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OOO Travel

Never fly economy again: 5 ways to save big on business class

  • 5-min read

Read on to learn five ways you can save on flying business class and avoid ever flying economy again—or at least not as often.

Business people wearing face masks sit in the business class cabin
andresr / Getty Images

You have probably noticed airline seats shrinking over the last decade and that legroom in economy cabins is disappearing, too. Throw in the reduction in services caused by the pandemic, and flying in economy class these days is a lot like riding a Greyhound bus. 

An economy plane ticket will get you where you want to go, but it’s unlikely you’ll enjoy the experience.

Man swinging his bag into overhead compartment in economy class plane cabin
HBO / Giphy

Fortunately, you don’t necessarily have to fly economy ever again. You can fly business class or first class for around the same price or a discounted rate if you’re willing to do some legwork. Of course, it also helps if you can be flexible with your travel plans.

Do you like the idea of a bigger seat and better drinks and snacks? Does the thought of priority check-in and early boarding appeal to you?

Read on to learn five ways you can move up to business class and avoid ever flying economy again—or at least not as often.

Start earning airline miles

The best and easiest way to fly in premium cabins for cheap is by racking up airline miles or flexible rewards points with your favorite program. This strategy works well whether you are looking for a domestic flight in a premium cabin or angling for international business class. However, the program you earn points or miles in will make a big difference in your options when it comes time to book.

As a rewards enthusiast with several travel credit cards that offer point transfers to Air France’s Flying Blue frequent flyer program, I moved 55,000 points to my Flying Blue account for a one-way World Business Class flight from Chicago, Illinois (ORD), to Budapest, Hungary (BUD), on KLM. I had to pay $238 in airline taxes and fees for this fare, yet the cash price for the same itinerary normally runs over $3,000.

You can earn miles for this program with travel credit cards such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card. However, plenty of other travel credit cards let you earn points for flights, including co-branded airline credit cards and flexible travel cards that earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points, American Express Membership Rewards points, or Citi ThankYou points.

Upgrade later with cash or miles

Many airlines also let you pay cash for an economy fare then upgrade to a premium cabin with cash or miles later on. This option can be riskier, since you’re waiting to lock in your business class fare, yet it can work out if you’re flexible with your travel plans and willing to wait and see.

This strategy won’t always work, sometimes because your itinerary won’t allow upgrades with cash or miles. In some cases, you might be ready to upgrade, but then you find out the premium cabin you wanted has sold out since you booked your original flight.

Try this method for upgrades and hope for the best, but you should know some airlines make upgrading easier than others. 

The Delta SkyMiles program allows upgrades with cash or miles, based on availability. I recently upgraded from economy to first class for a flight from Montego Bay, Jamaica (MBJ), to New York City (JFK) for 7,900 Delta SkyMiles, and it was definitely worth it for the nearly four-hour trip.

Watch out for airfare deals

Next up, it always makes sense to keep an eye out for airfare deals and sale fares. Two websites that can help here are The Flight Deal and Secret Flying.

While these websites offer information on all kinds of short-term deals, including cheap economy flights, they occasionally announce lucrative premium cabin deals worth pursuing. For example, Secret Flying recently reported on a round-trip business class fare from New York to Cork, Ireland, for only $800.

Many of the economy sales announced on these sites also correspond with lower prices on premium cabin equivalents, so check when you find an itinerary you like.

Pursue elite status with your favorite airline

Elite status with an airline can also help you avoid flying economy ever again, and that’s particularly true for frequent flyers who can climb to the highest levels of elite status with their favorite airline.

With top-tier AAdvantage Executive Platinum® status with the American AAdvantage program, for example, frequent flyers get perks such as complimentary upgrades on American and Alaska Airlines, complimentary Main Cabin Extra and Preferred Seats, and three free checked bags.

If you don’t fly often, you may be able to use airline credit cards to achieve elite status. As an example, both the American AAdvantage program and the Delta SkyMiles program let members achieve elite status through credit card spending alone.

Be flexible

Remain as flexible as possible if you hope to find great deals on premium cabin flights. Not only should you be willing to fly with pretty much any airline, but you should also keep your mind open with travel dates and times, specific itinerary options, and your destination.

Checking nearby airports can broaden your choices for finding business class deals, and it can be worth it to drive a few hours if you wind up saving considerable sums on an upgraded flight.

Finally, plan your vacations around the best flight deals. By looking for inexpensive business class fares that fly anywhere in the world, you can discover new destinations and always travel in style.