04 Jan How to Fly Business Class for Cheap (or Free)
Several years ago I was upgraded from Economy to First Class on Emirates. It was purely luck of course – the flight was overbooked so I was suddenly propelled from cattle class to the front of the cabin. It was one of the most exciting moments of my life – sipping champagne, eating my meal from real tableware and sleeping like a baby in my fully flat bed. From that moment on I realised it would be very difficult to fly Economy Class again.
Once you’ve flown Business it’s hard to go back.
Since then I have been fortunate enough to have been the guest of several airlines through my job as a travel blogger, writing reviews and filming business class trip reports on YouTube. I’ve flown Business Class Finnair’s A350 to China and back, sipped cocktails in the onboard lounge on the Qatar Airways A380 and eaten Lobster Thermidor at 35,000ft on Singapore Airlines.
But not everyone gets to do what I do, and Business Class comes with a price tag. So how can you fly premium, without paying the business class prices?
Simple. Travel Hacking.
Here’s my guide to how to fly business class cheap:
Collect air miles
For sure the best way to fly Business Class for free is by collecting air miles. You can collect air miles when you fly, but the best way to collect air miles fast is to sign up for rewards credit cards. You’ll earn points every time you shop, so it’s best to use the card for day-to-day spending then pay it off at the end of the month.
In the US there are tons of credit cards you can sign up for and they usually offer attractive sign-up bonuses. Here in the UK most people collect Avios points with the British Airways American Express or the Lloyds Bank Avios Duo, but you can also get rewards cards with Virgin Atlantic and major hotel chains.
I have the British Airways American Express card and I’ve now racked up over 15,000 miles in the space of a couple of months. There are of course travel hacks to help boost these miles, such as referring friends to the card or shopping with certain retailers. If you spend £20,000 on the standard BA American Express card within 1 year you’ll also get a companion voucher, meaning you can take someone with you in the same cabin. For more info, read my guide on how to collect air miles if you’re from the UK.
Once you’ve accumulated enough air miles, you can use them to buy a Business Class ticket or upgrade a paid ticket to Business. A Business Class ticket that might cost several thousand pounds can be yours for a fraction of the cost with air miles – all you have to do is pay the taxes and fees.
Despite what you may think, it isn’t always cheaper to book flights online. Offline companies like SkyClub.com offer cheap business class flights and big savings, since they’ve negotiated private contracts with the airlines that allow them to offer deeper discounts offline. You’ll need to call them up or submit an enquiry so they can contact you for a quote, but you can get unpublished fares for up to 50% off the original price. Not only that, they can sometimes bag free upgrades from Business to First, and who doesn’t want to fly First?
Upgrade at check-in
Sometimes airlines will let you upgrade on the day, either via their website or app, or at the check-in desk. If they have space, last minute upgrades can be really affordable, so it’s always worth asking when you’re checking in your bags.
Look out for error fares and sales
Sometimes the airlines make mistakes when loading their prices, so you can get some astonishing deals if you act fast. There are various websites that have email newsletters or subscription services so you can be notified by email when there are any error fares. Try the following sites:
All of the major airlines will run sales at some point, so keep an eye out around Black Friday and Boxing Day for those special Business Class offers. British Airways runs several sales throughout the year, enabling you to grab bargains on First and Business Class.
Sometimes airlines overbook flights, meaning they’ve sold more tickets than there are seats available on the plane. If a flight’s full, staff will look for volunteers who are willing to be “bumped off”, offering compensation and even Business upgrades for the next flight. So if you’re not in a hurry to get to your destination, getting bumped can be worth it just to experience the luxuries of Business Class.
Do you have any other tips on how to fly Business Class for cheap? If you do I’d love to hear them, just leave a comment below!