Spacious seats, multi-course meals, priority boarding—what’s not to like about business class? The cost. Business class isn’t just double the cost of an economy ticket. It’s often five to eight times the price. You’re going to need some serious hacks to get the cheapest business class seat.
We’ve got you covered. Take a look at these seriously smart ways of getting the cheapest business class seats available.
Watch For a Great Deal on Google Flights or Skyscanner
Do your homework and watch prices for flights in business class instead of economy. If you know what a good price is on a business-class seat, you’ll know when a good deal floats your way. The numbers are going to be substantially different than an economy seat price.
Be Flexible With Your Dates
If you leave your dates blank, you can see what days are cheapest to fly in both Google Flights and Skyscanner. In the example below, you can see how the price varies widely from $1,700 to $3,800 for a business class ticket from Denver to London.
Related: American Airlines 777 300ER Business Class Review
Buy a Business Class Seat in a Package
You’d be surprised at the savings offered when you bundle a business class seat with a hotel. You can even hack it by only paying for a single night in a hotel. Take a look at these examples.
You can buy a nonstop flight from Denver to London for $4,732 in business class.
Or… you could bundle it with the cheapest hotel in London to save you $2,000. This is the exact same nonstop flight in business class.
Get Notifications From a Deal Alert Service for Cheap Cash Fares
One of the easiest ways to score a deal on a business class seat is to have someone else do the work for you. There are a number of services that do this, including:
- Airfare Watchdog
- Scott’s Cheap Flights
- Dollar Flight Club
- Secret Flying
- The Flight Deal
- Thrifty Traveler
- And so many more
Redeem Points For an Upgraded Seat
Most airlines have a loyalty program where the cost of points for an upgraded ticket may offer a much better value than buying a cash fare on a business seat.
This takes quite a bit of advance planning and knowledge, so it’s helpful to follow travel groups and websites specializing in credit card rewards. They make it easier than ever to start earning travel rewards and learn where the sweet spots are for redemptions.
One helpful tool for finding great redemptions on business class is called AwardHacker. AwardHacker allows you to put in your destination and rewards program to see where the best redemption values are. Hint: Sometimes transferring to a partner airline can get you a MUCH better redemption.
Here’s an example of a great redemption from Salt Lake City to Naples, Italy.
Being able to transfer Membership Rewards from American Express (The green highlighted MR above) to ANA for a business class seat will help you make it happen.
Quick note: The search results aren’t as robust as they normally are with the reduced routes we’re still seeing from the fallout of COVID-19.
Related: What Is Travel Hacking—and Should You Be Doing It?
See If Buying Points Makes Sense
Most airlines have a loyalty program where the cost of points for an upgraded ticket may offer a better value than buying a cash fare on a business seat. What’s even more shocking is there are instances where buying points will cost less than the cash price of a business-class seat.
Let’s say you want to go to Bali. If you’re paying cash for a business seat, you’ll pay somewhere in this neighborhood.
We chose Cathay Pacific on purpose as they are a transfer partner of Alaska Airlines. The strategy here is to use Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles to book business class seats on Cathay Pacific. You don’t have to have any Alaska Airlines miles—yet. If you do, great. If you don’t, you can buy them and still save a lot of money compared to the cash price. Alaska Airlines is well-known for its great redemption rates on business- and first-class seats, as well as reasonable purchase price for points.
Here are the redemption rates for Alaska partner Cathay Pacific for a flight from Denver to Bali. For business class, you’ll need 100,000 points to redeem a round trip ticket to Bali.
To buy these miles from Alaska, here’s what you’ll pay:
Buying miles from Alaska and redeeming for a business class fare to Bali will cost less than $3,000. Compare that to the $6,000 cash fare. That’s half price.
*Quick note: You will need to call reservations to book a Cathay Pacific award with Alaska miles.
Related: 10 Ways to Get the Best Airplane Seat
Caution: Buying Miles For a Business-Class Seat Doesn’t Always Work
Be very careful using the strategy of buying miles instead of paying a cash fare. It doesn’t work well in many cases. In our previous example of flying from Denver to London, we would need 232,900 points to redeem for the direct United flight.
United sells miles in increments of 1,000 at $35. To cover nearly 233,000 miles, we would need 233 units of 1,000 miles for a total cost of $8,155 (233 x $35).
That’s terrible. This is what most websites talk about when they say it’s a bad idea to buy miles to redeem for travel.
Please, PLEASE don’t do this. It takes some knowledge, as well as trial and error, to find great redemptions in business class.
Buying With Cash and Upgrading With Points
Many airlines have the option for buying with cash and upgrading with points. You just have to know where to look for this booking option.
Using United as an example, you’ll want to click on advanced search. Then, you’ll see this screen where you have the option to either book with miles or money. You’ll also click whether you want to upgrade to a premium economy seat or a business-class seat.
A little further down the page, you’ll also want to make sure to check the upgrade type to MileagePlus Upgrade Awards.
Pro tip: You may want to find the cheapest day to fly before this step as the software won’t allow you to search for MileagePlus upgrade awards using the calendar feature.
In this example, United allows us to buy an economy seat for $797. The upgrade cost is 20k miles and $550 each way. That’s $1,100 + $797= $1,897 which is less than the $2,637 in cash you would need to buy the business-class seat outright.