Premium class perks — from lie-flat seats to swanky airport lounges to unlimited complimentary cocktails — may seem out of reach for many travelers. After all, business class flights easily cost $2,500 round-trip
But that doesn’t mean you need a corporate card or hoards of points to experience the upper echelons of air travel.
Whether you're looking for a business class or a first class ticket, travelers can find cheap business class tickets by watching for flight deals, including airline promotions and mistake fares, participating in auctions, and shopping with more affordable airlines.
Travelers should also study up on the differences between business and first class cabins, as well as the differences between coach and business class. Each airline defines these cabins differently, and while a business class seat on Lufthansa's new Boeing 777's might look like a modern throne, a business class ticket on a regional budget airline may be much less luxurious.
Understanding the differences between the various fare classes will help you better spot a deal and determine how much more you're willing to pay for an upgrade.
Business Class Flight Deals
Emirates, for example, often sponsors flash sales. But while many airlines put only their economy seats on sale, this Gulf carrier also slashes ticket prices on business class seats.
During their most recent Cyber Monday sale, round-trip business class seats on board this world-class airline started at $2,999 round-trip to Italy. Typically, these seats cost over $5,000. The airline has also been known to sell 2-for-1 business class flights, making it easier for you and your travel partner to fly like VIPs.
The all-business class airline La Compagnie also runs regular promotions, which might include $1,000-flat flights between Yew York City and Paris. The perks include access to airport lounges, Caudalie amenity kits, free checked bags, and complimentary Wi-Fi.
Deep discounts on business class flights can also be generated by accident. That’s when a $1,009.20 one-way business class ticket becomes a $1,009.20 round-trip ticket, offering 50 percent savings for lucky travelers.
Thrifty Traveler recently noticed such a mistake from Aeromexico. Lie-flat business class seats on flights to Chile were selling for $1,092 round-trip (standard economy tickets often cost upwards of $800), while tickets to Peru were only $548 round-trip (recliner-style seats only).
Of course, travelers interested in booking a discounted premium fare don’t need to stick to business class. Last month, The Flight Deal reported $1,522 round-trip fares from the West Coast to London in Air France’s ultra-luxurious La Première cabin.
Mistake fares such as these, however, must be booked with caution. While rare, airlines can refuse to honor these deals. While travelers will receive full refunds, they should be cautious about booking additional plans (such as hotels and tours) until they receive a ticket confirmation from the airline.
Beyond straightforward airfare sales, travelers can also get cheap first and business class flights by stockpiling miles during mileage flash sales. In 2016, travel blogger Sam Huang used a 90-percent off mileage flash sale with Garuda Indonesia to take a first class flight (typically $7,000) for only $76.
Business Class Auctions
Travelers wondering how to get cheap business class tickets without waiting for a flight deal may also be interested in premium cabin auctions. A number of major airlines, including Cathay Pacific, Virgin Atlantic, and Etihad, have introduced a bidding process to help sell remaining business and first class seats.
Typically, travelers should bid at least 20 percent below market price, which you can determine with a bit of research. Mid-day flights to leisure destinations are more likely to have premium seat availability, and not all tickets will be eligible for an upgrade. To improve your chances, be sure to book directly with the airline.
In addition to these online auctions, most airlines offer travelers the chance to purchase upgrades upon check-in, though this may not result in such deep savings.
Fly With a Cheaper Airline
Not all business class experiences are equal, which is why travelers might have better luck with lesser-known, regional, or low-cost airline.
The Icelandic budget carrier WOW Air, for example, has a product called WOW Biz. It's not your typical business class — the best possible seat is extra wide and features a foot rest, but you won't get to bed down on a lie-flat model. You will, however, enjoy plenty of other premium perks like complimentary checked luggage, a free inflight meal, and priority boarding.
And JetBlue's Mint seats may be one of the best premium offerings in the sky — particularly when you consider the price tag. According to The Points Guy, it's possible to score one-way Mint-class flights from New York City to the Caribbean for under $300.
In these elegant premium seats (all of which lie-flat and some of which are available as private suites with sliding doors), travelers can snack on seasonal tapas while sampling curated Birchbox amenity kits.
While the cheapest business class tickets are typically on short-haul flights, it is possible to experience a cheap international business class flight on these carriers.