When you pair ever-shrinking legroom space with the joy of irritable toddlers kicking the back of your seat, flying coach decidedly loses its charm after the age of 15 or so. But business-class fares can quickly put a hefty dent in a travel budget.
The good news is, it is possible to save money on business-class fares with just a little bit of savvy. Here are some techniques you can use to save money on travel while still sitting up front.
Flexibility Yields Savings
Being flexible with the dates, times, even destinations of your flight can lead to huge savings. What is the purpose of your trip? Is it to get away on a new adventure? Maybe visit family? Ask yourself how much difference it will make if you get in a day or two earlier or later than planned.
Typically, the best days of the week to find inexpensive fares are Tuesday and Wednesday. If you’re traveling for pleasure, try to fly in the shoulder season. Often, you’ll find much better fares at the beginning and end of peak season for your destination. Not only could your price tag be lower, but you’ll also get to enjoy nice weather while avoiding the largest crowds.
If your travel dates are firmly set due to work or other obligations, consider being flexible with your destination. Larger airports often boast lower fares, so think about whether it may benefit your budget to fly into a nearby larger airport and rent a car or take a train to your ultimate destination.
Bid on Seating
Have you ever wondered what airlines do when they have unsold seats? Much like hotels, which offer room upgrades to guests who are willing to ask and pay a modest upgrade fee when they are not at full capacity, airlines also allow passengers an opportunity to bid on a better seat on the cheap.
Policies vary across airlines, with some allowing you to bid only to upgrade from economy to premium economy, while others let you bid your way all the way up to business class. Airlines generally set minimum bids, but if getting a premium seat is important to you, you should bid over the minimum to improve your chances of winning a choice seat. Larger planes are likely to have more empty seats than smaller commuter planes, and larger planes usually mean a longer flight. Bidding for a bit more legroom on a puddle jump from Phoenix to Los Angeles may not be worth the price, but extra space can undoubtedly make a cross-continental flight more pleasant.
Timing Is Everything
Believe it or not, the best times of the year to bid on upgraded seating are during the major holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. That’s because frequent business travelers tend to stay home during this time, leaving airlines with empty seats in the front. The vast majority of holiday travelers seek out the cheapest ticket possible and aren’t savvy about seat bidding.
The savings can be considerable, in the thousands of dollars. Some intercontinental flights offer discounts as high as 50 percent. And on flights that last for hours, the extra business-class amenities can make all the difference.
Take Advantage of Rewards and Alerts
Airlines offer a host of ways to save on fares. Just about every major airline offers a frequent flyer program where passengers earn miles for each flight they take. Travelers can then redeem their miles for upgrades or even free flights. Also, many credit cards offer travel rewards.
One sharp traveler shared her secret to racking up miles quickly. “I have a high-deductible health care plan, but the manufacturer of my medication offers a discount program where they reimburse all but $5 of the cost. I use my travel rewards credit card to pay for the medication and reap the reward miles. Then, when the reimbursement check comes, I simply pay down the card.” Brilliant!
Besides, be sure to sign up for free low-fare alerts from major online travel hubs such as Kayak or Travelocity. You’ll get text alerts when fares drop. Some airlines offer a price match guarantee, meaning if you find a lower fare elsewhere, they will offer you the same rate.
Mix It Up
Direct flights tend to carry a heftier price tag than those with a layover or stopover, so if you’ve got time to mosey on your way to your destination, you may find lower fares. Also, you can sometimes find lower rates by searching for one-way flights versus round-trip flights. You may find more empty seats on one-way flights and be able to upgrade more easily. Finally, be sure to check nearby airports in your search as well. It’s possible an airport an hour or two’s drive from your destination will offer better fares.
Few people relish air travel, but being a bit more savvy on how to upgrade to business class on an economy dime can undoubtedly make your flight more comfortable. PSECU, a credit union in Pennsylvania, created the helpful graphic (below) with tips for saving on airfare and many other aspects of your next trip! Check it out – and happy travels!
(Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by PSECU, a Pennsylvania-based credit union.)