Sunday, April 8, 2012

How to Fly First Class -- Cheap!

I like to get a good bargain when I travel, who doesn’t? Now that the airlines have reduced their capacity so that there are fewer flights, the airplane seems more congested than ever. But there are ways to still enjoy a free first class or business class upgrade inexpensively.
Travel on Saturday to get an inexpensive upgrade to Business or First Class. Saturday flights are slow travel days and that’s basically because there are no businesspeople flying. It’s usually the businesspeople who accumulate a lot of frequent flyer miles and often get an upgrade to First Class as a reward. But on Saturday, they are home enjoying a late day, and It’s those Saturday flights when first class upgrades are available for a ridiculous price. I flew from Cancun to Atlanta on AirTran and upgraded to Business Class for only $69 for a 1 ½ hour trip. That seat would have cost five times that much if I had bought in advance. What did I get for that $69? A much roomier, cushier seat, alcoholic drinks and really good snacks. By the time I got to Atlanta, I was very happy all the way through customs. If your flight is two hours or longer with some airlines, you even get a meal. Granted, it might cost you more than $69, but that Business/First Class seat again would have cost you five times as much as your coach fare.

Avoid the Baggage Fees

Also, do you have at least two bags that you need to check in? Then it might be a good buy to pay extra for the first class upgrade. For most airlines, a first class seat entitles you to two free bags. Currently most airlines charge $25 for the first bag and $35 for the second bag. If you buy a first class upgrade at $100, then that upgrade helped you to save $60 on your bags or if you want to look at it another way, that first class seat only cost you an extra $40. Also, if your trip consists of a connection, it might be worthwhile to pay a first class upgrade on one part of the trip so that you still get your bags free.
Use one frequent flyer membership for the whole family so you can accumulate miles faster and get benefits. If you are a family of four, it doesn’t make sense to have four frequent flyer numbers if three of you don’t travel as much. Consolidate all your frequent flyer miles on one membership so that you attain an elite level and get a free upgrade faster. As an elite member you are usually allowed to have one free companion accorded the same benefits as the elite member.
Choose the frequent flyer program that has the airlines that you fly frequently in order to attain a level to get free upgrades. If most of your flying is done on United, Lufthansa, and US Airways then use the Star Alliance Program. If you fly on American Airlines and British Airways then be a member of the One World Program.
Check and see whether it’s inexpensive to buy the miles so that you can get your upgrade sooner. Depending on how many miles you have already accumulated, buying miles might be cheaper than buying that Business/First Class seat.

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