Booking Business and Flying in First Class on Lufthansa

Nov 19, 2017

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Would you rather burn 110,000 United miles for a flight in Lufthansa first class, and all the first-class perks that come along with it, or use just 70,000 miles for the exact same seat, but business-class catering and amenities? I think I’d like to keep those 40,000 miles, thank you very much.

But wait a minute; this doesn’t make any sense — you can fly in first class for the price of business? Yup, you sure can! Every day through the end of the year, Lufthansa is operating a Boeing 747-8 on its Seattle (SEA)-Frankfurt (FRA) flight, replacing the usual 747-400. While some AvGeeks may prefer the older plane, the 747-8 offers a far better experience in all cabins — and it sports a first-class cabin.

And that’s where this particular “deal” comes into play — since Lufthansa doesn’t typically offer first class on its Seattle flight, it’s not selling it here, even though the cabin’s available on the 747-8. Instead, those eight first-class seats in the nose are up for grabs, available for any business-class passengers to reserve. For example, here’s the seat map for a flight next month — those blue/green seats are all labeled as business class, even those up front.

There’s fantastic award availability on the route as well — you really can redeem just 70,000 United miles and end up flying in a first-class seat, albeit with business class amenities, meals, and, theoretically, business-class service.

TPG reader Robert G. managed to book a first-class seat on one of these flights, having redeemed just 70,000 miles for the privilege. So what’s it like to get business-class service in a first-class cabin? Robert was kind enough to share some impressions, which I’m including alongside his photos below:

My wife was headed to Lisbon for a tech conference in early November and since neither of us had been there before, I decided to tag along for a visit. I had a ton of United miles to use so I started looking for award flights to Lisbon. There’s no nonstop flight from Seattle, so Lufthansa with a connection in Frankfurt seemed like the best option.

Business seats were going for 70,000 miles each way, and these tend to go quickly so I hurried and booked LH491/LH490 and then a TAP Portugal flight onward to Lisbon. I’d flown the LH491 flight before when we did a trip to India earlier this year, and was expecting the same seat type as before. I saw at the front of the cabin there were only a few seats in a 1x2x1 configuration (all aisle access) so I booked seat 2K (window). I didn’t think much of this until it was time to board…

Photo courtesy of Robert G.

Surprise, Lufthansa is currently flying the 747-8 to Seattle, which has a first-class cabin in the nose — and that’s where I was seated! I’d never flown Lufthansa first before, so the chance to experience the hard product at a business award price was an awesome opportunity. Seems like Lufthansa needed to route this plane through Seattle and instead of selling first-class tickets it decided to sell it all as business class. None of the other passengers near me were aware of the ‘mistake,’ as I watched the flight attendant explain to all of us the lucky situation we were in and we all got a collective smile on our faces. 

Photo courtesy of Robert G.

I could not have been more impressed. The seat had way more room than the business seat, and there were four different cubbies to store your belongings. Each passenger also gets their own personal storage locker for luggage and coat hanging. The flight attendants were cheerful and attentive, and even though we were sitting in first, I had to remind myself that we were technically business passengers, though it didn’t feel like it at all. The amenity kit, a slick reusable shopping bag by Reisenthel, and meals, etc., were all the same as you’d find in standard business class, which was still really good. The Arctic Char entrée was delicious and not overcooked, and they made sure my wine glass was never empty. 

Photo courtesy of Robert G.

This was a really fun experience and I’m lucky to have stumbled on it. The flight crew was just as fun and accommodating — they made us all feel comfortable and they also seemed to enjoy the unusual circumstances. Being based in Seattle means there probably won’t be another chance to catch this seat again. I hope the TPG community can take advantage of this while it lasts! Thank you TPG for teaching me all about points and miles. This wonderful trip wouldn’t be possible without knowing how to find the flights and use miles appropriately, and I learned it all here. 

Photo courtesy of Robert G.

Now, while this is perhaps one of the best “upgrades” I’ve seen on a long-haul route, it isn’t the first time a carrier has offered seats in a higher cabin. American Airlines actually does this fairly often, when it operates three-cabin aircraft on routes normally served by two-cabin planes, as we’ve covered extensively on the site. Typically, these are hub-to-hub flights, but there have been some other substitutions, too. China Airlines was also recently selling first class as biz on its 747-400 flight between Vancouver (YVR) and Taipei (TPE), though that aircraft has since been replaced with an Airbus A350.

I’m fortunate to have flown in Lufthansa’s first-class cabin a number of times, including on the Boeing 747-8, so I’m green with envy at Robert’s amazing score. As he mentioned, it’s still possible to take advantage, so if you find yourself needing to get from Seattle to Europe, there’s no better way to fly. Since you’re still booking business class, you’ll pay the same 70,000 United miles Robert did, but note that aircraft and seat substitutions are entirely possible — worst case, you’ll end up with a lie-flat seat in business class.

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