Flying business class is pretty much every traveler’s dream. Well, besides flying first class, but come on. We’re not Rockefellers.
From boarding early and having endless champagne to accessing the lounge and more, what’s not to love? Unfortunately, these amenities often come at a massive mark up. You must pick your moment and be strategic about making your premium cabin debut.
To help you make the right choice on your next flight, we’re looking at several scenarios when it’s actually worth upgrading to the coveted business class seat.
Do your research. Certain airlines offer over-the-top benefits for business class passengers and others don’t.
For instance, Emirates provides Bvlgari beauty products in its luxury amenities kits, and if you board from the UAE, Etihad will send a chauffeur to take you to the airport in a Mercedes-Benz. While these flights from high-end airlines could cost you thousands of dollars, keep in mind that you’re paying for the entire experience on and off the plane.
Seat Type Matters, Too
While most international business class flights offer lie-flat beds, again, some are worth paying for over others. You can’t go wrong with Qatar Airways‘ QSuites, which feature extra private and stylish seating with — wait for it — a door. Plus, if you’re traveling in a group, you can reserve a quad and combine your seats to create a giant suite.
Additionally, make sure to scope out the plane type. British Airways’ spacious double-decker Airbus A380 is certainly more exciting than Latam Airlines’ 787-8 plane, which has a 2-2-2 seat configuration that leaves you with a seatmate no matter where you are.
I like to at least opt for routes with a 1-2-1 layout, so I can snag a window seat and not have anyone beside me.
The Longer the Flight, the Better
Personally, I don’t mind a six-hour journey to Europe from the U.S. in economy — especially if the ticket is an incredible deal. And I’d never even consider paying for a business class ticket on a short domestic flight. Most people can suck up being towards the back of the plane for a few hours.
However, things change when my itinerary gets longer. For example, I had a flight from Los Angeles to Amsterdam with a long layover in the Netherlands. Then, I was off to Kigali, Rwanda from there. It may have cost nearly $4,000, but sometimes it’s worth it to go all-in on a business class ticket for a trip like this, which lasted more than 30 hours.
Where Are You Headed When You Land?
Do you have somewhere important to be when you get off the plane, like a wedding or major business meeting? On top of that, are you arriving super early in the morning and won’t be able to check into your hotel? This might be a time to splurge on that business class seat.
Not only will you feel like a million bucks when you make it to your destination, airlines like United have arrivals lounges in certain airports that allow passengers to unwind and even shower upon arrival.
The Red Eye
It’s no secret that sometimes it can be more convenient or even cheaper to fly overnight than booking a hotel and checking out early to catch a flight. Next time, factor that into your ticket. Since you’ll be saving money on accommodations, treat yourself to the pricier seat on the plane. There’s no need to deprive your body of sleep in a cramped economy space.
Traveling for Business?
Did a company pay for your getaway? Then, why not shell out a little bit more out of pocket and slide yourself into business class? Considering you didn’t have to spend anything on the rest of the trip, you’re getting a good deal here.
Go Bid and Go Home
Whenever an airline gives you the chance to bid for an upgrade, you should go for it. This is their way of getting some money from unsold seats, and it’s almost always a bargain. I frequently fly Ethiopian Airlines and Kenya Airways with my boyfriend, and we always get upgraded for a fraction of a regularly priced business class flight.
Here’s how it works. On average, we pay around $800 for a flight back to the U.S. from East Africa. Then we receive an email alert for a call to bid on an upgraded seat, which is usually a minimum of $600 to $1000 depending on where we’re headed.
We never go above the lowest bid amount to keep our ticket price as cheap as possible, and the airline frequently still accepts. Considering business class can typically cost up to $4,000 for that route, our economy ticket and bid combined ends up being $2,600 less expensive than if we paid for the fancier option to begin with.
Eligible for a Miles or Status Upgrade?
My rule about miles is to use them sooner, rather than later. Even if you travel a lot, you never know when you’re going to be on the road again, and it’s possible your miles could expire before then. Therefore, any time I can use my miles for a business class upgrade, I take it.
Don’t forget to also click the upgrade eligibility button on your profile if you’re a loyal member to a specific airline. Depending on your status, you may be eligible for complimentary cabin upgrades more often than you’d think. I only have Platinum medallion status with Delta (there are two higher levels), and I don’t even remember the last time I flew economy in the States, despite only purchasing economy-priced tickets.
Save the Best for Last
Did you have a month-long adventure across Europe or a taxing two-week safari at the camps in South Africa? If you’re going to choose business class, it’s always wise to save it for your trip home. Think about it. You’re exhausted after your trip and upgrading your seat is a nice way to ease yourself back into reality.
Whether you’re flying economy or business, it pays to make sure you’re getting the best deal. Set a Deal Alert for your airline of choice to be notified as soon as new offers are posted. And be sure to visit our Travel Deals site for all the latest deals on flights, hotels and more.