In this review, I share 10 tips and tricks that will help you find & book the cheapest Business or First class flight ticket for your next long-haul flight. If you don’t have enough frequent flyer miles to book or upgrade your long-haul flight to Business or First Class, I share how to book the cheapest flight tickets online in these cabins.
My tips incorporate booking cheap and discounted tickets during sales, waiting for the last minute to upgrade your flight and making your initial booking the moment your flights are launched, even i this is a year in advance. My article focuses on British Airways but the tips are relevant across airlines worldwide, including American Airlines, United, Delta along with other European, Asian and Middle Eastern carriers.
It is also worth checking my long-haul flight reviews to work out which airline offers the best seat in your travel class. I share my opinion on which Business Class I think is best; American Airlines Vs United Vs Delta, American Airlines Vs British Airways and finally British Airways Vs Virgin Atlantic.
1. Use A Business & First Class Specialist
This tip is really quite simple. Don’t book through the airline’s website direct. Price your ideal flight uo on flight comparison websites like skyscanner. Check the price on the airline website direct. Then speak to a flight consolidatory expert like our luxury concierge, who should quote you significantly cheaper (around 20%) for Business and First Class flights.
2. 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. Recently British Airways launched a sale which upgraded your seat from Business to First Class for free one way. Join or keep an eye on frequent flyer sites like flyertalk.com (UK & US), boardingarea.com (mainly US) and HeadforPoints.com (UK) for sale tickets. If a deal is good enough, the guys on these sites will find it and post it. By following these sites you can ensure that you don’t miss out.
3. Book Unusual Routings
Blogs like boardingarea.com (mainly US) and HeadforPoints.com (UK) tend to keep readers up to date with incredible fares that involve travelling via hubs that you might not have thought of, in order to snag long-haul tickets on the cheap. It is often cheaper to fly from European hubs to Asia. Finnair offers a particularly good business class product and is usually cheaper than airlines like British Airways, particularly during sales, if you are prepared to fly to Asia via Helsinki. Equally, when flying to Asia from London, it tends to be cheaper to fly with Qatar in Business Class via Doha’s Hamad International Airport, than flying on British Airways direct. If you want to fly from the US to London, consider first arriving in an Irish airport hub and then taking a low cost carrier to London.
4. Upgrade With Miles
You may not have enough miles to pay for the entire Business Class flight, but if you book in the class below your preferred seat, you may be able to upgrade your ticket using your frequent flyer air miles or points.
I regularly fly on British Airways and you can read my First Class, Business Class and Premium Economy reviews to work out which class you prefer. If you want to fly with British Airways in Business Class London to New York, and already have a ticket, then you can log in to “Manage My Booking” on BA.com, select your flight and choose to ”Upgrade this flight with Avios”. If there is reward availability in the next class, you will find it here.
If you want to upgrade from Premium Economy to Business Class and you are travelling off-peak, you can work out the upgrade cost by looking at the Avios flight price of Premium Economy (26,000 Avios) and taking that away from the price of the reward flight in Club World (50,000 Avios). The cost to upgrade this flight is 50,000-26,000 = 24,000 Avios.
If you booked your ticket through a travel agent, you will need to check with your travel agent, to see if your booking can be upgraded with Avios.
If you have not yet booked, you can use the BA.com ‘book and upgrade’ form to search for availability and get a price for booking and upgrading with miles at the same time.
5. Upgrade At The Last Minute
You can get a cheap upgrade at the last minute if a cabin is under-sold. To take advantage of this possibility, you have to book an Economy or a Premium Economy ticket and you have to be prepared to fly in Economy or Premium Economy becuase this upgrade is not guaranteed. But equally, this is probably the cheapest way to travel in Business Class for cash. Even better, if you are booked into Business Class, this is a brilliant way to upgrade to First Class for less.
How do I upgrade at the last minute? By checking the airline website or app the week before you fly. On BA.com you can do this on the ‘manage my booking’ page. If this doesn’t work, try for an upgrade at the airport. Ask if any paid upgrades are available as you check-in. Upgrades at the airport will cost a fraction of the usual price.
Very occasionally, airlines hand out free upgrades. Although this is rare and tends to be reserved for frequent flyers on that airline who have tier status, it is worth reading my 10 essential tips on how to get a free flight upgrade to give your upgrade chances a boost.
6. Consider Other Airlines
I have written in depth about Norwegian Airlines excellent Premium Economy which is comparative to domestic First within the US and offers excellent prices for routes to and from North America. They currently offer the cheapest transatlantic flights to America in a premium seat, although their premium seat is not nearly as good as Business Class lie-flat seats you will find on airlines like British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Delta, American and United airlines. You can also now fly on Norwegian airlines to Asia including their newly launched Singapore-London route.
7. Book Early
You should upgrade at the last minute, but always try to book your flight as far ahead as possible, and when you spot a sale, plan ahead and book your ticket when you spot an offer. British Airways tends to release flights a year in advance. With the exception of sales, this is almost always the cheapest time to book.
8. Book flights at unpopular times, days and seasons
Business class flights tend to be cheaper during school holidays, particularly Christmas and August, as airlines cannot fill their Business/First Class seats at these times of year.
Avoid school holidays and weekends on sunny routes. For city breaks to working towns, the reverse is true, London, Brussels and Zurich tend to be cheaper to stay in and travel to on weekends and during 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. Avoid peak business travel days like Monday (morning) and Friday (evening) since these are the most popular times for business people to fly, increasing prices.
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 may offer to cover your hotel AND upgrade your seat. Economy to First is not unheard of.
10. Use Frequent Flyer Miles
If you have enough miles, you can fly First and Business Class purely using your frequent flyer miles or points collected via credit cards. Credit cards also sometimes offer upgrade vouchers as a bonus for hitting certain spends on your card so you can half the miles required if you use a Buy One Get One Free voucher. You can also convert points like American Express Membership Rewards into air miles which can boost your mileage balance. Even hotel points from stays and credit cards like my current favourite, the SPG Credit Card, can be converted to airline miles to give your balance a boost and enable you to fly in luxury.
The UK Starwood Amex card has a £75 annual fee but you get 11,000 SPG FREE* (which is worth £275 in with my Avios valuation, or equates to 33,000 Marriott Rewards) *after a £2,000 spend. Contact me for my referral link to get this bonus.
If you are looking to boost your Avios balance, have a read of my 10 best ways to buy cheap British Airways Avios.
It is worth noting that the availability of these mileage seats can be low and redeeming miles for airline tickets often means that you still have to pay a surcharge for taxes and “fees” so these flights are not completely free.