Flying first class is a game-changer, and everyone knows it. Anyone who has ever flown first class can tell you that doing so is leagues better – in every way – than flying in coach. Even if you’ve never flown first class before, you know it, too, since they make everyone walk past those wide, luxurious seats on the way to their cramped, crowded, uncomfortable seats in the back.
You’ve seen first class – and you’re officially jealous. There’s an episode of Seinfeld that illustrates the differences between these two vastly different options perfectly. Elaine and Jerry travel together, but their original flight home is canceled; they must rebook. As a result, Jerry gets a seat in first class, but Elaine gets stuck in coach.
Jerry’s first-class seat includes hot towels, food, champagne, an attractive and friendly seatmate, and comfort – the complete opposite of what Elaine has to endure in the back of the plane.
We all want to be Jerry in our own travel story. If you travel often or are on a plane for long distances, you know you need to be in first class. For some, this luxury is non-negotiable. Unfortunately, flying first class is expensive. Often, it’s far more than double the price of a regular seat, no matter where you’re headed.
This can be frustrating and discourage you from going to all the fantastic places you want to go. Therefore, you must know how to book the cheapest first-class flights. There are lots of tricks out there that will make doing so easy for you.
First-class flights aren’t only for the rich and famous anymore but for everyone. You need to know how to get them at an affordable price. Read on to learn how to find fantastic deals on first-class seats, regardless of where you’re headed or what airline you like best.
First-class airfare doesn’t have to be out of reach for you anymore. With our list of tips, you can fly first class every time you fly!
Use The Best Booking Sites for Finding First Class Flight Deals
You’re not alone in your burning desire to fly first class. However, only so many first-class seats are available, so the battle for them is becoming increasingly competitive.
Thankfully, there are a number of individuals, websites, and groups that exist to help you achieve your first-class goals to live your best life. Joining, checking, and following the newsletters, sites, and email lists below will greatly help you.
The people who run these companies have dedicated their lives to helping people find cheap flights – first class or otherwise -and they are great at what they do. You’ll book a lot more seats than you like with their help.
1. Going (Formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights)
One of the best ways to find cheap first-class flights is by joining Going (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights). This website, founded by traveler Scott Keyes in 2013, has over two million subscribers.
There are three membership levels, but you can’t do much with the free basic level. However, if you sign up for a paid membership, you’ll get amazing flight deals in your inbox regularly.
If you’re looking for deals on first-class airline tickets, you’ll want to sign up for Going’s Elite membership. It costs $199 a year and caters to travelers who want to fly in business or first class. With that membership, you’ll also be alerted to all the mistake fares the site finds, which can lead to even greater savings.
You can’t book your flight through Going (Scott’s Cheap Flights), but the service will inform you about relevant deals, and then you can book the ones you like independently. However, you’ll need to move quickly – other subscribers will be notified about these deals, and you don’t want them to beat you to them. Like what you are hearing? Read our full Going review for more info on the platform.
One of our favorite ways to find the cheapest first class flights by researching on your own is Skyscanner. Skyscanner is one of the best travel metasearch engines around, and like me, many other people swear by it for all their travel needs.
The company is based in Edinburgh, Scotland, and over one hundred million people use it monthly. Like other travel search engines, Skyscanner searches travel sites all over the internet to find its users the best deals.
If you know the exact dates you want to travel, Skyscanner is a great tool to connect you with excellent fares for first or business class flights. You must use the pulldown menu on the search page to indicate the seat type you seek.
Unfortunately, you can only choose the type of seat you want on Skyscanner if you are searching for specific dates; they’re working on this, though. Eventually, you’ll be able to use Skyscanner to find first-class deals within a broad date range.
See Related: Best Skyscanner Alternatives to Book Travel
3. Google Flights
Like Skyscanner, Google Flights is a metasearch engine that will help you to find good deals on flights of all kinds, and you can specify that you are seeking first-class seats in particular when you search.
Google Flights is very user-friendly and intuitive, like most Google products. When you get your results, you’ll get a few “best available flights” suggestions at the top, followed by other suggestions below.
However, one thing a lot of users love about Google Flights happens before you even hit the search button. After you input your departure and destination airports and change your class of service on the drop-down menu, you can see the lowest fares for each day displayed on the drop-down calendar when selecting your dates.
Before continuing, this will allow you to know what days are cheapest for first-class or any other flights. This is a huge bonus because you don’t have to keep trying different dates for the lowest price. It’s in front of you from the very beginning.
4. Dollar Flight Club
Dollar Flight Club is a subscription email service similar to Going.com (Formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights). Some people prefer Dollar Flight Club over Going.com (Scott’s Cheap Flights) because Dollar Flight Club also has a phone app; Scott’s Cheap Flights is strictly email-based.
Like Going.com (Scott’s Cheap Flights), Dollar Flight Club has three membership levels, and the lowest, the free level, doesn’t offer much. However, if you upgrade to the paid membership levels, you can save a great deal on any flight you need.
Also, like Going.com, you’ll get the best first-class deals through Dollar Flight Club if you opt for the highest membership level, Premium Plus. It’s $99 a year, and many users save at least that much when they find their very first Dollar Flight Club deal.
See Related: Cheapest Places to Fly Around the World
Kayak has been around for a long time, and because of that fact, many people feel very comfortable using it. Over the years, the site has added many helpful features, and it’s another great metasearch to help connect travelers with great deals on all parts of travel.
As with Google Flights, you can select a first class filter from the dropdown menu on the initial search page. When you choose the dates, you won’t see the exact lowest prices for any particular day like you can with Google Flights.
But, if you want the system to find the cheapest first-class flight deals, you can input the earliest date you can depart and the length of time you’d like to be at your destination. You’ll be amazed at some of the deals you find this way.
Many people haven’t heard of Momondo; you might be surprised to learn it’s been around since 2006. This is another metasearch engine that quickly searches many other sites to find the best deals for users.
You also might be surprised to hear that Momondo regularly has even better deals on economy and first-class tickets than Skyscanner and other travel metasearch engines we’ve already mentioned. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re looking for first-class seats at a discount.
NextVacay is a travel deals alert service like Scott’s Cheap Flights and Dollar Flight Club. The first thirty days of subscription are free, so it’s worth signing up for to see if you like it.
This site differs from others mentioned here because users feed this site their desired route and dates, and then they get an alert when a good deal or mistake fare that matches their wants and needs is found.
NextVacay is affordable at $25 per year, and many people like it because it’s very personalized. Instead of getting dozens and dozens of deals that may not apply to you, you’ll get tailor-made for you.
Many of their deals are for economy flights, but they also offer business class deals, and you can always upgrade during the purchasing process.
8. Secret Flying
Everyone should sign up for Secret Flying because it’s free. This site was founded in 2014 by traveler Tarik Allag, focusing on mistake fares. Today, it helps to connect users with great fares of all kinds around the world, and it alerts those users to those fares through email, a mobile app, and social media.
Secret Flying specializes in finding deals through open-jaw flights. Open-jaw flights are roundtrip tickets that include three airports. Let’s say you’re flying from New York to Milan. For example, your return trip to New York might leave out of Rome instead of Milan. That’s an open-jaw flight. You can save hundreds of dollars if you lean into this flexibility.
Secret Flying focuses on basic economy, premium economy, and business class flights, but as with NextVacay, you can always upgrade to first class when you buy your ticket.
9. Credit Cards
Credit card memberships are a fantastic way to get great deals on first-class flights. If you’re loyal to one airline or even if you’re not, most travel credit cards can help you make your way into first-class without spending extra dollars. Buying the first-class ticket outright with miles is a great way to finagle your way into an expensive seat at a discount.
Cards like Chase Sapphire Preferred, Capital One Venture, and Discover It Miles allow members to earn many bonus miles upon signup. You can also earn lots of miles through spending. These miles can then be exchanged for airline tickets, and you can choose the class of service when you book travel.
Each airline also offers cards cooperating with banks like Chase and Barclay’s. If you love one particular airline, you should be part of its mileage/points club, and signing up for its credit card is a great way to rack up lots of points or miles fast.
See Related: Best Credit Cards for Travel Perks Ranked
Tips for Booking Affordable First Class Flights
First, if you are good at planning, there are a number of ways for you to save money on first-class flights at the point of booking, weeks or months before you even think about packing and heading to the airport.
Each of the following strategies can save you hundreds of dollars, but to enjoy the best results, you might also need a bit of luck. You may have to alter your travel dates to save the big bucks, but the savings will make it worth it in the long run. You’ll also need to be ready to purchase and be very decisive to catch and enjoy the biggest deals.
10. Book Far in Advance
Although every airline offers fantastic last-minute deals now and then, the best way to save money on flights is to book far in advance of your trip.
For this very reason, some people even book their flights as much as a year before their departure. This strategy works for coach seats almost without fail, but many people don’t realize it applies to first-class tickets.
As soon as you know you’re going somewhere, start looking at flight prices – including for first class. If the prices seem lower than expected, then there’s no better time to buy now. What are you waiting for?
11. Book During Sales
Most airlines also have sales from time to time, and they are a great time to book economy-class flights, business-class flights, or cheap first-class flights.
Some of these sales happen at random times, so you’ll have to keep an eye out for them by subscribing to your favorite airlines’ email lists, but a lot of airlines’ best sales happen around various holidays like Presidents’ Day and Black Friday.
If you are planning a trip and a holiday weekend is approaching, you should probably wait and see what deals you can find before pulling the trigger.
12. Travel on Weekends
As you might imagine, many people flying first class are flying for work. They get to sit in those great seats at no cost because their employers are paying for it – how nice! As a result, most first-class seats are full on weekdays, but that’s less often the case on weekends.
While seats in coach are generally more expensive on weekends due to so many people traveling for leisure, first-class tickets are actually cheaper than they usually are on weekends much of the time.
13. Book the Round Trip
You’ll also save money on first-class flights by booking round-trip tickets. This is true for all types of airline tickets; it almost always makes better financial sense to book a round trip than two one-way tickets.
Even if you’re not sure when you’ll be coming back, you should still book a round-trip ticket – you can always change the return ticket if you need to, especially now that most airlines have relaxed their change restrictions forever due to COVID-19.
See Related: How to Get Cheap Last-Minute Flights
General Strategies for Scoring First Class Seats
If all else fails, there are a few more strategies that avid travelers know to help them enjoy first-class seats without spending first-class prices. If you could not get a great deal when you booked, try these options when the time comes for you to pack your bags and go.
Admittedly, some of the following ideas work all the time, but some only work some of the time. Either way, if you might end up in first-class seats, giving them a try is definitely worth a shot.
The Elusive Upgrade
One way to move into first-class is with an upgrade. Many people talk about upgrading themselves to a better seat, but some people have better luck than others.
14. Upgrade With Points or Miles When You Book
If you are a member of a points/miles frequent flyer points program, then you may be able to buy a regular coach seat with cash and then use your points or miles to upgrade to a better seat.
Sometimes a great deal is offered at this stage, but sometimes the deals at the time of booking are not great. Use your judgment; is a 20,000+-mile upgrade worth it for a two-hour flight? Probably not, for most.
15. Upgrade With Points or Miles When You Check-In
An upgrade option may be available again when you check in for your flight before departure. You may find that this option will cost you fewer points or miles than the former since, by the day of departure, they’ll know if anyone has purchased that seat or not with cash.
If first-class seats are still available close to departure, any airline would love to sell one to you for points or miles instead. You’ll be using your points or miles and filling an empty seat. That way, they can put someone else in your old seat. It’s a win-win all around.
16. Upgrade With Cash (Or Charm) at the Airport
Another way to get a possible upgrade to first-class seats is to ask at the airport when you arrive. You can ask about a potential upgrade to first class when you check in at the check-in counter, as you check your bag, or you can ask the gate agent when you get there.
If open seats are available in first class, anyone working at the above locations in the airport can help you upgrade for a fee. If you’re especially charming, you may even be able to talk someone into an upgrade without you having to spend another dime.
See Related: Layover vs Stopover: What’s The Difference?
17. Dash for the Open Seat
Once you’re on the plane, there’s still a chance of an upgrade to first class, believe it or not. When you’re boarding, check out the first class seating area as you walk past and see if there are any open spots.
When you hear the boarding door close, you should ask any flight attendant if you can move to first class. They may say no, even with empty seats available, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Remember, if you find yourself in a first-class seat by this method, and an aircrew member tells you to vacate it, do it. Seriously.
18. Offer to Be Bumped
When a flight is oversold, which happens more often than seems to make sense, an airline will offer passengers incentives to be bumped to a later flight. If you’re not. in a hurry, this can be a great way to get some cool stuff!
Most of the time, the incentives include rebooking on the next available flight and a large credit toward future travel. Occasionally, the incentive is cash.
This can be a fun game because the longer you hold out, the bigger the credit will be, but if you wait too long, some other passenger will volunteer first and beat you to it.
If you do grab the bumped seat, you’ll likely be very excited to receive your future flight credit. However, this is also a fantastic time to ask if you can be upgraded to first class on your rescheduled flight. They’ll likely give it to you if there is space available.
Why is first class so expensive?
First class is expensive due to its premium services and additional amenities. These may include more spacious seating, enhanced meals, and dedicated check-in and boarding areas. Additionally, airlines have limited first class seats, increasing their value and cost.
What do you get on a first class flight?
On a first-class flight, you get a superior travel experience. Amenities usually include priority check-in and boarding, broader and more comfortable seats often convertible into beds, high-quality meals paired with premium beverages, in-flight entertainment on larger individual screens, and access to exclusive lounges at airports.
Is it cheaper to upgrade to first class after booking?
Sometimes, yes, it is, particularly with long-haul flights. We’ve booked first class at a significant discount multiple times. This largely depends on the airline
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