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We highlight success stories from our community frequently to show you that miles and points do really help you with your flights – whether that’s a short domestic Economy segment or a long-haul flight in First Class. The ways that miles and points can be redeemed is virtually unlimited – you can book most flights in the world using miles and points, even those in First Class that cost thousands and thousands.

Today we will be featuring Liam’s success story – he and his family from Miami wanted to travel to London to visit family and for a concert, among many other items, before heading to Italy for a summer vacation.

Initial Planning: Liam’s Family Trip to Europe

Liam wanted to take his family to Europe in the summer of 2023 – mainly to London to visit family and then they wanted to explore another part of Europe, they decided on Rome and Milan. Liam always wanted to fly in First Class and treat his family to the experience and knew that he had enough miles and points for the flight should it open up.

Knowing summer 2023 (and any other summer) travel to Europe is busy, Liam decided it will be best to book placeholder flights that they could fly should First Class not open up closer to departure. When the calendar opened up 11-12 months prior to their ideal departure date, Liam was able to book his family of 3 in the British Airways Business Class Club World cabin – the plane was scheduled to feature British Airways’ new Club Suite, which was worth the extra surcharges.

There was a 30% transfer bonus from AMEX Membership Rewards to British Airways Executive Club, so Liam was able to book 3 Business Class tickets on the nonstop flight from Miami to London for less. He did pay around ~$450 per person in taxes/fees, however he figured it was worth it for a nonstop flight featuring British Airways’ new cabin. These tickets could then be cancelled for ~$55 should something better open up.

Checking For Availability Weekly

Liam knew that award availability changes frequently and therefore he decided to check for new availability every week. He was set since he had both AMEX and Chase points along with airline miles in Alaska and American – therefore he was covered well should a better option open up.

However, the only “real” possibility was either British Airways or Lufthansa First Class. Lufthansa’s product in First Class is much better than British Airways’ and plus, he was already booked in a Business Class cabin better than British Airways First Class. Therefore, Lufthansa in First Class was the only way he would switch tickets.

Even though Liam was covered in terms of points, Lufthansa only releases First Class award availability at most 14 days prior to departure to partner airlines – therefore he would have to wait until two weeks prior to departure in order to look for availability.

Throughout the year, he continued to build his balance of points and miles in AMEX, Chase, and various other programs.

Lufthansa First Class North America Availability

Lufthansa operates flights with a First Class cabin from several North American cities – such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Miami, New York, Boston, Mexico City, and others. Award availability in First Class on Lufthansa is easiest from the East Coast – mainly on the short flights from New York JFK/Newark and Boston – Lufthansa operates flights to both Frankfurt and Munich.

If he were going to find 3 seats in First Class, it most likely would only happen from these cities and therefore he was ready to book a positioning flight from Miami to NY. Lufthansa does release more award availability to their own Miles & More members – however acquiring these miles in the U.S. is only possible through one credit card or by flying, so there’s no decent way to quickly acquire these miles.

Lufthansa First Class

Lufthansa First Class

Booking First Class 8 Days Prior to Departure

Two weeks prior to departure, Liam was searching and checking award availability every day for all of Lufthansa’s North American routes and nothing happen to open up until 8 days prior to departure – where only two First Class seats opened up from Newark to Frankfurt. Knowing that cancellation fees on award tickets aren’t that expensive, Liam booked 2 seats on the flight through Air Canada Aeroplan by transferring points from AMEX and Chase (Aeroplan partners with both).

Having the First Class seats locked in, he could also add on flights to London on the same ticket in Lufthansa Business Class. The remaining problems were the ticket for the third person and also the positioning flights from Miami to NYC. Liam knew that since First Class wasn’t sold out, there was a good chance another seat could open up – if it didn’t, he would fly his original ticket and send his wife and son through NYC in First Class.

Two days prior to departure, one more First Class seat opened up and Liam was able to book it without issue – this time through United as he had a stash of miles he wanted to redeem for quite a while. He ended up paying more miles, but did not need to do any points transfers.

Positioning Flights to Gateway City

Liam’s gateway city was New York – so he needed to get there from Miami. If United Airlines opened up any saver-level award availability on their flights from South Florida to NYC, he could add those on to the existing itinerary he already booked and all flights would be on the same ticket.

Sadly, United does not release many domestic award seats in either First Class or Economy so they were out of luck. However, he did have some Delta miles left over and decided to redeem those for a flight up to NYC. He transferred a few thousand more points and redeemed those for the three of them on a Delta flight the day before – just to be safe. Liam called British Airways and cancelled the initial flights he booked more than 10 months ago and received a refund in points and taxes which he plans to use on a future trip.

All in All

Booking First Class to Europe is possible – even for multiple people, however it will take some patience and searching. Note that First Class opens up last minute and therefore you most likely want to have a placeholder flight booked that you can fly should First Class not open up. If it does, always be prepared and have a plan how you will book the ticket – and you must act quickly as hundreds of other people could be wanting to book the same seat.

Travel Miles 101 has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Travel Miles 101 and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.