Cheapest Way to Fly Lufthansa First Class: 40k Points + $203 Europe to USA

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Forget paying 110,000 United miles one way for Lufthansa First Class. You can book the same flight for 40,000 points + $203 (and there is even a way to avoid the $203.)

Lufthansa First Class flying from Europe to the United States is a fantastic product.

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The onboard First Class product is solid–a step above American carriers and a step below Asian and Middle Eastern carriers.

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And the ground experience in Frankfurt is my favorite in the world. First Class passengers have their own terminal.

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In the First Class terminal, you can enjoy the buffet, a la carte dining, a bubble bath with a rubber ducky, or the Cigar Room.

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 7.18.41 PMThen when it’s time for your flight, you are driven to your plane in a Porsche.
Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 7.19.12 PM You get amazing and unique, up-close views of the planes.Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 7.19.22 PM Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 7.19.32 PM

Lufthansa First Class is bookable with all Star Alliance miles.

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Getting into Lufthansa First Class is a gimme if you can book at the last minute. Unfortunately Lufthansa doesn’t release its First Class award space to partners until 15 days before departure, but once it does, space is quite available.

The problem is that with most miles, Lufthansa First Class is a lot of miles or a lot of fuel surcharges.

  • United charges 110,000 miles one way between the United States and Europe. It doesn’t collect fuel surcharges, just taxes plus a $75 for booking within 21 days of departure
  • Aeroplan charges only 70,000 miles (Western Europe) or 80,000 miles (Eastern Europe) one way, but it collects fuel surcharges that can be as high as $500 one way.

The solution is to book Lufthansa First Class with Asiana miles from a city in Europe that has low taxes and fuel surcharges. Asiana charges only 50,000 miles one way in First Class from Europe to the United States.

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Roundtrip Prices, One Ways Are Allowed for Half Price

Taxes vary by city, country, and airport. Here is a list of low tax cities in Europe. Fuel surcharges vary by market. They are much lower from Europe to the United States than vice versa. You can figure out the fuel surcharges on a route by searching ITA Matrix.

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They are listed on individual tickets as YQ and YR.

Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 4.40.51 PMIn preparing this post, though, I didn’t use ITA Matrix. I just searched for awards on aeroplan.com. The taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges there should equal what Asiana charges. For instance, this Oslo to JFK one way award that has almost six hours at the First Class Terminal has 266.80 Canadian Dollars ($203) out of pocket. (Ignore the 70,000 mile price, Asiana charges 50,000 miles.)

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 4.42.56 PM That’s a lot better than a one way from New York to Oslo, which has $450 in taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges.Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 6.57.50 PM

Low Out of Pocket Cities

I searched 22 European cities on aeroplan.com to find the out-of-pocket taxes and fuel surcharges on a one way award to New York City that connects in Frankfurt. These are the results. (If you know another low out-of-pocket city, put it in the comments.)

  • Oslo $203
  • Dublin $204
  • Stockholm $220
  • Helsinki $240
  • Copenhagen $251
  • Istanbul $256
  • Prague $257
  • Riga $257
  • Warsaw $263
  • Barcelona $268
  • Madrid $284
  • Amsterdam $300
  • Lisbon $302
  • Brussels $317
  • Ljubljana $321
  • Geneva $328
  • Zurich $341
  • Rome $343
  • Frankfurt (direct) $347
  • Milan $350
  • Vienna $356
  • Munich $364

Booking the Award

  1. Get 50,000 Asiana miles
  2. Find award space from the European city of your choice to the American city of your choice on aeroplan.com or united.com (Saver space only) in Lufthansa First Class. Note the date, cabin, and flight number of the award space you found.
  3. Call Asiana at 800-227-4262 to reserve the flight with reservations. Feed the agent the date, cabin, and flight number. You will be given a reservation code.
  4. Ask to be connected to Asiana Club to ticket the award. Give the agent the reservation code.

I’ve booked myself two Asiana awards. Here is my experience.

Getting Asiana Miles

The only reasonable way for Americans to get Asiana miles is to transfer SPG Starpoints. Starpoints transfer 1:1 to Asiana miles.

Plus for every 20,000 Starpoints you transfer, you get 5,000 extra Asiana miles. That means you’d need only 40,000 Starpoints (=50,000 Asiana miles) to book Europe to USA in Lufthansa First Class.

In the past, transfers from Starpoints to Asiana have taken me two weeks. My most recent transfer took a little less than seven days.

Avoiding Out of Pocket

Instead of paying the $203+ out of pocket, you can pay the taxes and fuel surcharges with a Citi Prestige® Card. Since the charge is coming from an airline (Asiana), it will activate the $250 per calendar year Air Travel Credit. On your next Prestige statement, the entire charge (up to $250) would automatically be offset by a statement credit.

My review of the Citi Prestige Card which explains its many benefits like 40,000 bonus points, $250 in airfare or airline fee credits per calendar year, access to Priority Pass lounges, and 3x points per dollar on air travel and hotels.

 

Bottom Line

While some luxury First Class awards are out of reach, Lufthansa First Class is actually very cheap if you have Starpoints.

Transfer them to Asiana miles and book a one way trip home from a low taxes/fuel surcharges city.

Fuel surcharges are too high to Europe for this idea to interest me. On a trip like this, I’d get to Europe on a one way award using a different type of miles.


Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

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27 COMMENTS

      • Scott,
        Concerning your award service. Is this something you could do as part of your service? Say I’m doing a 3 week trip to Europe and want to return via LH out of FRA. Could you monitor availability during the last 15 days and then when a seat opens up you could book it?
        Thanks

  1. I would gladly use 40k of my lowly 127k starpoints balance to book this… Thank you for idea! I wish Asiana partnered with Chase, Amex, or Citi. There seem to be some killer Asiana sweet spots.

  2. What are the chances of one seat in August from FRA to IAD? What’s your experience been in years past? How about to other US destinations with a connection to IAD or DCA, if the nonstop doesn’t work out? I’d love to have the internal fortitude to wait it out until mid-July, but the doubt and call of a business class ticket may be too much for me.

    • Depends how many days your return window is. I don’t have data on percentages. But there will be some seat home in some cabin if you take the risk, and you may well end up in First Class.

  3. I believe I’ve seen it suggested that one could get the Business Class ticket and then upgrade if F opens.

    • These aren’t fees. These are taxes and fuel surcharges, neither of which is reimbursable according to the rules of that credit.

  4. I would like to use Chase Sapphire points to book Business from Charlotte to Munich. Is there a way to do that for less than the 70,000 points on United??

    • Singapore charges 65,000 for the same flights but collects fuel surcharges on all partners to Europe except United.

      United charges 57,500 if you book the transatlantic flight in United Business Class.

  5. Scott – Are there often two seats available? What about going US-EU? High fuel surcharges? Any cities that don’t? What is the actual OZ booking process like? Can you book J and upgrade to F somehow?

    • “Are there often two seats available?” Yes, but my “yes” means nothing out of context. Do a search right now for the route that interests you to see if there is award space for two people.

      “What about going US-EU? High fuel surcharges?” Look at the example of JFK-OSL in the post. That’s why we book Europe to the USA with Asiana miles flying Lufthansa. The fuel surcharges are much lower heading west.

      “What is the actual OZ booking process like?” There’s a link in the post.

      “Can you book J and upgrade to F somehow?” http://www.milevalue.com/my-experience-changing-my-asiana-award/

  6. There is one big caveat that probably should have been mentioned in this post. Asiana awards can only be booked a minimum of 3 days before departure. This effectively eliminates a large majority of Lufthansa first class availability. Yes, there is a small amount of LH first class awards (almost entirely from the east coast, so short 6-7 hour flights) that are released 15 days out, however most of their first class awards are released within 24-72 hours of departure. Therefore you can’t book these seats with Asiana points.

  7. Scott: Can you respond to Tom’s comment? That’s of major importance given LH only releases space 15 days out–if he is correct, you owe it to your readers to update your post

  8. Are you able to book with Asiana in LH – C and then if F opens call and upgrade to F? Does the 3 day min apply here?
    Thanks!

  9. ok, I was able to book FRA – IAD LH F and then IAD – ORD on UA 14 days out . I’m still trying to get the direct FRA -ORD flight. There’s 4 seats open but it isn’t available even for Miles and More booking.

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