Finally some good news: Lufthansa resumes selling first class tickets

Jul 6, 2020

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Nearly every major airline has announced that they’ll emerge from the coronavirus pandemic smaller than they went in, shedding hundreds of aircraft and tens of thousands of staff in the process. First to go have been old planes that were slated to be retired soon anyway, and large jumbo jets that will be difficult to fill in a world of depressed demand for travel.

We’ve already seen a number of airlines send their superjumbos off to an early retirement, including Air France’s fleet of A380s and Qantas’s 747s, as well as airlines announcing that they’d be grounding their A380 fleets for at least the next several years.

All of this raises serious questions about the future of international first class, which was already falling out of favour with many airlines around the globe. Adding to this speculation, both Lufthansa and Etihad removed all first-class award availability on select routes (including paid and award tickets), suggesting they were considering grounding or retiring larger sections of their fleet.

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Fans of Lufthansa’s incredibly refined and consistent first class product can breathe a sigh of relief, as the German flag carrier has resumed selling first class tickets on U.S. routes. While there’s certainly the chance of an equipment swap if demand remains low, this suggests that Lufthansa is more confident in its fleet planning now.

Photo courtesy of Google Flights
Photo courtesy of Google Flights

With the A380s out of the mix until 2021 at the earliest, you’ll find a first-class cabin on Lufthansa’s 747-8s, as well as some A330 and A340 aircraft. Capacity downgrades mean that not all routes that used to offer first class will do so for the near future. For example, Lufthansa used to operate a daily flight between Frankfurt (FRA) and Washington DC (IAD) with a first class equipped 747-8, though that flight is now scheduled to be operated by an A330 without first class when the route resumes in September.

Lufthansa only releases first class award space to partner programs like United MileagePlus and Avianca LifeMiles 15 days before departure. While now is not an ideal time to travel, it is once again possible to book Lufthansa first class awards between the US and Europe:

Photo courtesy of United
Photo courtesy of United

Based on current schedules, here are the U.S. cities that will offer Lufthansa first class service this year:

  • Chicago O’Hare (ORD): 5x weekly 747-8 flight (moving to daily in August)
  • Los Angeles (LAX): 3x weekly 747-8 flight (moving to 5x weekly in August and daily in September)
  • San Francisco (SFO): daily A340-600 flight (beginning 25 October)
  • Houston (IAH): daily 747-8 flight (beginning 25 October)
  • New York (JFK): daily 747-8 and A340-600 flight (beginning 25 October)
  • Newark (EWR): daily 747-8 flight (beginning 25 October)

These routes are all subject to change based on local government regulations and the spread of the coronavirus. Absent from this list are cities like Boston (BOS), Miami (MIA), Detroit (DTW) and Washington DC (IAD) that used to receive Lufthansa first-class service before the pandemic.

Bottom line

As if the rapid disappearance of travel wasn’t hard enough, AvGeeks have had to watch airlines retire or indefinitely ground some of our favourite planes knowing that we’ll never get to fly them again. While it was highly unlikely that Lufthansa would entirely discontinue its first class offering, the lack of availability for cash or award tickets was suspect. While there’s still a lot of uncertainty right now, Lufthansa once again selling first class tickets (and making them available for awards) is the first piece of good travel news we’ve had in a while.

Featured image by Zach Honig / The Points Guy

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