Travelling in business class may seem an excessive spend to most people, but when travelling comfortably, your vacation begins the moment you board; with spacious seats, fine dining and bigger television screens. Life is short, enjoy it. Being able to sleep lying down, with a pillow and comforter means arriving refreshed, so you can jump straight into enjoying your holiday instead of being exhausted with jet lag.
Here’s 13 legitamate travel agent tips to get you flying business class more often:
Buy a mixed-class airfare
Emirates, Etihad and even Finnair have all offered mixed-class airfares, (sometimes it’s a limited duration promotion) however these days, sites like Kiwi.com will allow you to mix-and-match airlines and fare types in a single booking. Fly economy on the short haul daytime flights, then business on the long haul or overnight flights. You could even fly economy on the way over, and business on the way back so you have additional luggage allowance if you plan on a shopping expedition.
Of course, budget airlines like Scoot, Jetstar, Malindo, Cebu Pacific and Norwegian Air all have a business class product and you can upgrade per flight before departure. Air New Zealand also offers something similar for Trans-Tasman flights. Want to search flights now?
Frequent Flyer Points
It’s well known that using points for an upgrade is a popular way to travel in business class, but American Airlines (One World), Qantas (One World) United (Star Alliance) and Delta (Skyteam) allow you to purchase points, however they also regularly have point sales (in America) where you can purchase blocks of points often at 50-75% off.
It’s possible to purchase enough points for at least an upgrade at a heavily reduced price. You can sign up to their respective programs online. Make sure you agree to receive emails to hear about the points sales. Points hacks is a blog post on it’s own, but there’s also regular ‘bonus points’ promotions where if you’re booking a trip, you receive double or triple the usual points for those flights. Then there’s credit card points hacks, new cards offer up to 150K points with a minimum spend, which is fine if you use the card for business, but not always feasible otherwise.
I’ve experienced this a couple of times, and every time, I was well dressed, polite and friendly to the check-in staff, had everything ready and all it took was a simple, “I don’t suppose there’s any chance of an upgrade today?” I’m not saying this is a guarantee (and being a high tiered frequent flyer member will boost your chances significantly) but it does happen occasionally; less so these days as airlines try to cash-in on making you pay for on the day of departure upgrades with points, but the worst thing they can say is no. You have a higher chance of success if travelling solo and only if the flight is booked beyond capacity, and there are no shows in business class. Different airlines have their own policies regarding this but check-in staff have the authority to move people around the aircraft for even load distribution.
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I detest the term influencer but I have noticed websites for tourism companies have started having official application pages for influencers to apply for freebies and upgrades. Check the media or contact section at the bottom of the home page to see if an airline or company offers this. You’re more likely to get it if you have previous experience and statistics to offer and the airline is promoting a new route, or it’s an up and coming airline; but the worst they can say is no. Just don’t ruin it for everyone else.
Also know that not everything you see on instagram is real. It’s really easy to cut and paste someone into a photo ‘like onto a business class seat’ and some so called influencers have been busted doing just this, or taking a photo in business class, then returning to their seat in economy, then photoshopping the window view to make it look like they are in the air.
Inaugural routes often have special launch fares. Malindo Air (budget carrier) started direct flights from Sydney to Bali and offered launch fares in business class from $1267 return (usually $1899). Sign up here to be amongst the first to know. Malindo Air is also about to launch Melbourne to Bali Direct, business class flights starting from $1463 return (book before 17 Feb, travel Feb-Sep 2020).
Virgin Australia have pulled out of Hong Kong, and have been pushing New Zealand and Japan to make up for lost revenue. They have business class flights Brisbane to Auckland from $975 return and Brisbane to Tokyo from $3042 return.
Whilst an airline will always fly via its home country, sometimes they make additional stops, for example: LATAM and Emirates flies between Auckland and Sydney. China Airlines flies Brisbane to Auckland. These carriers offer business class and frequently have discounted fares to fill short haul seats and you can book just these short sectors. Cathay Pacific has a flight from Singapore to Bangkok is another example.
I commonly see blog posts recommending booking flights A to C, but getting off the flight at the transit point B (this is more common in the USA), which is actually your destination because it’s cheaper. As an ex-travel agent, I don’t recommend this. If you fail to turn up to a flight, the airline will cancel any remaining flights. You can also be blacklisted (yes this exists). Also if there are any last minute schedule changes, it’s possible that the airline may re-route their flight or you could be put onto another flight which goes direct from A to C. The airline is also likely to issue an ADM (Agent Debit Memo) which is basically a fine for disobeying rules if you booked through an online travel agent, which will then be passed onto the passenger.
Qantas was one of the first to offer a companion sale (which is on now – use the filters to choose Qantas). Basically two people can travel in business class at a substantial discount. This companion fare sale happens once or twice a year and routes can vary each time. I have seen it with other airlines, I think Emirates, maybe Finnair, and possibly some of the Chinese carriers, but it’s less common.
However, what it means is you can fly Qantas Business Class:
- From Sydney to Osaka in Cherry Blossom Season fr $2968pp
- From Sydney to Santiago fr $3776pp
- From Sydney to Los Angeles fr $5183pp
A codeshare is when one airline buys seats from another airline who is flying the same route. Instead of two airlines on the same network operating two or more aircraft they share the load. The best example of this is, Qantas and American Airlines. Both are part of One World Alliance, both fly Sydney to Los Angeles however as demand necessitates, often it can work out cheaper to purchase seats from the other carrier instead of putting on an additional aircraft.
As a passenger there’s two main benefits. Cheaper taxes and in some instances, cheaper seats. Booking with American Airlines vs booking with Qantas will save you over $2000 in the below example.
Business Class American Airlines Ticket, codesharing with Qantas
$7283pp Depart Sydney 4 Nov – Return Los Angeles 18 Nov
View flight →
Business Class Qantas Ticket, codesharing with American Airlines
$9413 Depart Sydney 4 Nov – Return Los Angeles 18 Nov
View flight →
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When performing a flight search, look up A to B on your preferred airline (using the filter options) then choose another airline on the same frequent flyer network. It doesn’t always work, but you can sometimes find some decent fares this way.
If the flight times are identical between two carriers on the same frequent flyer network, then it’s likely that the flight is a codeshare. Just be aware, sometimes you don’t receive as many frequent flyer points on a codeshare flight.
Iberia and British Airways codeshare across the Atlantic, between New York and London direct offering business class seats. This is an example of a codeshare flight being the same price regardless of the airline you book with, but sometimes it can make a difference.
Sticking to the one frequent flyer network (One World, Star Alliance or Sky Team) can offer more benefits than just points. Qantas is the most popular frequent flyer network in Australia but Qantas airfares are usually at a premium.
However flying to Europe, on a Finnair ticket, uses Qantas from Australia to Singapore/Hong Kong/Mumbai/Tokyo, or wherever Qantas flies to in Asia to then connect to Finnair, from Asia to Europe.
Swissair, Lufthansa and KLM have similar fares (utilising other Star Alliance or Sky Team members) and often business class fares on these mixed airline tickets are cheaper than what you would pay on a 100% Qantas or Singapore Airlines flight.
Though I think Qantas realised a lot of people were doing this and so have pressured Finnair into upping their prices to be closer in alignment to Qantas as they’re not as cheap as they used to be, however, Finnair still has decent sale fares to Europe a few times a year.
Putting Coronavirus aside, I’ve previously written about Chinese Airlines offering cheap airfares to China and beyond, and this certainly applies to business class seats. Cheaper business class examples (up to 60% cheaper than other carriers) include:
- Air China – Sydney to Munich fr $5543 return Business Class
- China Eastern – Sydney to London fr $4724 return Business Class
- China Airlines – Sydney to Amsterdam fr $5081 return Business Class
As a comparison, Sydney to London in November in Business Class:
- Flying with Singapore Airlines is $6561
- Flying with Qantas is $7788
- Flying with Cathay Pacific is $6704
Of course, any airline that has a stopover such as Philippine Airlines, Thai, or Malaysia Airlines will offer a cheaper business class ticket generally. Vietnam Airlines has cheap business class seats to Paris fr $4473 return. Other options worth investigating include Asiana Airlines, Korean Airlines (both premium offerings rated 5 stars on Skytrax), and Garuda Airlines have business class seats to Amsterdam fr $4681 return.
When travelling on alternative airlines, always check what frequent flyer network they are part of. Air China and Shenzen Airlines are both Star Alliance, whilst China Airlines, Xiamen Air, China Eastern and Garuda are all Sky Team.
Why is this important? Because travelling business class on any of the above carriers (within the same frequent flyer network) will earn you more points, meaning you can travel business class more often utilising points for upgrades or freebies!
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Of course not every business class seat is identical but you don’t have to spend ridiculous amounts to get more legroom and better food. As competition grows, airlines are spending more on improving their premium offerings which make up the bulk of their revenue.
It’s important to always check the aircraft type and seat configuration before booking a business class ticket, as even on premium airlines the business class seat offered can vary greatly on different routes and aircraft types.
Personally I prefer having a stopover and discovering somewhere new, but Chinese, Korean and Japanese airlines, often include an overnight stopover, where they provide hotel accommodation. This means you get a decent nights sleep, you can shower, and then fly the long haul flight in daytime, making it easier to adjust to jet lag.
Last minute Flights
Some airlines offer Last Minute Deals, often when cancellations or amendments have occurred and they try and fill seats.
Air New Zealand offers Grab-A-Seat deals, often with Premium Economy or Business Premier seats discounted for last minute flights between the USA, Japan, Hong Kong, South America and also Pacific Island destinations like Fiji, (remember their prices departing from NZ are in New Zealand Dollars so are cheaper again for every other traveller).
Combine these sale fares with a Virgin discounted business class flight across the Tasman and you have a bargain priced business trip.
Travel expo’s aren’t what they used to be, but you can still find some discounted business flights if you attend. They happen 2-3 times a year (check local papers or Sunday travel sections of newspapers), and representatives from many companies including multiple airlines are there so you can quickly compare. More often than not, there’s competitions so you might even win a free flight!
Every airline has sales, often cyclical, and usually to fill seats in advance. Though these days it has reached saturation level with sales being released every few days because there is so many airlines vying for your dollars. Sign up here and or check out the travel deals for past sales, as often sale prices are similar each year. Read this article about booking cheap flights for more detail on how airfare pricing works.
Travelling business class isn’t just for the rich, being aware of what’s available, flying alternative airlines and utilising frequent flyer options is key to travelling in comfort and style.
Taking short flights in business that are more affordable, is an easy way to build up your frequent flyer and status points.
Of course the more you travel business class, the quicker your frequent flyer points will add-up and the more you’ll be able to utilise your points for free business class flights and upgrades.
Have other travel hacks? Get in touch.
Prefer to search flights based on your own dates or city? Compare hundreds of websites and online travel agencies (inc Sky Scanner, Expedia, Jetradar and more) using my flight search comparison tool or find the best price on accommodation here.