Budget-busting business class – how to save on business class seats

Hi Frugalistas!

Qatar Airways cabin Photo: wikipedia.org

Do you want to fly business class but think it’s outside your price range?  They’re still expensive to be sure, but here are my budget busting tips for getting the best deal on a business class seat:

1.  Book either really early or at the last minute

Keep an eye out for early bird discounts, and the occasional very short term crazy-cheap deal.  While these types of discounts can be very short lived – sometimes only a matter of a few days, the fares can often be booked for travel months and months ahead.  Conversely sometimes great deals also come up at the last minute if you are prepared to take the risk and complete your travel within a matter of weeks.  Sign up for airline email newsletters and deal alerts to keep up with what’s happening with your favorite airline, as often these deals are not advertised in the general press.

2.  Look carefully at dates and days of  the week

Know your route and the people who travel on it and use this to your advantage.  For example, we saved about $800 a ticket by traveling business class to Bali just before the school holidays started.  Bali is a popular family holiday destination from Australia, so the fares are always far more expensive  in school hols – by booking outside that time we saved big dollars.  The opposite is true on heavy business routes, such as the London-New York route.  On a route like that look for cheaper seats on weekends and during the holidays.

3.  Consider a cheaper airline

A cheaper business class airline may not offer you a completely lie flat seat and a massive choice of inflight entertainment or variety of menu choices, but does all of that matter?  If you can sleep on the plane regardless, are happy with bringing along your own entertainment and are happy with a restricted menu choice go for it and save big time.  You’ll still get a dedicated check in, big comfy seat, more personal attention and a better choice of food served in a more relaxing atmosphere.  Check out airline review websites and work out which one may work for you.

Garuda was alot cheaper, but we didn’t lose anything in comfort and service

4.  Develop a relationship with a travel agent you trust

Not only will they be able to give you the heads up on great deals, but an agent you who knows you and your likes and dislikes can help steer you to perhaps look at options you might not have considered on your own – at a great price.

5.  Check multiple sources for prices

Once you’ve decided on an airline, shop around.  Airline websites are often the most expensive place to buy your ticket.  Travel agents can be pretty competitive depending on how aggressive they are prepared to be in the marketplace, but often the big online services are the cheapest of all.  Check the ticketing price or other service fee on any website before you click buy, and also beware of credit card surcharges many airlines will slug you for on their own websites.

6.  Use points and pay frequent flyer deals

Many airlines will allow you to use what frequent flyer points you have and top them up with cash to buy your ticket.  Realistically these deals only work if you are close to having the full amount of frequent flyer miles – otherwise they can be a very expensive option.  I once checked on one of my programs where I had about half the points I needed.  The price I needed to pay to “top up” my points was almost the same as the cost of a ticket to buy outright – a blatant waste of money.  When only  a few points short I paid less than $100 to top up my points and buy my ticket – that was a great deal!

If you’ve flown business class and got a fantastic deal, I’d love to hear how you did it!


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17 Comments on “Budget-busting business class – how to save on business class seats”

  1. Cheating Through Europe 31/07/2012 at 9:36 pm #

    My tips to get business class seats? Fake you are extremely sick and need to lay down…they will put you up in first class no problem. True story 😉

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 02/08/2012 at 1:14 pm #

      Yes, I’ve seen that happen too! Only problem is it looks a bit obvious if you start tucking into the champers and five course lunch! Thanks for dropping by and commenting!

  2. wordsfromthelandofsmiles 01/08/2012 at 4:42 pm #

    Great post, I travel a lot and will certainly try some of your tips.

  3. maristravels 10/08/2012 at 2:04 am #

    Best still is to book economy but check in at the last possible moment (easy if you are travelling alone). Also dress well, smile a lot at the check-in, be polite and be frequent flyer of that airline. You may notice a lot of scruffs in biz. class when you get on, but bet your life on it, they are contract workers with the fare paid by their company – they don’t need to impress. You do!

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 10/08/2012 at 6:24 am #

      Yes I agree. If you’re prepared to be in economy if there are no seats it’s a good cheap strategy. I’ve also read of airlines selling left over bus class seats very cheap at the airport but have never known of anyone actually doing this successfully so I’m not sure if it’s true or not.

      Thanks for dropping by and commenting.

  4. Vanessa 17/03/2013 at 8:21 am #

    We’re doing a round the world in Nov and have several long haul, overnight flights in economy (flying our our points). We would LOVE to be in business class instead, but at present the cost of upgrading is just too expensive. We did pay to upgrade from economy to economy-plus for our overnight from Newark to Brussels (about $90 each). Apparently EP isn’t all that special, but the chairs are a bit wider and have great pitch (by a few inches). We figure we’ll treat ourselves on our first overnight flight of the trip!

    We plan to see what the cost will be for last minute, at the gate, upgrades to a higher class will be on the rest of our flights. We just plan on looking presentable and asking what the best price is for two upgrades, and then ask if that’s the absolute best they can do for two travel bloggers! All they can say is no, or it might just be too expensive, but it doens’t hurt to ask. We’ll report back if we have success!

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 17/03/2013 at 8:33 am #

      Agree that’s a great strategy for trying to get upgraded. My only experience in Premium Economy was not a success (you can read about it on my blog) but am happy to keep an open mind, so would love to hear what you thought of it

  5. wanderingeducators 12/01/2014 at 2:10 pm #

    Excellent tips – thank you!

  6. Suzanne Fluhr 22/02/2014 at 9:38 pm #

    We recently went on a trip to southeast Asia (from Philadelphia), ending in Hawaii where my husband is doing a sabbatical. It involved 10 flights, including long hauls across the Pacific. I used SkyScanner for the first time which takes you to 3rd party sites like Vayama for actual booking. I bought business class tickets for the long haul segments. I ran our itinerary and the costs I found by a complex trip planner who said he could not beat our fares. The long hauls were on Philippine Airlines which is as you describe—not first tier, but you could lie flat (or almost flat). I slept for 10 hours on one leg on an aging 747 where the personal entertainment systems on the entire plan were non-functional. (I have a blog post about our longest travel day—about 40 hours without leaving airports or airplanes — probably unendurable without the business class segments.

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 23/02/2014 at 7:13 am #

      Good solution to what could have been a truly awful trip, Suzanne. I’ve got another post coming up in the future with some other strategies for cheap seats – including using comparison sites like Skyscanner

  7. Debra Barnes 05/01/2015 at 6:48 pm #

    Thanks for your tips , they have been very helpful

  8. Debra Barnes 05/01/2015 at 6:51 pm #

    I meant to add I’ve been following your advise and keeping an eye out for companion/carer deals in buisiness class


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