(photo credit: One Mile at a Time)
When you’re flying 8 or 10 or 12 hours, who doesn’t want to fly business class?
Lie-flat “pod” seats.
Big screen TV’s.
Unlimited food and drink, served by flight attendants who don’t look at you like you should have udders and a tag on your ear.
International business class these days is better than FIRST class was 20 years ago. But it’s pricey. Depending on the destination, time of year, etc., it can be anywhere from about $3,000-8,000 roundtrip. Who wants to spend as much getting there as you do on the whole rest of the vacation?
Luckily, there are some insider secrets to scoring business class seats without having to auction off a body part.
A quick caveat, as the author of this post:
My airfares do NOT come out of Brand g’s budget. I don’t “work” the trips, so when I take one, it’s for pleasure and I’m paying my own way; so please don’t think Brand g personnel are flying around in glamorous style on your dime, ‘cause that ain’t the case!
- Day of Week: As with economy class, fares are cheaper midweek and on Saturdays (since the bulk of business class travel is corporate executives, who tend to fly Sunday, Monday and Friday), so if you can fly on those days, you’ll save.
- Time of Year: If you can fly at a time when business travelers aren’t (like around major holidays – Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, etc), prices are lower. The airlines would rather sell those seats for less than give out free upgrades to their top elites. (Airlines actually rewarding their best customers is so 2009.)
- If you have the time and interest, consider “piecing” a fare together. Airlines will price different city pairs at dramatically different rates, based on demand. If you can find city pairs with low demand, you can cobble together a fare at big savings.
Example: My husband and I were traveling to South Africa from LA. We flew LA-Berlin on American on a cheap business class fare, then added on a cheap fare on Qatar from Berlin to Johannesburg. (We had to fly through Doha, which added on several hours of flight time, but we didn’t care – Qatar has a spectacular business class, and we got to see their amazing lounge in Doha, which is fabulous). Total cost was about 40% less than it would have been just buying a through-fare from LA to Johannesburg.
This takes lots of trial and error, trying different city pairs, but I just do it on my iPad while watching TV.
- Consider a luxury travel consolidator like Skylux Travel. They negotiate special lower business and first-class fares on a variety of routes (mostly out of major hubs, like LA, Dallas, San Francisco, Chicago, New York etc), and they’ll give you a quote for free. On some routes, you can save a LOT. On others, they’re virtually the same as the airline itself. But you have nothing to lose by asking for a quote.
- Book using an AMEX Platinum Card. I did a previous blog post on the amazing travel benefits that make this card more than worth the annual fee. With the Platinum card, you can book business and first-class tickets at hundreds and occasionally thousands off the airline’s price, via the American Express travel portal. I recently saved $600 per person on roundtrips to South America. And these bookings are considered normal, miles-earning bookings, just as if you’d booked on the airline’s website itself. (Bonus: the Platinum card gives you 5 points per dollar on airfares.)
- Subscribe to Scott’sCheapFlights.com. The free version just highlights economy bargains, but the paid version ($49/yr) includes business class deals, mistake fares, etc. You can set your home airport(s) from which you want to travel, so you’re only notified of deals from those airports.
- And, of course, there’s always miles. This game gets harder to play all the time, because award pricing is dynamic now, meaning the miles you need for any flight can change from day to day or even hour to hour. And the airlines keep increasing the number of miles for business class travel.
But there’s a great site called ExpertFlyer.com, where you can (for a small fee) set up alerts for the flights you want, and the type (i.e. “milesaver” or whatever your airline terms the cheaper award seats). Then, the instant award seats become available on those flights, you’ll get a text or email, or both. You do, of course, have to jump on the seats quickly when you get those alerts. You can set up alerts for connections, but this site works best for nonstop flights. If you have to connect, often one flight will become available but the other won’t.
So, as economy seats slowly become this…
(Photo credit: Forbes)
Why not travel like this?
(Photo credit: Executive Style)