Hi Frugalistas! I get many enquiries from readers about ways to find discount Business Class airfares. Long term readers may recognise this old post from 2014, which I’m updating with my best ways to find discount Business Class travel, regardless of where you live and where you are planning on traveling too.
Use point aggregator Sites to buy discount Business Class airfares
Websites like Fly Luxe for Less and the Australian I Fly Flat buy frequent flyer mileage points from multiple sources, aggregate them together, then offer them to you at a discounted rate. These sites only offer Business and First Class seats, and depending on your requirements you have a limited choice of airlines. The other downside is that you can’t earn mileage points yourself on your flight, as it is deemed to be a flight reward. When you consider savings on your ticket may be as high as 70% (depending on a number of factors), not getting points yourself is a very small price to pay for a potentially massive saving. The other thing is that these companies tend to work best for long haul international travel, rather than short haul or domestic routes.
I have never used one of these sites myself so cannot comment on the experience, or how reliable these sites are.
Use comparison sites to find cheap Business Class airfares
There are many comparison sites where you can shop around for a cheap flight. I personally like Skyscanner. Comparison sites often seem to have fares that the airlines themselves don’t offer on their own websites, and that it would take you hours to identify if you went through the individual booking websites.
Book through one airline, fly another
If you use Skyscanner or other sites where you can compare discounted Business Class airfares you will notice that often the best deals on Business Class airfares are for flights where you book through one airline and fly on another.
Often when a quality airline offers incredibly cheap Business Class flights to Europe, it is a code share on a different airline. The best deal I’ve found so far? Business class to Europe return on an Air France ticket, that actually has three sectors on Etihad (which regular readers will know is one of my favourite airlines). For $2000 less than the cost of an Etihad ticket on the same website I know this is a true bargain.
If you are interested in this strategy, I think it pays to check the fine print on your ticket before taking the plunge. Make sure you understand where you stand in case of cancellation, and whether you are eligible for mileage points.
How to use mileage points to upgrade to Business or First Class
If you’ve got a few mileage points, but not enough to buy a First or Business class ticket, consider buying an upgrade. If you don’t have enough for a round trip ticket, prioritise which leg will get you the best value for money. My choice would always be on a night time leg, to get that nice flat bed and comfy pillow to sleep with.
This strategy works best for the super-organised traveller. It also works better for solo travellers, rather than families, as it is easier to find one redemption seat rather than four or five.
Check the details of the ticket you purchase to make sure it is a fare that is eligible for an upgrade – if you buy a super discounted ticket many airlines do not allow an upgrade. Also make sure that if your flight, or any leg on your trip, is on a different airline that you can still purchase an upgrade using points – again, different airlines have different code share rules. My other tip for this strategy is to travel midweek, as upgrades are more likely to be available (a friend of mine who travels on Qantas swears she gets an upgrade every time by flying on a Tuesday for example). Buy your ticket early to give yourself the best chance to purchase your upgrade and remember that if you can’t get your upgrade, you’re in cattle class.
It’s worth reading websites such as Frugal Flyer if you are interested in learning more about earning miles and points.
Get on mailing lists
I subscribe to a number of mailing lists from different booking websites and airlines. While I’m not always in a position to purchase, I do see what tremendous deals can be on offer. What I also start to understand is just how low the airlines will discount – sometimes the discounts are good, sometimes they are great. By receiving these discount Business Class airfares regularly I’ve learned what the best Business Class airfares are when I see them. Europe from Sydney in Business Class for anything up to a 20% discount is possible. Most of these offers don’t last long, and are often for small windows of flying time, so be ready to be flexible and act fast.
Some airlines and some travel agents will offer companion fares in Business Class from time to time. If you are travelling with a companion (usually for your whole journey) always ask if there is a companion fare on offer. I’ve seen fares where the companion just has to pay the taxes, so these can be amazingly good offers if they work out date and destination wise for you.
Often these fares are not advertised, so always ask if you are traveling with someone else.
Early bird fares
Most quality airlines will offer early bird fares for organised travellers. In Australia, early bird fares start in October/November for Europe the following year. The fares are limited in number and in time availability. Further offers normally happen in December, then again in early January (when everyone is on holiday and not paying attention). If you are in a position to move, an early bird fare in Business can save you 20% easily depending on the airline, route and timing.
This is another time when being organised saves you money. Subscribe to the newsletters of airlines you are interested in, or for travel agents you would like to book with to find out about the best offers. It is not common for the airlines to be offering early bird seats at the same time, so it’s hard to compare. If you see a discount Business airfare you like (if you are subscribing over time, you should be able to recognise a very good fare when you see it) on an airline you like, you need to get on and book.
These Business Class airfare deals can have quite strict conditions and large fees to change or cancel your flight. If you are unsure of your dates, or unsure whether you will be travelling, consider whether buying an early bird fare is the right thing to do.
Buying mileage points
Some airlines allow you to buy mileage points, often at a significant discount to their face value. In my experience, it is mainly US airlines who do this. Not a member of their mileage program? No problem. Sign up, and then use the points to book seats on your preferred affiliated airline. I’ve seen discounts as high as 30% on these programs.
Points for these fares are purchased in US dollars, so if you are not a US resident you do need to consider the exchange rate when making your purchase. The other thing to remember with these fares is that the ticket you buy will be considered a redemption, so you will be subject to the airline’s rules regarding flight redemption.
Book a cheaper airline
I realised when I flew Vietnam Airlines Business Class to Vietnam last year that it is possible to find comfortable Business Class seats with a 1-2-1 configuration and a lie flat bed at a reasonable price. No, these airlines are not Emirates, Singapore, or Etihad, but they don’t cost their prices either.
Australian readers should consider Vietnam Airlines to Paris or London, or Scoot Airlines Business Class to Berlin or Athens (although in fairness, Scoot is probably more a cheap Premium Economy than a cheap Business Class). North American readers can check out Condor (2-2-2 configuration and the seats are not completely lie flat, but still a big improvement on Economy/Coach) or Norwegian (like Scoot, more a cheap Premium Economy than a true Business Class.) Chinese airlines, such as China Airlines (part of the Star Alliance group), or China Eastern and China Southern (both part of Skyteam) are also worth considering for cheap Business Class airfares to Europe.
Discount Business Class travel is still not cheap, unless you have someone to pay for your ticket or lots of mileage points to use, but it is possible to save, and save big on discounted Business Class airfares, with a bit of planning and keeping your eyes peeled.
What’s your best Business Class deal? If you have any other travel hacks for discount Business Class tickets I’d love you to share!
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