In this review, I share 10 tips and tricks that will help you find & book the cheapest 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 First Class, I share how to book the cheapest flight tickets online in this elite cabin.
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 if 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 First Class.
Use A First Class Specialist
This tip is really quite simple. Don’t book through the airline’s website direct. Price your ideal flight up on flight comparison websites like google flights. Check the price on the airline website direct. Then speak to a flight consolidatory expert like our luxury concierge agents, who should quote you significantly cheaper (usually around 20% cheaper) for Business and First Class flights. We offer cheap premium flights along with free upgrades, free breakfasts, free hotel credit and VIP gifts at luxury hotels like Four Seasons, Aman and more… for the same price as the hotel’s own websites.
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.
Book Mistake Fares
To find the cheapest flights, take out a 30 day FREE trial subscription to Mighty Travels Premium, a sophisticated airfare analysis tool which will enable you to travel the world in style at a massive discount. This tool will also help you do mileage runs and monitor fares for wherever you fly from and to, including your home airport to Hawaii.
It costs nothing to trial Mighty Travels Premium, compare their results with google flights and ultimately to book the flight you are looking for, cheaper.
You can then decide whether it is worth shelling out the small $7.99 fee per month (or just $59/year, a 37% savings) to keep your subscription live. You only need to book one flight for your savings to more than cover the subscription cost.
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. 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. The Qatar QSuites are similarly good to British Airways First Class so you can book Business Class and get a First Class experience in these suites.
By choosing to fly Qatar and by booking an unusual routing you can get to Asia in a comparative First Class for the price of Business Class. If you want to fly from the US to London, consider first arriving in an Irish airport or a European hub and then taking a low-cost carrier to London, it could save you a great deal of money.
Upgrade With Miles
You may not have enough miles to pay for the entire First 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 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.
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 a Business Class ticket and you have to be prepared to fly in Business because this upgrade is not guaranteed. But equally, this is probably the cheapest way to travel in First Class for cash.
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.
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.
Book flights at unpopular times, days and seasons
First 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 the 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.
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.
Use Frequent Flyer Miles
If you have enough miles, you can fly First 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.
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.
Fly British Airways In First For Free
I fly on British Airways Avios for free accrued on by my FREE Amex Gold Card. Contact me for a referral which will get you 22,000 Amex bonus points, 2,000 more than the usual offering (when you spend 2,000GBP in your first three months). I convert my American Express Rewards directly to airline miles so that I can fly about exclusively on these.
The UK British Airways Amex Card is also a great way to collect Avios. You will receive 26,000 Avios if you spend 3,000 GBP in their first three months on the Premium card and a 2-4-1 free flight after spending 10k GBP. Our referral gets 1,000 more than the usual 25,000 Avios bonus and you can apply for this at the same time as the Gold card these cards are unrelated in Amex’s eyes.
If you are US based and need points, a brilliant way to load up on a massive bonus of points is outlined in our easy guide.
Reviews within this content are solely the opinion of the author and have not been sponsored, influenced, or reviewed by American Express.