Travel News How to Hack Business Class in 2019

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How to Hack Business Class in 2019

From innovative business class hacks, to tools—including some of Skyscanner's—that are right under your nose, you might be surprised how affordably you can enjoy the world's best business class cabins.

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Once you go business, you’ll never go back—champagne, real beds, gourmet food, oh my! While this philosophy can be as bankrupting as it is alluring, given how high standard fares for business class flights are, it doesn’t have to be.  From innovative business class hacks, to tools—including some of Skyscanner’s—that are right under your nose, you might be surprised how affordably you can enjoy the world’s best business class cabins.

Redeem Miles and Points for Business Class Travel

One of the most valuable travel hacks to master, for business class deals and otherwise, is the miles & points game. Miles and points, whether earned from credit card sign up bonuses or from flying, hotel stays and car rentals, can make business class more easily accessible in one of two ways.

The first way is to use your points to book business class award tickets. For example, for just 80,000 United MileagePlus miles (which you can earn either traveling on United, or by transferring from a card that’s part of Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program), you can book a one-way business class flight from the US to Southeast Asia on Star Alliance airlines like ANA, EVA Air (and, of course United).

You can also use points to upgrade an economy (or, in some cases a premium economy) ticket, which is one of the most underrated business class flight deals. If you’re flying on American, for example, international upgrades start at 25,000 AAdvantage miles and a $350 co-pay per way, while certain foreign airlines like Korean Air require only points to upgrade eligible fares.

Stalk Business Class Sale Fares

Another way to fly business class cheap is to keep an eye on sales fares. While “regular” prices for international business class flights can be upwards of $2,000 one-way, even on relative short flights from the east coast to Europe, it’s not uncommon to find sales fares. This is even possible on extremely desirable airlines like Qatar Airlines, whose annual “Global Fare Sale” sees business class prices plummet by as much as 50 to 75 percent, and which is known as the best business class to Europe 2018 (provided you don’t mind backtracking through Doha).

If you can’t find business class deals using your own methods, Skyscanner’s tools can help you take advance of them. If you’re flexible on time, you can use the Skyscanner app to find the cheapest month to fly. Once you find the specific destination and dates you want to fly, you can change the filter to show business class flights. The same business class flight on the same airline can be hundreds of dollars cheaper flying on a different day, or during a different week or month, as the tool’s name instructs.

Skyscanner’s “Everywhere” search tool, meanwhile, is a popular choice for people whose origin and/or destination is flexible. Flying to or from a major west coast hub like Los Angeles or San Francisco can result in cheaper transpacific business class flights, while South America travelers can save if they’re just as happy to arrive in Montevideo as Buenos Aires.

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Play the Business Class Upgrade Game

An additional alternative to paying for even cheap business class flight deals is to play the upgrade game, which I briefly alluded to earlier in this article. With this being said, you don’t necessarily need to use miles and points to do this, although being a frequent flyer member (particularly an elite one) can increase your position of priority on the upgrade list.

One way to do this is to bid on an upgrade, a feature offered by airlines as diverse as Air New Zealand, Cathay Pacific and Malaysia Airlines. If you’ve purchased an eligible fare on an airline that participates in upgrade auctions, you’ll receive an email a few days before your flight, which will invite you to make an offer on a business class seat. Obviously, the higher you bid the greater your chances, but many upgrade auctions have surprisingly lenient lower limits.

Other airlines, such as Brussels Airlines and United, may offer you the upgrade to buy up to business class at check-in for a price of their choosing. This is typically a more expensive option, but results in an upgrade that’s confirmed on the spot, allowing you to immediately settle into the luxurious experience of business class without anxiety or worry.

Pick and Choose Your Luxury

Business class is wonderful, but not everyone needs the highest level of luxury available. The good news for you, if you fall into this category, is that many elements of the business class experience are available for piecemeal purchase, from VIP lounge access, to extra legroom, to onboard meals, to priority check-in, security screening and boarding.

Another thing to consider when eyeing a seat in the front of the plane is the premium economy vs business class debate. While business class offers a flat-bed seat, a multi-course meal and a level of opulence you might not even know exists in the sky, premium economy offers slightly less, but often at a much lower price point. Premium economy seats, for example, are similar to what you find on domestic first class flights in North America, while the food and drink options sit somewhere between economy and business as well.

Avoid Antiquated Business Class Advice

It’s never a bad idea to dress nicely when you fly, to treat a check-in agent with respect or to sit close to the podium at the boarding gate. On the other hand, contrary to what you would’ve read elsewhere, things like these almost never result in being upgraded to business class. In fact, given how many different ways that exist to buy-up to business class, airlines almost never give free upgrades (known within the industry as operational upgrades, or “op-ups”) period.

Hope springs eternal, of course, and you often get what you desire in life when you’re least looking for it, but it’s important to have realistic expectations. Whatever you do, don’t ask an airline employee for an upgrade directly. Depending on the carrier and the mood the employee, they might actually downgrade your seat in retaliation to your sense of entitlement!

A quick video of what you can expect when hopping on a long flight in business class. 

The Bottom Line

Business class can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. From playing the miles and points game, to scoring a business class sale fare, to bidding to upgrade or simply purchasing certain luxury enhancements to your travel experience, there are as many ways to access business class as there are reasons to want to. Regardless of which of these strategies you end up employing, make sure to sign up for Skyscanner Price Alerts in order to get the best business class price, however high or low it ends up being.

About the Author
Robert Schrader Leave Your Daily Hell
Robert is a writer, photographer and bonafide business class addict. When he’s not sipping krug onboard Korean Air, he’s advising his followers on how to fly in the world’s top premium cabins for less.
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