Lufthansa trials first class overbooking

As you will have read in September’s historical Snapshot page, airline overbooking today is as rife as it was in 1990.

Airlines overbook to counter the “no show” factor which can lead to planes departing with empty seats and hence loss of revenue.

But most overbooking occurs in economy and business class. Many, if not most, airlines consider it taboo to overbook their first class cabins — they dare not risk upsetting their most important and influential customers.

Yet this is seemingly a risk which German national carrier Lufthansa is now prepared to take.

Lufthansa has begun trialling a first class overbooking policy on selected routes to “better utilise the high priced luxury class”, according to news magazine Der Spiegel.

Examples of the services in question are those departing Frankfurt for certain destinations such as New York, Mexico City, Johannesburg, Miami, Sao Paulo and Singapore.

According to Der Spiegel, where there is an overbooking situation Lufthansa passengers are told by prepared statement that: “Technical problems in our booking system have led to an extremely rare case of simultaneous reservation assumptions. My colleagues are already busy trying to find an optimal solution so that such cases are excluded in the future.”

Since the trial started, says Der Spiegel, Lufthansa claims it has not left any first class passengers behind.

But if a first class passenger on an overbooked flight does end up getting downgraded, he or she will not be happy seeing as the majority of Lufthansa’s fleet does not provide flat bed seats in business class.

Lufthansa said in a statement: “Since July, we have been testing controlled overbooking of our first class in order to further improve occupancy in this class.

“There is the possibility to overbook by two seats only until 30 days prior to departure. This leaves us with room to still react during these 30 days and to offer alternatives to our customers.

“The ongoing test has shown that with this procedure we were able to improve occupancy and at the same time avoid overbooking of our first class. Since the start of this trial in July there hasn’t been any case in which we had to rebook customers into another classes.”

Alex McWhirter

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  • StephenLondon

    So LH admit that they are happy to lie to their First Class customers, rather than admit the game they are playing a game? I think this shows quite a bit of contempt for their customers. I, for one, would be less inclined to book with them in the future. They may say that they have yet to turn down on F customer, so who will be the first? Someone will eventually. Poor show.

  • BlackTower

    It would help if they discounted into other european origins like BA do. Same for AF.

    I would fly them in first if they discounted ex london…..

  • 1FirstClass

    I travel First with One World exclusively and under no circumstances would I tolerate an over booking profile.

    Some of these airlines forget that their frequent travellers are much more educated now than ever before, I know what type of aircraft I’m on and have my seat assignment at booking time and become angry if that is even changed without consultation or a very valid reason and do you know why I’m entitled to that? Because I pay the big dollars for the airfare.

    Careful Lufthansa you may find in the near future you won’t need that First class cabin.

  • Cloud-9

    Unbelievable. I would not be very happy if I had paid for F and got seated in a pretty poor business class seat

  • Schaible

    First of all I do not understand one sentence in your article: “Airlines overbook to counter the “no show” factor which can lead to planes departing with empty seats and hence loss of revenue.”

    No-show tickets are not refunded in (almost) any case. No show is the best for airlines. The ticket has been paid but the airline has no expenses except those for the reservation process…

    On the other side this proves that a financially unstable airline has discovered a method where top premium customers stand behind. From my part, if I am downgraded or offloaded as a paying F passenger I would make a big fuss and terminate my loyalty with that airline.

  • Arcanum

    As overbooking policies go, this one seems fairly reasonable. I doubt this will cause them much trouble, particularly when they have a month’s notice for any issues.

    What’s more concerning is that statement from LH. The outright lie has made me lose respect for them.

  • AMcWhirter

    Hello Schaible

    Regular first class fares are fully refundable. FRA-SIN return in October costs Euros 9,904 when booked on There is no tariff rule alongside this ticket price which stipulates that “no show” passengers would not be entitled to a refund.

  • Cedric_Statherby

    One of the things one buys with First Class is predictability. Lufthansa’s service is no longer true first class. it is a more comfortable (and much more expensive) business class.

    And like others I find the premeditated decision to lie simply appalling.

    I will not fly LH F again …