How To Fly Business Class on the Cheap

Flying in first class or business class is out of reach to the majority of air passengers. With fares that can run into thousands of pounds/euros/dollars, the premium cabins are normally the preserve of corporate travellers on paid tickets and well-to-do individuals.

However, there are a few ways of joining the elite and finding cheap business class or first class airfares. Let’s take a look…

Business Class Airfare Sales

Every so often, international airlines will sell their premium cabin seats at very reasonable fares. Airfare sales can be offered simply to fill up empty seats or perhaps put the squeeze on a competing airline.

For long-haul flights in business class on major airlines we would regard fares under £1,000/€1,400/$1,500 as cheap and fares under £1,500/€2,000/$2,200 as reasonable.

Some examples: British Airways sold Club World (business class) tickets from London to Seoul for £777 return (November 2012). BA holds airfare sales a few times a year with the very best deals often coming around November for travel during Christmas and New Year.

KLM often has good deals to Suriname and the Antilles during the summer months. Return fares during summer 2014 were Amsterdam to Curaçao (€999) and Paramaribo (€975) for travel in KLM’s new business class seats.

American Airlines and LAN occasionally offer some great business class deals from the US to South America, priced around the $1000 mark.

To take advantage of such fares you need to keep up with the airfare market – get on email lists, follow airlines on social media and monitor the airline websites. Also keep your eye on the main air travel deal forums and blogs. When a great fare is released make sure you book as early as possible.

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How To Buy a Cheap Airline Upgrade

There are a number of ways to purchase a cheap airline upgrade which can get you into the premium economy, business class or first class cabin.

Airlines are forever finding ways of maximising revenue from empty seats. One way is to try to sell passengers an upgrade to a higher class for either a cash fee or using frequent flyer miles.

Upgrades with Cash

A few airlines offer the chance for flyers to pay for a one-class upgrade with cash. Often these can be priced significantly less than purchasing the business or first class seat outright.

These cash upgrades are sold either at the airport (check-in counter, gate, kiosk machine or airline lounge) or online (via “manage my booking” page or during online check-in).

For example, British Airways offers various Proactive Upgrade possibilities to passengers online prior to travel. It may occasionally sell upgrades at the airport in some outstations (more likely in the US, Canada or Asia).

Intra-European BA upgrades (economy to business) are priced £70 to £180 one-way. On longer flights expect to pay £150 to £250 to get into premium economy and £400 to £600 from premium economy to business class. Note that BA will give you miles and tier points for the class you travel in.

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How To Maximise Your Business Class Flying

When considering a business class flight you should do some research beforehand to find out more about the product you’ll be flying. Here are a few tips to help you maximise the business class flight experience…

Know Your Seat and Configuration

These days, business class seats can come in various forms, sizes and configurations. From fully lie-flat seats, angled lie-flat seats, cradle (older-style business class) seats right down to standard economy seats with extra legroom.

Fully lie-flat seats are offered from the likes of Air Canada, Air New Zealand, British Airways, Etihad, Garuda, Iberia, South African Airways, Swiss, United Airlines and Virgin Atlantic throughout their long-haul fleets.

Be aware that many other airlines have different business class seating which depends on routes and aircraft – so always do your homework. Air France, for instance, generally has angled flat seats in its business class cabin with the exception of the Boeing 777-300ER. You will only find full lie-flat seats across the fleet in its first class cabins.

Now let’s say you happen to be flying business class with Singapore Airlines from London to Sydney via Singapore. On the London to Singapore leg you will experience the airline’s full flat bed product (1-2-1 config) on its Airbus A380 or Boeing 777-300ER. All well and good.

However when you get on the Singapore-Sydney sector (3,900 miles) you could find yourself on a Boeing 777-200 with the older cradle style seating in business class (2-3-2 regional config with 52″ pitch, 20″ width) – this could be a disappointment to some. On that sector be sure to choose either the A380 or 777-300ER option to maintain the flat bed.

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