Let’s face it, while traveling is great, sometimes the process can be a huge hassle – that’s why we all love a little pampering in business class. But our travel dollar doesn’t always stretch that far. The good news is that there are some hacks and tricks that you can use to fly premium for less and save that cash for shopping, or in my case, also eating.
- Codeshare is your friend
Thanks to the airline alliances like OneWorld and Star Alliance, you can book with partner airlines and still earn points on your loyalty program. But there is a way to fly business class for less by booking codeshare flights. Often you will see the same flights operated by two or three airlines – these are codeshare flights. Now, not everyone likes this system (some think it’s bait and switch), but in some circumstances, codeshare can be your friend.
For example, I booked a trip recently to Chengdu in China from Doha on Cathay Pacific. The flight out of Doha was operated by Qatar Airways but because I bought through Cathay Pacific (who were having a sale at the time), I paid QR5500 (US$1500) for my business class flight – significantly less than the direct option. Because the outgoing flight was operated by Qatar Airways I was able to use the fabulous Al Mourjan Lounge in Doha, experience their world class service on board then when I reached Hong Kong, use the Cathay Pacific lounges and then fly onwards to China. You have to be flexible and creative to make this work sometimes, but it does pay off.
2. Fly off peak
This may seem obvious but it does make a difference. Flying during the summer peak in the Middle East, Christmas and southern hemisphere school holidays can bump up the price of a ticket significantly – whatever the class. The same is true for weekends and public holidays – prices go up as demand soars. Try a Monday flight or try to book a couple of extra days in the trip to give some flexibility.
3. Take the long way round and look east
If you have time, flexibility and patience you can save a lot of money on business class flights. A great example of this is my recent trip to Singapore on Sri Lankan Airlines. You can get a business class fare to Colombo out of Doha (and other destinations) and beyond for around QR3000 to QR5000 (US$800 to U$S1380)off peak. Recently a friend traveled to Melbourne with her family in business class for QR10,000 (US$2800) for the three of them which is incredible value. Sure the planes can be “older” and the connections in Colombo clunky, but great food, a decent business class and charming staff make all the difference.
I’m currently looking at a trip to the US later this year- again I am looking to the east. Flights to Las Vegas and Los Angeles on Cathay Pacific out of Doha again are up to 30 to 40 percent cheaper than other options. Sure, there is the transit in Hong Kong, but this doesn’t add too much to the overall flight time (and who doesn’t love a smash and grab in Hong Kong Airport?).
4. Sign up for deals and do your research
Knowledge is power. Sign up for airline deals and newsletters to keep up-to-date with fares, sales and importantly new destinations. Qatar Airways, which continues to grow its network at a rapid pace, offers special fares and points deals for its new destinations and you can often score a good deal. A great tool for booking flights – especially multi-city ones – is IATA Flight Matrix. Another pro tip, when searching for flights – clear your cookies or internet cache, or use a different computer so that your browsing history doesn’t follow you. While there is no hard evidence to support this, prices could go up for flights that are searched frequently.
5. Fly into the secondary cities or airports
Everyone wants to fly into JFK or Heathrow (although God knows why), but flying to less “popular” cities or airports like Philadelphia in the US or Gatwick Airport can mean cheaper fares (and a smoother travel experience).
6. Pay your way and upgrade at the airport
Many airlines allow you to, for a price, upgrade at the airport. I have bought an upgrade at check-in with British Airways and now, Qatar Airways offers a similar service. Privilege Club members can now redeem their Qmiles or Qcredits at the airport for an upgrade to Business or First Class on Qatar Airways when they fly out of Doha, and some other airports. They can depending on availability, offer a a paid one way upgrade at check-in – I did this last year on a flight back to Doha from Prague. Headsup – not all upgrades are created equal so check lounge access and remember that Qmiles will be earned based on the original booking class.
My advice – ask the check-in agent nicely what is available then ask to speak to the supervisor.In Doha – there is an upgrade on departure counter. This is just for Qatar Airways and rules differ depending on the airline – but if you are prepared to pay a bit extra, the benefits can be worth it.
I’m not going to lie, it does take effort to find a good deal for premium class flights – but that hard work does may off in in the long run!
*Click here to read my disclaimer