Flying First Class on Lufthansa using United miles is probably one of the very best awards to Europe. In fact, I could even agree with those who argue Lufthansa First Class is one of the very best awards to Asia via Frankfurt/Munich, assuming you REALLY like to fly as I do.
A few days ago I stumbled across this flyertalk post where member, UnitedConnection, posted their analysis on when Lufthansa First Class award tickets are released to partner airlines. I had read that 15 days out is the general rule but I was curious to learn more specifics. The details were of particular interest to me as I was in the market for two first class tickets on Lufthansa using United miles, specifically wanting to lock in two seats together on the A380.
The poster reported that seats were released within 10 minutes of 5 PM EDT. I went to test their results using the ANA tool, the single best way to search for Star Alliance awards as United frequently shows phantom Lufthansa First Class availability.
First, I found an A380 flight with 7 seats available to do my experiment. Lufthansa First Class has 8 seats in total so when a flight is still selling 7 or 8 seats, I expect to see two seats come available for partner awards on most flights.
Looking closer, there were 7 seats left on this flight to be sold out of 8.
I performed the search on the ANA tool right near 500 PM EST.
Nothing happened. Hmmm. I waited an hour and tried again performing the search 5 minutes before to confirm the flights were still not available.
Then 3 minutes to 6 PM EST or UTC/GMT -5 hours, I re-searched and the flight popped up as available for two seats in Lufthansa First Class on the A380. Success!
I reran the experiment for Osaka and Nagoya, the other two Japanese cities Lufthansa serves and they all showed the availability exactly at the expected time window. Furthermore, I tried again over the next three days and the availability showed up as expected every day for all three flights. I am finding consistency in the release timing of Lufthansa First Class inventory to partner airlines.
For the dates I wanted to be on the A380 in First Class, the minute the availability showed up on the ANA tool, I was able to book two seats using United miles. This newly discovered information allowed me to be first in line when the tickets were released to partners.
The bottom line
While none of this is an exact science, I think it is safe to say 6PM EST (or UTC/GMT -5 hours) 15 days before your departure date is the absolute best time to search for Lufthansa First Class awards using partner airlines such as United miles. Furthermore, I believe you can better predict what is going to come available by seeing how many seats are left unsold prior to the release date. When 7 or 8 seats are open, there is a very good chance a pair of First Class seats will open up right at 6PM EST (or UTC/GMT -5 hours) 15 days out.