Look, let’s be real. Not every business class flight has private suites and hot towels. However, even a mediocre business class flight can offer a significantly better experience than many of the best main cabin seats.
Of course, even mediocre business class seats cost three, five, or even 10 times what you’ll pay in coach. But it doesn’t have to be that way. With these tips, you can fly business class without destroying your budget.
Use miles instead of cash
Every major airline has a frequent flyer rewards program that lets you earn and redeem airline miles. You can easily pay for a business class flight in miles (plus taxes/fees), saving thousands.
For example, a business-class flight from the east coast of the U.S. to Spain in April 2024 on Air France would run about $3,000 in cash. Or you could spend $222 and 50,000 Flying Blue miles. (An economy ticket on the same plane would run you more than $700.)
The fastest way I know of to earn airline miles is through credit card rewards. Specifically, credit card welcome bonuses can help you earn enough miles to fly for free in just a few months.
Most airlines have cobranded credit cards that earn airline miles. But you’ll get the most flexibility from travel rewards cards with transferable rewards. Here are a few popular cards with transferable rewards points:
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Transferrable rewards programs will have random transfer bonuses that give you a better rate on your transfer. You can also look for airline specials on award flights to save on the redemption end.
Aim for an upgrade
You may not have the miles to pay for your full flight, but you might still have an option for saving money: upgrades. Some airlines will let you use miles to upgrade your flight, often including business class. So, you may be able to score a deal on a cash flight, and then use your miles to upgrade to a business class seat.
The other way to get an upgrade is with airline elite status. Folks with high enough status could get upgraded for free on flights with unsold business class seats. Some loyalty programs will even give a certain number of complimentary upgrades each year as part of their status rewards that can be redeemed whenever you want.
Be flexible about when and where
Whether you’re paying in cash or miles, being flexible about when you fly can make a huge difference in the cost of a business class flight. And I’m not even talking about weeks or months. I’ve seen plenty of cases in which flying on Tuesday instead of Monday cuts the cost of a flight by hundreds of dollars (or thousands of miles).
Similarly, being flexible about which airports you fly into or out of can also make a massive difference in the cost and availability of flights. This is especially true if you’re traveling through a regional airport on either end.
If you’re going to travel somewhere with excellent public transportation, such as Europe with its high-speed trains, it may be little more than a minor inconvenience to fly into another airport — but that inconvenience could save you a ton of cash. (If a $100 train ride will save me $1,000 on my business class flight, you can be sure I’ll be taking that train.)
Book early for the best availability
If you have a specific timeline you want to meet, then your best option for saving money is often to book as early as possible. This goes double for award flights.
Many airlines publish their award seats as soon as bookings become available (usually six to nine months before the date of departure). That’s when you’ll see the best availability. As the weeks and months go by, award seats get sold, leaving you with less desirable itineraries and more expensive flights.
Set price alerts to track deals
There are a ton of handy tools that let you track flight costs and set alerts for deals. Some of them are free, but some cost money. The quality of the services will also vary. Do a bit of online research into the different options to see what companies may offer the features you need.
Of course, you could always do it the manual way: Bookmark the airline sites and obsessively check the flights every day. (This won’t cost you any money, but it might wear away at your sanity after a while.)
Kick back in business class
If all this sounds like a lot of nonsense to go through for a better seat on the plane, then maybe it’s not for you. Some folks are more about the destination than the journey.
But if you’d like to travel in comfort, enjoy multi-course meals, and lie flat over the Atlantic — well, then it’ll take a little bit of hassle, but these tips can help you enjoy the journey in style.