How to Find Cheap Business Class Flights [Step-by-Step]
Once you try flying business class, it’s not easy to go back. There’s nothing quite like sipping on champagne while the rest of the plane boards, reclining your seat into a bed after dinner, and sleeping like a baby before arriving refreshed and awake at your destination.
A business class flight is a very special trip for those of us used to economy, but low prices are very hard to come by. Whether domestic or international, it always seems like the seats in the front of the plane are just too expensive to justify.
So, do discount business class flights actually exist? Or are we stuck with a sad amount of recline and legroom for a reasonable price?
The truth is that there are absolutely business class flight deals out there. In fact, they aren’t even as rare as you might think! If you know when, where, and how to search, you can certainly score yourself cheap business class tickets.
See Related: Business Class vs First Class: What’s the Difference?
Tips for Finding the Cheapest Business Class Flights
If you are looking for a discounted business class flight, it’s important to follow at least a few of the below tips. Most of these methods don’t require a ton of time or effort from you. The more you use, the better chances you have!
Use a Good Flight Search Engine
Using a flight search engine is probably the most important tip of all in order to find a cheap business class ticket. Without one of these, you are stuck going airline by airline and date by date, which will take you many, many hours.
To cut down your search time exponentially and immediately get an idea of what the cheapest business class fares are for your destination and dates, use a website like Skyscanner, Kayak, or Google Flights.
Most importantly, you will see all airlines that fly the route and their prices with a single search. But their advantages do not stop there – in fact, many of the next tips rely on the tools of these sites.
Keep in mind that the default prices you will see on these sights are for an economy class ticket. If you are looking for business class seats, simply change the cabin class to business, as you can see I did on Skyscanner above.
See Related: Skyscanner vs Hopper: What is the Difference?
Set Price-Drop Alerts
In order to catch business class deals, you have to act quickly. As you can imagine, any sale that an airline has is quickly taken advantage of by travelers like you looking for a cheap business class flight!
In order to know when to go online and potentially make a purchase, set alerts to be notified any time a ticket price drops. Once again, you’ll do this via a travel search engine, and you’ll have the advantage of knowing about price drops on any airline.
Sites like Google Flights, Kayak, and Skyscanner all have this price change alert function. Simply activate it, like I’ve done above on Google Flights, by clicking the Track Prices button, and you’ll get emails when a deal appears for your trip.
You can often also set these alerts to tell you about good prices on any date, which brings us to our next tip.
Allow for Flexibility in Dates
To fly business class for a low price, you are going to need to have some flexibility in your trip dates. Cheap business class fares often only appear for limited and particular dates.
Hopefully, you have this flexibility in your schedule, and you don’t mind shifting your trip a bit in order to get a deal. In that case, use the price grid function on your flight search engine in order to see prices for a few days before and a few days after your target dates, as I’ve done on Kayak above.
As you can see, by leaving one day later than my target departure date, I’ll save almost $500! The differences can be even more dramatic than that, so don’t skip this tip.
Many flight search engines also have an even broader indicator for flexible dates, like Kayak’s color-coded calendar below. You can view entire months at a time to know when the cheapest deals exist throughout the year, which is a great feature if you are simply pondering a trip to a certain place.
See Related: Kayak.com Review: Is Kayak Legit?
Look Out for Upgrade Offers via Email
One of the best ways to get cheap business class flights is to pay an upgrade fee when the departure is approaching and the airline hasn’t sold all the seats.
Rather than searching for business class flight deals, this tip involves booking an economy ticket and hoping for the best, so it may not be the best idea if you are dead-set on business class seats for your trip.
Most major airlines will attempt to sell business class upgrades a few days before the flight takes off if there are still unsold business class seats. You will often get an email with the cost, or sometimes there is a bidding system that allows you to pick a price you are willing to pay.
For the former, you’ll confirm the upgrade immediately if you choose to pay the fee. The latter situation will have you waiting until around 24 hours before the flight to see if your bid was accepted.
I personally had a wonderful success story upgrading to a business class seat with this method on Iberia. I paid around $750 in total for the Madrid to New York segment of my trip, and I was very pleased with that deal while I was sipping Spanish wine and eating gazpacho at 40,000 feet!
Ask About Upgrades at the Airport
Similar to the above tip, this one involves buying an economy fare class and trying to score a discounted business class seat at the last minute. When airlines are unsuccessful in selling out business class in advance and email upgrade offers don’t fill the seats, they often offer deals at the check-in counter.
Sometimes, the upgrade price will be displayed or announced on the intercom. However, it’s best to ask an agent about this to be sure. There are very often a few lie-flat seats left for them to sell.
I had my first business class experience thanks to an airport upgrade offer in Tokyo. I was flying Air Asia home to Honolulu and was scheduled to work the same day as my arrival.
Getting to sleep on lie-flat seats on a long-haul flight like that can make all the difference for feeling good upon arrival – and allow you to actually make it to work!
See Related: Best Airports for Layovers Around the World
Use Credit Card Points to Purchase or Upgrade Your Ticket
Want to know the best way to pay less for business class flights? Not paying for them at all! That is the magic of points and miles, and the right strategy can have you paying next to nothing for business class life.
That is why it is so important to sign up for airline loyalty programs any time you fly. Get to know the airline alliances as well: Star Alliance, OneWorld, and SkyTeam. Why? Because you can usually redeem miles on one airline for a flight on a partner airline.
Have you been flying United your whole life, or just hit a big sign-up bonus with one of their credit cards and now have a ton of miles?
You can use them to fly to Europe on Lufthansa, Swiss International Air Lines, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines… and the list goes on. Your potential free business class ticket just got a whole lot more likely.
Beyond using points to pay for the entire ticket, you can usually also use them to upgrade an economy ticket. You don’t need to wait for an offer – simply log onto your reservation or call a customer service agent and see how many points are needed.
Get Co-Branded Credit Cards with Status Perks
Let’s look at another way to pay nothing for an upgrade to business class – this time, without even paying in miles. You can get a complimentary upgrade to business class with the right loyalty status.
You can get status faster with the right credit card, along with a whole bunch of other perks. For example, the United Club Infinite card gets you up to 3,000 Premier Qualifying Points after certain spending requirements, which is enough to reach Premier Silver status.
That status is enough to put you on the upgrade list and also on your way to reaching even higher levels of status with more flying. You’ll also get free bags, free club lounge access, priority check-in, and plenty more. Don’t underestimate the power of the proper credit card!
See Related: Best Credit Cards for Travel Perks
Sign Up for Deal-Finding Services
An easy way to access the best business flight deals is to sign up for a service that lets someone else do the searching. When they find cheap flights that are too good to pass up, they will immediately send you an email with all of the details you need to book them.
Our favorite is Scott’s Cheap Flights, which can yield you some pretty amazing business class deals. Their team of deal-finders is searching around the clock for fares in economy, business, and first class, on domestic flights and international flights, and from pretty much any airport to any destination.
You simply sign up and tell them which airports you are interested in departing from. That’s it – whenever they see a great deal that leaves from your airport, they will let you know.
Another huge advantage to using a service like Scott’s is that besides standard discounted fares, they are also on the lookout for the elusive business class mistake fare. You’ll want to grab these error fares as soon as they pop up – some lucky travelers recently scored business class tickets worth $16,000 each for just a few hundred dollars.
What are the Best Business Class Airlines?
If you are lucky enough to spot cheap business class tickets (or better yet, get them for free with an upgrade or with points) you may be wondering if some business class airlines are better than others.
While you are almost certainly going to have an amazing time when at the pointy end of the plane, the truth is that business class experiences differ across carriers. Some are known for their in-flight experience, some for their business class cabins, and some for both.
Business travelers love traveling on American Airlines. Not only does American offer business class, but they also still have first class. These products are known as Flagship Business and Flagship First, respectively.
The great thing about American Airlines is that their domestic business class flights are often true business class seats, lie-flat and all. This is rare on other airlines, which often simply sell economy seats with a bit more legroom and the middle seat blocked off as business on their smaller planes.
When flying business class on American, look out for their wide-body aircraft like the 777 and the 787 to get the Flagship Business experience. You can also find it on the A321T, a narrow-body configured with a more luxurious cabin for transcontinental flying.
See Related: Why So Many Flight Cancellations? Here’s What You Need to Know
Another one of the American legacy carriers, United has a fantastic business class product known as Polaris Business Class. You can find this product on most of United’s international flights and on some long-haul domestic flights.
Polaris features direct aisle access for every seat, lie-flat pods with tons of privacy, high-quality in-flight entertainment, and great food. Business class passengers on United also benefit from private Polaris lounges at certain airports, separate from the more crowded United Club lounges.
To complete the so-called Big-Three of the US is Delta, with their famous Delta One business class cabin. Delta One features luxurious, lie-flat seats in individual suites with fine dining experiences in the sky.
You can find Delta One on most of Delta’s long-haul fleet. While that sounds great, take note of the word most. Delta recently acquired some planes from LATAM Airlines, which are configured with a much-inferior business class product. If you are flying from Atlanta to Dublin or Santiago, you may not get to experience the Delta One product and instead get a more crowded and less luxurious cabin.
To be fair, the vast majority of Delta travelers will get the wonderful Delta One experience. Just be sure to do your research on the aircraft operating your flight!
See Related: Delta Airlines Review: Is This the Best Airline?
Some people think of JetBlue as a low-cost carrier, but I’ve never seen them that way. They offer free satellite television and great snacks in economy class, after all, and they have a fantastic business class product.
JetBlue Mint class recently got an overhaul when the airline began its first-ever Europe flights to London. Despite being an all-narrow body airline, the front of the plane contains lie-flat seats in a 1-1 configuration. It’s a very intimate and luxurious experience, and they’ve done an incredible job with it.
The hands-down best tip when flying JetBlue Mint is to look for the Mint Studio in row one if the aircraft is equipped with it. The Studio is an even larger seat with a separate seat in case a friend wants to come to hang out with you during the flight. Plus, who doesn’t love being in the first seat?
British Airways has always been an important player in the traffic between the US and the UK and connecting passengers far beyond. In fact, the route between New York and London is statistically the most profitable in the world, which is quite driven by business travelers!
British Airways calls business class Club World, and it is one of the best ways to fly across the pond. You will, of course, find lie-flat seats that each have access to the aisle.
Especially unique is that window seats alternate between forward-facing and rear-facing, which can be cool for an aviation nerd like myself.
See Related: What Affects Flight Prices? The Influencing Factors
Swiss International Air Lines
Everything from Switzerland seems to exude quality and luxury, and their airline is no exception. Swiss International Air Lines, or simply SWISS, does a great job in both business class and first class.
The seat pods on SWISS are extra-spacious, and the food is delicious. The best part, in my opinion, is the built-in massage function. Who wouldn’t want a massage at 40,000 feet?
You might be surprised that you don’t need to visit Singapore to fly on Singapore Airlines and experience its luxurious offerings.
They fly from the United States to Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, and even Canada. You can also fly them intra-Europe from Milan to Barcelona and Copenhagen to Rome.
Why would you go out of your way for such flights? Because Singapore Airlines offers an epic business class experience. Besides the high-quality seat, food, and service, the middle seats have a removable barrier that can create a double bed for couples.
See Related: How to Book the Cheapest One-Way International Flights
It would be a sin not to mention Emirates; one of the most luxurious airlines in the world.
While they connect the world through their Dubai hub, you can also fly their famous A380 from JFK to Milan and their 777 from Newark to Athens.
Everything from the wood trim to the fine leather to the fancy champagne screams luxury on Emirates. After all, they are the airline that put showers on their planes, taking ‘feeling refreshed on arrival’ to a new level.
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Use Skyscanner to book the cheapest flight possible. Skyscanner is my favorite flight search engine as you can find flights around the globe and from every airline possible. You’ll be in great shape to get the best price possible.
You must grab a free trial or join Scott’s Cheap Flights Premium to get cheap flight alerts directly to your email inbox. My favorite cheap flight alert was 25,000 Delta SkyMiles to London non-stop.
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