With fares that can often run to thousands of dollars, business class and first class tickets can be hard to come by for everyday passengers.
With input from Air Travel Genius, we’ve compiled this list of 8 travel tricks to help find a good deal:
1. Airfare Sales
Every so often, international airlines will sell premium cabin seats at very reasonable prices. Periodic airfare sales will be offered simply to fill up empty seats during slow periods.
Monitor specialist air travel forums such as Flyertalk and its Premium Fare Deal page. Check directly at airline websites and try and get lower fares.
Get a feel for airfare pricing on the route you are looking at by doing dummy bookings.
In the end, if you do find a super cheap fare deal then make sure you book it as quickly as possible! You don’t want to miss out.
2. Business Class Consolidators
Get a quotation from a business class specialist consolidator who may have access to “unpublished” premium airfares which can undercut the normal market fare by 20% to 50%.
There are a number of such specialists in North America and UK. Cook Travel has been recommended by the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.
If using a consolidator ensure the agency is a reputable business in good standing. It should be a member of industry trade bodies such as IATA (international), ABTA (UK) or ASTA (US).
3. Airfare Geo-“Arbitrage”
Business and first class fares can vary significantly depending on which country the itinerary originates. You can use this to your advantage and get some excellent airfare deals by starting your trip from one of the cheaper airfare countries.
Discrepancies arise from local economic conditions, foreign exchange rates or the fact that an airline will try to poach passengers from outside its home country by offering cut-price fares. You can thus use airfare geo-arbitrage to your advantage.
4. Split Tickets
Geo-arbitrage leads us on to split ticketing. Consider splitting your journey and buying separate tickets which can reduce your business class fare significantly. Use the cheaper countries as a point to split your ticket.
For example, if travelling between Australia and Europe you could consider purchasing a business class fare to Europe from a point in Asia (such as Singapore, Manila or Denpasar) and buying a separate Australia-Asia positioning fare. Denpasar to London via Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific can be particularly good value in business class..
5. All-Business Class Airlines
Some years ago we saw all business airlines Maxjet, Silverjet and EOS stir up the market by offering cut-price business class fares across the Atlantic. Eventually the financial crisis and heavy competition from major carriers caused them to fail. The only survivor was French airline L’Avion which was taken over by British Airways Euro subsidiary OpenSkies.
As of today, OpenSkies is still flying the Paris-New York route using Boeing 757s (and a Boeing 767) albeit in a 3 class configuration. Its class leading Prem Plus seat (premium economy with a generous 52″ pitch) is priced competitively from $1,250 return ex-New York. Norweigan Air flies to London.
French airline La Compagnie flies an all-business class configured Boeing 757 on the Paris CDG-New York Newark route. Whilst it may not have the best business class product it offers transatlantic return fares as low as €1,400/$1,800.
6. Fifth Freedom Routes
Fifth freedom routes can be an excellent way to sample first class or business class products from major airlines at a reasonable price. A fifth freedom route is where an airline has rights to carry passengers between 2 cities outside that airline’s home country. Normally fifth freedom flights are operated by a long-haul aircraft.
For example, BA and KLM will charge little more than £200/$300 for a business class seat one-way from Abu Dhabi to Muscat. A first class ticket with BA will be around the £300/$400 mark.
Emirates, the best airline in the world, is running cheap business class routes to Athens and the Middle East.
7. Lesser Known Airlines
Obscure airlines can often undercut the major carriers and offer cheap business class airfares. Standards at these more “off-beat” carriers can vary in terms of seats, service and ground facilities.
Let’s take London-New York, probably the most important international airline route in the world. Over 4 million annual passengers travel directly between London Heathrow and either New York JFK or New York Newark.
The route is dominated by the like of British Airways, American Airlines and Virgin Atlantic. London-New York prices from these airlines tend to remain on the higher side as they offer a direct routing and different flight time options. They will only discount at slower times of the year when they need to fill up those large seat capacities. That’s where lesser-known airlines come into play.
8. Use Frequent Flyer Miles
Take a look at using frequent flyer miles or points. Other than flying regularly, there are a number of ways to accumulate a healthy balance of miles.
A whole industry of so-called “travel hacking” has sprung up around the miles/points game, spawning countless web forums and blogs of varying quality. This phenomena is mainly centred around the USA (to the bemusement of many non-US based travellers).
It basically means that US travellers applying for 3 or 4 mileage credit cards can literally “earn” enough bonus miles for a long-haul business class return flight. Now whether this state of affairs is sustainable in the long-term remains to be seen.
But remember: be wary of flying on someone else’s frequent flyer miles. Airlines discourage this. Some credit cards like American Express let you earn 5 points for every mile you charge to an airline.
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