LifeMile’s Quirk: An Exercise in Booking Lufthansa First Class

It’s been years since I flew Lufthansa First Class, and my most recent flight was super memorable because I was quite literally in the air when Germany won the World Cup in 2014. I was the only passenger in First Class, and flight attendants were all ecstatic. They even brought out the football-themed chocolates for the pre-landing coffee.

Soccer themed chocolate on the World Cup 2014 flight in Lufthansa First Class. Photo by the author.

Soccer themed chocolate on the World Cup 2014 flight in Lufthansa First Class. Photo by the author.

So when the opportunity presented itself with my upcoming trip to Warsaw (WAW), I looked into the possibility of booking Lufthansa First Class once again.

As many veterans in the miles and points game know, Lufthansa does not release award space to partners until 14 days before departure. Three common ways of booking award travel in Lufthansa First Class are through United, LifeMiles, or Aeroplan. United charges the most in terms of miles required, LifeMiles are known to block certain award seats, while Aeroplan has flexible routing rules but imposes high fuel surcharges. So in a way, none of the options are ideal, but each have their merit.

Lufthansa First Class bed onboard the Boeing 747. Photo by the author.

Lufthansa First Class bed onboard the Boeing 747. Photo by the author.

I usually begin my search on United’s website, just to check out the award space landscape. United presented me with a bunch of option, basically with the same New York (JFK) – Munich (MUC) flight in First Class with a variety of connecting flights into Warsaw (WAW), operated by Lufthansa or LOT Polish Airlines.

All of the options cost 110,000 miles, and there are no options with more than one stop.

United presented a number of 1-stop options which included Lufthansa First Class.

United presented a number of 1-stop options which included Lufthansa First Class.

So I plugged in the same dates on LifeMiles’ website, and was presented with just one option, with a 2-hour layover, connecting onto a LOT flight.

A one-way flight from the US to Europe should cost 87,000 miles with LifeMiles, but it priced out to 94,320 miles. It would appear that LifeMiles is pricing out the Lufthansa portion of the flights as a whole, and then adding other flights onto it at a fraction of the cost.

LifeMiles priced out my flights to Warsaw at 94,320 miles.

LifeMiles priced out my flights to Warsaw at 94,320 miles.

So I decided to try something different. I plugged in the same dates, but on the main search screen, I selected “Lufthansa Airlines (Germany)” instead of “Star Alliance” or “Smart Search,” which was the default option.

You can opt to search only for Lufthansa flights on the main search page with LifeMiles.

You can opt to search only for Lufthansa flights on the main search page with LifeMiles.

Lo and behold, with the search constrained to only Lufthansa flights, another option popped up. This one has 2 connecting flights, which wasn’t offered in the previous search or even through United.

Interestingly, LifeMiles priced this itinerary out to 83,290 miles, less than the expected 87,000 miles usually required for a First Class award. This is basically how they price other connecting, mixed cabin awards, and you actually get a “discount” for mixing cabin.

Searching for Lufthansa flights only yielded an option that's cheaper.

Searching for Lufthansa flights only yielded an option that’s cheaper.

So…guess which one I am going with? 😉

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