’s a practical way to fly Korean Air first class.

A roundtrip first class award between Korea and North America will run you 160,000 miles, which isn’t all that bad given that award availability is excellent.

While I think there are better uses of Ultimate Rewards points, this is a nice option for those Airbus 380 chasers among us.

Lufthansa

Since late last year Lufthansa only releases first class award space within two weeks of departure, as I wrote about here. The good news is that within that time frame they’ve gotten a bit more generous with releasing Airbus 380 first class award space. Lufthansa flies the Airbus 380 from Frankfurt to San Francisco, New York, Singapore, Beijing, Tokyo, and Johannesburg, among other cities.

They release a good amount of award space, especially on the Frankfurt to Tokyo route, which almost always has award space. Best of all, since you can use United or US Airways miles to route from the US to Asia via Europe, it’s not too tough to get on those flights even if based in North America.

So if you’re flexible to wait till close to departure, I’d say Lufthansa first class is the most attainable and affordable Airbus 380 first class product out there.

I’ve had the pleasure of flying the Lufthansa Airbus 380 from Frankfurt to Tokyo, Tokyo to Frankfurt, and Frankfurt to Singapore.

Qantas

Qantas has the only Airbus 380 first class product you can book in advance (more than two weeks out) using miles from a US frequent flyer program. While they don’t release a ton of award space, it is possible to snag Airbus 380 first class awards with sufficient planning and flexibility. They fly the Airbus 380 on select flights from Melbourne and Sydney to Los Angeles, Singapore, Hong Kong, and London.

Qantas also happens to have one of my favorite first class products, and I’ve flown their Airbus 380 first class from Singapore to Sydney, Melbourne to Singapore, and Singapore to London.

Singapore Airlines

You can forget about it. Singapore Airlines claims they don’t have first class on the Airbus 380, but rather “Suites Class.” Their redemption levels for Suites Class on the Airbus 380 are absolutely ridiculous, and you can expect to spend over a million miles for a roundtrip between the US and Singapore. Fortunately they have started opening up saver first class award space on their 777s, which is a more affordable option for trying Singapore Airlines first class.

Thai Airways

While Thai doesn’t yet have the Airbus 380, they are expected to take delivery of their first one later this year. They’ll first be flying them between Bangkok and Hong Kong to get the service figured out and crews trained, and they’re releasing a lot of first class award space on the route.

Their first longhaul route to get the Airbus 380 will be Bangkok to Frankfurt, and as of now they are releasing a fair amount of award space in first class.

So while award availability as a whole has been on the decline the past couple of years, there are still plenty of opportunities for flying Airbus 380 first class.

Comments

  1. Panda says

    Isn’t US completely blocking LH F?
    “Best of all, since you can use United or US Airways miles to route from the US to Asia via Europe”

  2. lucky says

    @ Panda — There are still ways to get around US Airways’ blocking by requesting a manual sell. Can take a bit of work, but it’s possible.

  3. Goosh says

    I have to fly from HKG to NRT at the end of November and noticed that HKG-BKK-NRT with a 20 hour layover in BKK was a valid one way award through United, so decided to try out the A380 on TG for kicks even though it’s a pretty short flight. Plus i get to eat some thai food. Great award availability.

  4. Graham says

    Very interesting post – thanks

    How do you see the Airbus 380 developing with more airlines in the next few years ?
    – for instance –
    S African Airlines and others

  5. xi says

    Malaysia also has great availability on their upcoming 380 routes (KUL-LHR/SYD). easy to find 2+ on most days .

  6. lucky says

    @ Graham — I think the good news is that it becomes more of a “standard” product airlines will have less controls around releasing premium cabin award seats. That being said, it’ll be interesting to see airlines with two cabin products take delivery of the A380, to see what they choose to do with it.

    @ xi — Through which program are you booking Malaysia first class?

  7. nelumbo says

    Thanks for the post. I just hang up from 1kdesk. After reading your post, I found a pair of F seats available on LH FRA-NRT (on 388) on the date of my interest on .bomb, I went through all the booking procedures but an error message showed up after my click” purchase”. So I called 1kdesk, and the agent over the phone said she saw no availability on that flight, not even couch, business. Expertflyer shows that the F is completely empty now and hopefully some F award inventory would be released later.

  8. Del says

    well it could up until the end of last month. Now you would have to use Etihad I think maybe Flying Blue too.

  9. xi says

    ANA just ended partnership with Malaysia on May-31 . MH availabilities can be seen through their own program.

  10. Paladin says

    Does Quantas release more space closer in? (looking at two weeks or so to fly SIN-MEL)

  11. nelumbo says

    by the way, NH tool shows the pair F awards there. I doubt whether *net blocking is coming back.

  12. Tao says

    How come I never found any award space SFO-FRA non-stop operated by LH on United.com? even within two weeks. It’s always been UA flights.

  13. lucky says

    @ Tao — Booked one from SFO to FRA just last week for a client. Award space isn’t great, though they are occasionally available.

  14. MKM says

    How successful have you been with getting US agents to do the manual sell for LH F? Takes a bit of playing the call roulette game?

  15. Chris says

    @nelumbo, it’s been a problem lately with LH flights showing these all over *A websites. If you check Aeroplan, I’m sure those seats will show there as well. I don’t know what the problem is exactly, but it always seems to be LH flights only that are like that, and it’s really annoying repeatedly going through those phone calls and hold times, only to find out the space doesn’t exist. Expert Flyer doesn’t help with LH space, either. You’re kind of screwed as long as that issue exists unless you have access to a GDS.

  16. Michael T says

    Re FRA-SFO on LH, I’ve been scouring for 2 F seats for July 4 obsessively for several weeks now…to me it looks like they are only opening up (when they do) 2 days or less in advance. Perhaps it’s because it’s summer or perhaps it’s because I’m looking for 2 seats, but it doesn’t seem to be two weeks at the present.

  17. Joelfreak says

    There is a known problem with *A award inventory showing to partners. UA staff will admit this, and it causes exactly what you were seeing, @nelumbo.

  18. lucky says

    @ Michael — Yeah, two weeks is the far end of when they start releasing space. It’s usually more like 2-5 days out, and even closer to departure if you’re looking for multiple seats.

  19. EagerTraveler says

    Choosing not to fly a 380 until the wing parts have been replaced fleet wide.

  20. Joediver says

    Hi Ben, you say you can book Quantas through a US carrier but I don’t see which US carrier that is?

  21. Dan says

    What about China Southern which has First Class seats on its A380 on Chinese domestic routes?

  22. Tao says

    Can I book europe to asia segment first and add sfo-fra later when the space opens up? would there be a change fee for non-elite?

  23. lucky says

    @ Dan — Completely slipped my mind. That being said, I can’t actually think of any practical way to book first class with them.

    @ Tao — You could, though you’d be subject to the change fee. Also keep in mind that Europe to Asia is more expensive than US to Europe to Asia, so you’d pay more miles upfront.

  24. Chris says

    @Tao–I recently booked DTW-FRA-BKK for 3 months from now. TG F space was available all over the place from Europe, but the space from NA to Europe in any class is sparse. When LH opened up biz space for 2 on the nonstop to FRA, I figured it’s worth it to lock that down as a worst case scenario. We’ll pay $150 combined for the F space on a change fee if it opens up, but i’d rather do that than be left with crap and a bunch of connections at the last minute. We still have time to wait for other acceptable connections (i.e. through IAD, ORD, EWR, YYZ, etc) to open up via *A.

  25. Jake says

    Lucky, can you please share your strategy how you get US Airways to make a manual sell for LH F? I tried it more than 10 times with different agents & hotlines… they always claimed it’s impossible! Thanks.

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