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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 markup. 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, here are several scenarios when it’s actually worth upgrading to the coveted business class seat.
Flying With the Right Airline
Do your research. Certain airlines offer over-the-top benefits for business class passengers and others don’t.
For instance, Emirates provides Bulgari 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, keep in mind that you’re paying for the entire experience on and off the plane.
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Seat Type Matters, Too
While most international business class flights offer lie-flat beds, 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. You may want to opt for routes with a 1-2-1 layout so you can snag a window seat and not have anyone beside you.
The Longer the Flight, the Better
Some people don't mind the journey to Europe from the U.S. in economy—especially if the ticket is an incredible deal. And many travelers wouldn't want to pay for a business class ticket on a short domestic flight. Most people can handle being toward the back of the plane for a few hours.
However, things change when you're looking at a longer itinerary. For example, say you have a flight from Los Angeles to Amsterdam with a long layover in the Netherlands and are then you're jetting off to Kigali, Rwanda, from there. A trip like that could cost $4,000, but sometimes it’s worth it to go all-in on a business class ticket for a trip like this, which takes more than 30 hours.
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That Special Occassion Trip
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 Flight
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.
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Bid for an Upgrade
Whenever an airline gives you the chance to bid for an upgrade, go for it. This is the airline's way of getting some money from unsold seats, and it’s almost always a bargain. Take Ethiopian Airlines and Kenya Airways, for example. Some travelers report being able to get upgraded for a fraction of a regularly priced business class flight.
Here’s how it works. On average, you might pay around $800 for a flight back to the U.S. from East Africa. Then you get an email alert for a call to bid on an upgraded seat, which is usually a minimum of $600 to $1,000 depending on where you're headed.
Some travelers never even go above the lowest bid amount to keep their 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, an economy ticket and bid combined ends up being $2,600 less expensive than if you'd paid for the fancier option to begin with.
Upgrade Using Airline Miles or Status
The typical rule of thumb 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. So any time you can use your miles for a business class upgrade, you may want to do 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. For example, with Delta's Platinum Medallion status (there are two higher levels), some travelers report rarely flying economy in the States, despite only purchasing economy-priced tickets—thanks to those upgrades.
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Relax on Your Trip Home
Did you have a monthlong 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.