How to Fly First Class for the Price of Economy

Thứ sáu - 26/04/2024 23:11
Flying first-class can make your travel experience feel genuinely luxurious, but it comes with a high price tag. It's much more affordable to buy an economy ticket and then upgrade it! With tightening airline budgets, the days of flashing...
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Flying first-class can make your travel experience feel genuinely luxurious, but it comes with a high price tag. It’s much more affordable to buy an economy ticket and then upgrade it! With tightening airline budgets, the days of flashing a smile at the front desk to get a free upgrade may be gone, but there are still lots of ways to upgrade to first-class without breaking the bank. We’ll show you how with this guide on how to fly first-class for the price of economy.


Use your miles and points to upgrade.

  1. Using miles and points is the easiest way to upgrade your ticket.
    Each airline comes with its own system for calculating the number of miles you’ll need for an upgrade, and most airlines provide calculators on their website for this purpose. On the booking page for your flight, there should be an option to upgrade your cabin class with your miles.[1]
    • Some credit card points can be converted to miles, so check your card policy. If you have a good credit card with points, use it for every payment possible to rack up the maximum amount of points possible.[2]
    • You can also purchase miles directly from the airline. Do some math to figure out if purchasing miles is cheaper than buying an upgrade with cash.
    • Be sure to check with your airline's policy in advance. Some airlines, like Delta, United, and American, won’t let you upgrade a basic economy ticket with points. Economy Plus or Premium tickets should still be eligible, though.
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Fly with one airline to reach elite flyer status.

  1. Some airlines give elite flyers complimentary upgrades.
    If you’ve been a loyal customer of one airline or airline alliance over the course of thousands of miles, you may end up rising through their customer status ranks. Many airlines will automatically upgrade your flight if you’re eligible, though others might require you to call in advance.[3]
    • At the highest status levels, you'll have a 75% chance of getting a complimentary upgrade from economy to first-class.
    • Many airlines offer tiered benefits to their elite status flyers. The higher your tier, the more benefits you'll receive.

Check-in online as early as possible.

  1. Early check-in gives you a better shot at a complimentary upgrade.
    The check-in window usually opens 24 hours before departure. Check in as soon as you can to beat other passengers who are angling for a free upgrade.[4]
    • Selecting seats ahead of time won't lower your chances of getting an upgrade. If anything, you're more likely to get bumped to first-class.
    • Flying solo can also help you move up in the line.
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Buy an upgrade at the last minute.

  1. A last-minute upgrade usually costs less.
    Airlines are trying to squeeze as much profit out of each flight as possible, so they don’t want any leftover first-class seats. You might score a better deal purchasing an upgrade at the last minute than you would if you had tried earlier. If you plan on buying an upgrade, talk to a staff member at the check-in counter or gate.[5]
    • If all first-class seats are booked, you won’t be able to get an upgrade. Buying an upgrade at the airport is a gamble, but it can save you money.

Bid for an upgrade.

  1. Some airlines auction off first-class seats for cheap prices.
    Budget airlines often have a bidding system for first-class upgrades, though some larger airlines, such as Lufthansa, also have this practice. As your departure approaches, you’ll receive an e-mail inviting you to bid for a first-class seat against other passengers doing the same.[6]
    • You’ll find out 24 to 48 hours before the flight if your bid was successful.
    • These auctions tend to be blind, so you won’t know what other passengers are bidding. It's better to bid closer to the higher end of what you’d be willing to pay.
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Give up your seat on an overbooked flight.

  1. If an airline oversold their flight, take advantage of it.
    The gate agents offer rewards for people who volunteer to take a later trip, so this is a good opportunity to request an upgrade on your next flight. You can try to negotiate a discounted or free upgrade to first-class.[7]
    • Say something like, “I’d be happy to give up my seat on this flight, if you can guarantee me a first-class seat on a flight that arrives at my destination before noon tomorrow.”

Be flexible on your departure location and date.

  1. Get a great deal by switching up your flight itinerary.
    [8] As you're booking tickets, take the time to compare prices between different departure locations. If you can save a lot by driving or flying to a different airport, it's worth considering. Look for flights outside of the holiday season and go for mid week rather than weekend flights since those are cheaper.[9]
    • For example, if you want to fly from New York to San Francisco, you might find cheaper tickets by flying out of New Jersey, taking an economy flight from New York to Pittsburgh before flying first-class to San Francisco.
    • The key to purchasing cheap airline tickets is to stay at the destination over a Saturday night. Air fares are usually priced to the extent where business travelers are charged the most, and those are the people that cannot stay a Saturday night. Anytime that you will not be able to spend a Saturday night at the destination, chances are you're going to be facing a more expensive airfare.[10]
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Ask for a free upgrade at check-in.

  1. Being polite and friendly might be enough to get you an upgrade.
    These days, airlines offer upgrades through an electronic system, and plenty of airlines also have policies against staff offering arbitrary upgrades. Still, you don't have anything to lose, so it's worth a try.[11]
    • Smile, dress well, and arrive early at the check-in counter. You want to make a good impression since you’re asking for a favor.
    • Say something like, “I’m not sure what your policy is, but I was wondering if you have any available first-class upgrades for customers.”

Subscribe to flight deal updates.

  1. Others have already done the work of scoping out great deals.
    There are a number of site online that track deals on first-class tickets, so get updates from them if you’d like a handy resource. Some places you might want to check out include:[12]
    • has a monthly newsletter and fare alerts for subscribers.
    • The Twitter account @theflightdeal tracks low-fare alerts.
    • has a forum where users upload low-fare opportunities.
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Take advantage of Travel Tuesday deals.

  1. The holiday season means deals at airlines.
    Many airlines and other travel service providers offer discounts on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Travel Tuesday—respectively, the Friday, Monday, and Tuesday after Thanksgiving. Take advantage of these sales to purchase a first-class ticket at below its normal price.[13]

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