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As y’all know, Lufthansa has one of my favorite first class products in the world, though it’s becoming progressively more difficult to book it with miles. That’s not just because they’re releasing award space to members of their partner frequent flyer programs at most 15 days before departure, but also because of the ever decreasing ways to redeem miles for it.
- United MileagePlus devalued their award chart, raising the cost of Lufthansa first class between the US and Europe from 67,500 miles one-way to 110,000 miles one-way
- Avianca LifeMiles began blocking Lufthansa first class award space
- US Airways left the Star Alliance, meaning Dividend Miles could no longer be redeemed for Lufthansa first class (though they were blocking Lufthansa first class as well, so it was somewhat of a moot point)
One of the fun things about our “hobby” is the landscape is constantly changing and evolving.
Up until 2011, for example, Air Canada’s Aeroplan program offered first class awards between the US and Southeast Asia for just 120,000 miles roundtrip. Without fuel surcharges.
Granted, it was more challenging to come up with 120,000 Aeroplan miles than it is now, and they now allow one-way awards, products are better across the board, etc. So while I certainly wouldn’t mind redeeming miles at 2011 rates again, I think it’s more important to focus on current opportunities.
As there have been changes and devaluations to various partner programs over the past year the “best methods” for securing Lufthansa first class seats using miles have changed as well, so I thought it might be helpful to go through the various options.
It is worth noting upfront that with the exception of United, all these options include some quantity of fuel surcharges — typically we’re talking about $400 each way for Lufthansa transatlantic first class. You can also use a cash-back card to help subsidize fuel surcharges, like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®.
Here’s a quick rundown of the best ways to redeem for Lufthansa first class, along with the best ways to accrue those mileage currencies:
1) Lufthansa Miles & More
A few years ago I wouldn’t have even considered the Miles & More program for award redemptions on Lufthansa, as they do levy fuel surcharges on award tickets, but nowadays the program has quite a few things going for it:
- Increased award availability compared to partner airlines
- Ability to secure award seats more than 15 days in advance
- 5-day holds when booking over the phone
- Option to transfer points from Starwood Preferred Guest
- A US-issued credit card that often offers generous sign-up bonuses
2) Air Canada Aeroplan
Aeroplan has been my go-to program for booking Lufthansa first class awards, for a few reasons:
- Most awards are bookable online
- Points transfer instantly from American Express Membership Rewards
- Change fees are lower than other North American carriers, at $90 to change or cancel an award ticket
- Aeroplan offers one-way tickets, but on round-trip tickets they allow an open-jaw and stopover, or two stopovers
3) Singapore KrisFlyer
This is another great option for booking Lufthansa first class awards with miles, given Singapore is now a transfer partner of all the main flexible points currencies.
- Keep in mind that transfers aren’t instant, so you would want to have a good understanding of award availability trends, and transfer points in advance of the 15 day window, which can be a little risky
- All partner awards, including Lufthansa, have to be booked over the phone
- Change fees are incredibly reasonable at just $20 per ticket, and only $30 to cancel entirely
If you want to redeem fewer miles and possibly get a better in-flight experience, keep in mind that Singapore Airlines also has two routes between the US and Europe — Houston to Moscow and New York to Frankfurt.
Either of those routes would cost 57,375 miles one-way in first class, plus about $200 in fuel surcharges (actually lower than what Lufthansa charges). It’s worth noting that those costs factor in the 15% online booking bonus.
Singapore A380 Suites Class
4) United MileagePlus
The biggest argument in favor of using United miles for Lufthansa first class is they don’t levy fuel surcharges on award tickets.
- United also has generous routing rules, and the miles are easy to accrue
- Points transfer instantly from Ultimate Rewards
- If you are miles-rich and cash-poor, this might be a good option, but I think Singapore is likely the better choice for most people with Ultimate Rewards points.
Ultimately 220,000 miles for a roundtrip first class ticket between North America and Europe is just painful though.
If you want to use miles for Lufthansa first class, the best value nowadays is going to come from Air Canada Aeroplan, or Singapore KrisFlyer.
If you want to be able to book in advance or on “tougher” routes then Lufthansa’s Miles & More program is also a good choice, but I see very few circumstances in which it makes sense to book Lufthansa first class through United anymore, given there are so many better options.
What do you think? What miles would you use?