How to Fly Business Class Cheap: Ultimate Guide

Editorial Note:

If you’re like us, you’re already thinking about your next flight somewhere. The world is on sale, and you love a travel bargain. The problem is that amazing deal is in Economy (or worse, Basic Economy). Yay. We’re so (not) excited to pay fees for everything, from $35 for my first checked bag to $8 for a snack box. We’d love to fly business class. We just want to maximize every opportunity to do it cheap. The problem? Airlines aren’t giving out free upgrades to business class as often. In fact, they’re not giving them out at all.

Is Flying Business Class Worth It?

Have you ever met anyone who turned down an upgrade to business class? Business class makes flying comfortable. People who pay for Business class spend a lot of money; airlines reward them with perks economy flyers won’t receive.

Before the Airport

It starts even before the airport. As a business class passenger, your airline may offer a chauffeur service. Business class customers have a much shorter line than economy, and an attendant to perform their check-in for them. You are allowed at least one more free checked bag than the rest of us, and get automatic priority screening.

At the Airport

At the airport, you get access to the airline’s lounge while waiting for your flight. The lounge offers a variety of complimentary food and beverages, comfortable seating, and places to charge your electronic devices. The nicer lounges have beds and other facilities so that you can rest and shower. When it’s time to board, an airline host may escort you to the gate.

During a Flight

The business class experience continues through the flight, starting with the fact that you board first. A cabin host offers you a selection of your favorite drinks to begin the flight. While the plane taxis down the runway, you relax into an extra-large, comfortable seat with so much legroom. During the flight, the cabin hosts check on you so frequently, they’re constantly interrupting your free entertainment. “Would you like another drink?” (Why yes, you would.) “Would you like a pillow or a blanket?” (Yes, please.) “Have you made your meal selection?” (Everything looks delicious.) “Can we get you anything else?” (No, this is perfect.) Birds don’t fly as well as this. You know you should take advantage of the free Wi-Fi to get some work done, but nope. You dread the end of the flight because that means returning to reality.

4 Best Strategies to Fly Business Class Cheap

How to Fly Business Class Cheap

1. Airline Flyer Program

The first thing you should do is sign up for the airline’s frequent flyer program. Most major airlines will not process an unpaid upgrade without it, no matter how much you plead. It’s free to sign up. You can collect airline miles with flights or through the airline’s partners, which you redeem for a business class ticket.

2. Get a Flight Upgrade

You should make sure your ticket is eligible for an upgrade. A quick online search should explain which ticket types from your airline can be upgraded. For example, American Airlines will not upgrade award tickets or Basic Economy tickets. To be eligible for an upgrade, your ticket must be booked as one of the fares shown here.

3. Error Fare Flights

Be on the lookout for error fares and sales. Secret Flying, airfarewatchdog, and other companies track and post when airlines make pricing errors. Sometimes business class tickets go on sale, and you can catch an amazing deal. Or you could find an insane deal like first class ticket from any U.S. city to London for $79. You think it’s too good to be true? The airline may honor the ticket out of goodwill.

4. Auctions for Flight Upgrades

Passengers can take a chance on bidding for an upgrade. After you buy your economy ticket, the airline opens the bidding at a minimum threshold (for example, $150). There are many websites with strategies on how to price your bid. If you are successful, the airline will notify you 48 to 72 hours before your departure. Airlines generally accept the highest bid, but this may still be cheaper than buying a business class ticket outright.

Business Class for Cheap

Alternative Ways to Get Business Class Comfort

1. Airline Credit Card

If you’re good with your money, you can sign up for an airline credit card. The Points Guy did a good job of analyzing the credit cards of a number of U.S. based airlines. Airline credit card purchases earn you points which can be redeemed for an upgrade to your flight. These cards offer perks like priority boarding, expedited screening, or a free checked bag.

2. Discounted Upgrades at Check-In

If you don’t have an airline credit card, you can still get into business class. Airline seats are perishable goods. Once the plane door is closed, the revenue from unused seats is lost. Some airlines will try to maximize their revenue by offering discounted upgrades at check-in. On my last flight to the Caribbean, we paid $180 dollars for a business class upgrade. Had we bought the business ticket outright, the actual difference in price would have been over $700.

3. Airport Lounges

If you can’t get the upgrade, consider other business class perks. Most airport lounges sell day passes. You may not get priority boarding, but you can indulge in the complimentary food and drink. If your flight is delayed, you can wait out the delay in comfort. You won’t be stuck in a hard seat, fighting for an electrical outlet.

4. Volunteer to Get Bumped

If you have the time to spare, you can volunteer to be bumped. Airlines will overbook a flight to maximize their profits. When this happens, the airlines look for passengers willing to be bumped to the next available flight. Compensation can include an upgrade, flight credit, and hotel and meal accommodations if you must stay overnight.

Choose the Right Option

Upgrading to a business class flight can be done cheap if you know what to do. You can look for sales, error pricing, airfare auctions, use airline miles, or purchase a same-day upgrade. If none of these work, live your best life and purchase the premium lounge access. You worked hard for it, and you deserve it.

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