Travel tip: how to book cheap Business & First Class flights?

Friday newsletters always feature luxury travel conteststipsseries, or news.

Today (October 20, 2017): Travel tip: how to book cheap Business Class flights?

I prefer to book my flights using airline miles, but I do not earn enough miles to cover all my long-haul flights. When I run out of miles, I pay for my flights with my hard-earned cash. I therefore want to be 100% sure that I have purchased the cheapest possible ticket on that flight in my preferred cabin.

In this article, I outline how I book my First and Business Class long-haul flight tickets for the cheapest possible price. I include a number of tricks that I have learned over the years and I hope that my advice will help you to secure the absolute cheapest ticket for your next flight.

You can share your own tips and tricks in the comments section.

1. Use A Business & First Class specialist

This tip is really quite simple. Don’t immediately book through the airline’s website direct. Price up an aggregator like Skyscanner and price up the same flight on the airline website direct. Then speak to a flight expert and respectable Business Class specialist consolidator like Sojourn Flights, who can usually quote cheaper rates for Business and First Class flights than the ones you find online.

2. Upgrade using your miles

You may not have enough miles for a Business Class flight, but if you book in the class below your preferred seat, you may be able to upgrade your ticket using your air miles or points. British Airways is one of the airlines with the best frequent flyer program when it comes to using your miles for an upgrade (I have reviewed British Airways Business and First Class flights on a number of occasions here). Using British Airways miles -called Avios – to upgrade one class (from Economy to Premium Economy, from Premium Economy to Business, or from Business to First) is one of the best ways to spend them. It usually requires around 25,000 Avios to upgrade a cash booking to the next cabin on a longhaul flight (when there’s availability of course). Avios can be used for an upgrade on British Airways, Iberia and American Airlines flights.

As an example, if you want to fly with British Airways in Business Class London to New York, you can book a Premium Economy ticket, and then login to “Manage My Booking” on BA.com, select your flight and choose to ”Upgrade this flight with Avios”. If there is reward availability British Airways will tell you how much it will cost. In this example, an off-peak reward flight in World Traveller Plus costs 26,000 Avios; an off-peak reward flight in Club World costs 50,000 Avios. Therefore the cost to upgrade this flight using Avios is 50,000-26,000 = 24,000 Avios. If you booked your ticket through a travel agent, you will need to check with them to see if your booking can be upgraded with Avios. Alternatively, if you are ready to book and do not yet have any tickets for your trip, you can use the BA.com ‘book and upgrade’ form to search for availability and get a price for booking and upgrading at the same time.

Even if you don’t have enough miles for an upgrade, don’t despair. If you are running low, consider converting your hotel points over to airline miles to boost your balance. Many airlines also offer a part-buy miles-flight option where you can pay to buy in the miles that you need as you book your redemption ticket.

3. Upgrade at the last minute

You can pick up a cheap upgrade at the last minute if a cabin is under-booked. In this option you would have to book an Economy or a Premium Economy ticket and you would have to be prepared to fly in Economy or Premium Economy if you cannot find an upgrade. But equally, this method is probably the cheapest way to travel in Business Class as long as you have lady luck on your side. To get a last minute upgrade, you must keep checking the airline website or app the week before your flight. On BA.con the ‘manage my booking’ page will show you the availability of upgrade deals. If this doesn’t work, don’t give up. It is then worth asking if any paid upgrades are available as you check in. Airlines want to monetize every last seat, so they will try to sell you any unsold Business Class seats if they are available.

4. Book sale tickets

Most airlines offer sales from time to time and if you add yourself to their mailing lists, then you will be notified when they have a sale. For example, British Airways often has sales where they allow you to book a Business Class return trip and fly one leg in First Class. Qatar Airways often launches 2-for-1 sales where your companion will travel for free when you buy one Business Class ticket. And occasionally, Swiss launches sales with First Class fares that are cheaper than Business Class.

5. Book unusual routings

Consider flying to and departing from other airports to snag a cheaper Business Class flight. For Example, Etihad Airways is often cheaper out of continental airports than out of London when flying to the same destination.

6. Consider other airlines

Finnair offers an excellent and well priced Business Class product to Asia; WOW air is the cheapest way to fly between American and Europe (although not an awfully comfortable way to fly); and Qatar Airways also offers a great Business Class product (and often the lowest Business Class prices) to the Middle East and Asia.

7. Book Early

Converse to my advice above in point 3. You should upgrade at the last minute, but book your flight as far ahead as possible or during sales. Time is the key to get the best Business & First Class deals as the prices are very high when you need to make a last-minute booking.

8. Book flights at unpopular times, days and seasons

Avoid school holidays and weekends on sunny short-haul routes. For long-haul flights landing in major hubs like New York, Hong Kong and Singapore, school holidays, particularly August, tends to offer a cheap time to fly as there are less travellers flying for business in August. Travel to cities during weekends in the summer holidays. Paris empties out in August with the French going on holiday, making this a comparatively quiet and cheap time to travel to and visit Paris.

9. Be open to offers from the airline

If your flight is delayed, cancelled or overbooked, let the airline agents know that you are happy to wait a day or two to fly out or return, in return for an incentive. For example, if you are booked into Economy Class, the airline may offer to cover your hotel AND upgrade your seat in return for taking a later flight. Economy to First is not unheard of in this situation.

10. Bid against other passengers for a premium seat

Plusgrade and Optiontown collaborate with some of the world’s best airlines to offer passengers the opportunity to upgrade their travel experience. This is how it works: after you’ve booked your flight on the airlines’ website, you’ll be invited to make a bid to upgrade to the next cabin from your booking confirmation page and confirmation e-mail. All you have to do is to enter a bid price to upgrade each leg of your flight, along with your credit card information.  Between 72 and 24 hours prior to departure, the airline will notify you via mail if your request for an upgrade has been approved or not. If your upgrade offer has been accepted, your credit card will be billed with the amount you offered, and you will receive your upgraded boarding pass. If your upgrade offer hasn’t been accepted, you pay nothing and keep your original ticket.

Enjoy the weekend and stay tuned for Monday when I reveal a new top 10 travel list.


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