10 Ways to fly first-class and pay less for it

Let’s face it, flying economy sucks.

It’s not half as nice as flying up front in those big wide cushy seats. You’ve seen them. Airlines actually like to advertise what you’re not getting by making you wade through first and business class to get to your smaller, tighter seat at the back. And as you wrestle with your carry-on the folks up front are already sipping champagne and snacking on warm cashews. It’s so unfair.

But life in upper class doesn’t have to be for the super elite. You can be there too. Many of those passengers sitting up front are not millionaires but frequent travelers and plain old ‘smart flyers’. Here are a few strategies that I’ve collected that may help you move to the front of the class for less.

1. Connect to TPG
Get connected to the right credit cards with the help of The Points Guy. Putting together an effective points strategy can be a daunting task but TPG provides a beginner’s guide with their 10-step strategy. Find out what credit card is the most rewarding right now, such as: Chase Sapphire Preferred® offering new customers 50,000 bonus points. And Canadians can take advantage of Alaska Airlines MasterCard® credit card and receive 25,000 bonus miles.

2. Double up on credit card deals
Speaking of rewards credit cards, here’s a great tip. If you’re a couple, and you spot a rewards card deal, grab it twice. The best feature of the whole credit card business, which is twice as nice for a couple, is the sign-up bonus. You and your better half can each sign up and take advantage of the bonus offer such as the 50,000 bonus points from Chase Sapphire Preferred®. You just snapped up 200,000 points. For us Canadians, search out the most rewarding Canadian credit cards at GreedyRates.ca. In the U.K., check out Head for Points.com

3. Check-in online at the earliest opportunity
FareCompare offers this advice: at exactly 24-hours before your flight, jump online and check-in; that’s when cheap upgrades are sometimes available. If you see any, know that they won’t last long, so if you like the price you see, take advantage of it.

4. Try one-way searches
Cheap first-class fares may be limited per flight. So instead of flying round trip on a single airline, you may find better prices by flying one way on one airline and returning on a different one.

5. Get alerts
The best deals to international destinations are often short lived, so alerts can get you in on the action. First Class Flyer helps you fly first or business class without paying those sky-high fares. For a small fee, First Class Flyer has a monthly newsletter and curated fare alerts for paying subscribers. For example, if you’re a member you can take advantage of fares to Europe in Business Class starting at $1,932. FareCompare.com and Airfare Spot also offer airfare alerts that will help you find cheap flights.

6. Fly but not at peak times
Business travelers fly all week which opens up the weekends for you. Check first or business class seat availability on Saturday and Sunday mornings (also see below; Buy tickets on the right day of the week). You just might find more of your preferred seating available at these off peak times.

7. Buy tickets well in advance
Is there every a best time to purchase air travel? How far in advance should  you book to get the best deal? To help solve this never ending dilemma I refer to Expedia’s “Air travel outlook for 2016.” Their extensive report (8 billion searches later) concluded that: for economy tickets for travel within North America is 57 days in advance. For travel to Europe, buy 176 days in advance and 77 days ahead if you’re planning a trip to the Caribbean.

8. Buy tickets on the right day of the week
You’ve probably heard it all. What is the right and wrong way to book a flight. Preparing for Takeoff: Air Travel Trends comes out once a year, and typically reinforces the notion that Tuesday is the best day to buy airline tickets. But further data in the same study concluded that weekends are also a prime time to get a discount on a flight. But, (there is always a ‘but’) airlines are constantly adjusting ticket prices, so if you find a fare that seems like a good deal, buy it.

9. Use cash to upgrade
It may be possible to get a massive discount on the airline’s standard cash upgrade price at the airline’s ticket desk ‘on the day of departure’. You can save a bundle if the airline has loads of spare room, and they’re more likely to offer a better price.

10. Surprise yourself, choose your destination last
And a final thought: instead of planning your trip and then deciding on how to get there, why not find the deal first and let that dictate where you’ll be going. There are so many deals out there, go wherever the best deal sends you.

Back to you
Flying economy is always going to be your cheapest option, so you may want to just grin and bear it. But, if you want those big wide cushy seats and all the amenities that come with flying first and business class, try putting these tips to use.

If you have any further suggestions, we’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below and we’ll share it with our readers.

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