How to fly business class for the price of economy

In an ideal world, wed all love to travel in business class. Business offers leg space, delicious food, the ability to sleep in an appropriate horizontal position and, most importantly, Champagne on tap – which all culminate in a very civilised flight experience. Sadly, money doesn’t grow on trees. But fear not: it is possible to swindle business class seats, minus the business price tag. Heres how:

1. Join a frequent fliers programme

Airlines offer upgrades to their most loyal flyers. To join a frequent flyer programme, simply sign up online. If you don’t actually fly that often, get an airline credit card that gives you reward points for purchases- most credit cards will reward you a certain amount of points for money spent. The advantage of accruing miles via your credit card is that it generally gives results quicker than using a loyalty programme; not everyone flies constantly but youre probably going to be using your card every day. However, it is worth considering that these credit cards may charge an annual fee and of course, the benefits are maximised only if you pay off your balance on time.

2. Use your air miles for upgrades

If you’ve racked up air miles but not enough to earn elite status on your loyalty programme, or you dont have quite enough for a free flight, spend those points on an upgrade instead.

3. Check for last minute updates

Depending on availability, you can sometimes upgrade your ticket at a discounted rate roughly six hours before your flight time. Call your airline to see if any seats are available last minute in business class; the cost involved can be as little as 150pp.

4. Keep your finger on the airline pulse

Business class seats frequently go on sale, so keep your eye out for them by signing up to newsletter updates with your favourite airlines.

5. Consider your flight dates carefully

The prices of business class seats are dictated by supply and demand, so you’re more likely to secure a better price if you fly at a time other business class customers are not looking to travel. Beware of flying at weekends and school holidays!

6. Use a travel company to get the best deal

Booking flights and securing the best deals are second nature to travel experts so they’re in a fantastic position to get the best deal for you. Booking with a tour operator also means your flights will be protected with ATOL legal bonding, so that if youre delayed etc. you don’t have to worry about making other arrangements; your travel expert is obliged to organise travel logistics for you.

7. Fly from another European city that offers better rates

For example, flying from Norway, the Netherlands and Italy to a long haul destination can be a lot cheaper in business class. This is because they don’t tend to fill the seats so easily from these points and also taxes are a lot cheaper.

8. Offer to be ‘bumped’

If you’ve got no pressing time constraints to reach your destination, offer to be bumped on an overbooked flight. You’ll usually be re-scheduled on another flight with business class seats and get a great experience.

9. Look fabulous!

Wear your Sunday best and smile. Dressing up smartly is an unofficial but often successful way to get upgraded to that business class seat. Compliment the attendants and put on the charm, but be sure to make it authentic!

Sam Clark is CEO at Experience Travel Group.

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Comments (7)

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  1. Tam Gamble says:

    This is a dream of mine. I would love to travel in style but I know if I do it once it will be the only way I will want to travel afterwards.

    I have heard many times about dressing up can lead to the success of being upgraded and perhaps this the strategy I need to adopt moving forward.

  2. Dolores Miel says:

    T hank you for the wonderful tips….being able to get an upgrade seat to business class is a tremendous relief for the economy group travellers esp. With health conditions such as diabetic neuropathy where circulation to the feet is compromised.

  3. Carol Warner says:

    I started laughing as I clicked on this article knowing what those tricks to getting business class seats were going to be. . I have just (within the last hour) gotten off my 3-1/2 hour flight where I was upgraded to Business. Why did I get an upgrade – Because I fly over a 100,000 miles a tear on one airline. The only other way to get that seat is to pay for it. Joining a FF program gets you nowhere unles you are a top tier elite member. The computer that spits out those upgrades doesn’t care if you have a mink stole on or pajamas. It is money and status that gets you there – and no travel agent can get you there either. Nor miles –
    Bloggers who blog the same lies to unsuspecting airline passengers about how to get up front should be made to prove that what they are telling people works.

  4. Francois says:

    I agree for air miles, but this works only if you are a frequent traveller. If you want anyway to get good rates for Business Classes, I would recommend to follow each airline “hot” deal periods, like each Tuesday for Cathay Pacific.

  5. Sam Clark says:

    Are you an elite top tier FF member then Carol? ;-)

    I’d stand by all the tips, though the last was somewhat tongue in cheek. As Francois says, it only works if you are anyway eligible for an upgrade somehow.

    If you put the time and effort into research and are flexible on how you fly, where and when, then you can get to experience business class at a surprisingly low cost. Worth doing once, if only to discover that apart from the feeling of superiority it engenders, it isn’t really all that it’s cracked up to be.

    Speaking as someone over 2m tall who has been lucky enough to travel business courtesy of various obliging airlines, I’d much rather pay for a more interesting or more luxurious experience whilst on the holiday!

  6. Darryl says:

    I find using air brokers for net airfare works way easier than any tips listed above when flying Business Class Internationally. Number nine is funny though.

  7. Susie says:

    Some great advice here Sam. I love to travel, AND love saving money, but I’m terrible at finding good deals, I never know where to begin and I find it kinda boring. I haven’t heard of frequent flyer programmes before, but I’m definitely checking that out. I love the tip about dressing smartly, I’ll try that!

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