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 are traveling together but their original flight home is canceled; they’re forced to 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 if you find yourself 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, far more than double the price of a regular seat, no matter where you’re headed.
This can be frustrating and can discourage you from going to all of the amazing places that you want to go.
Therefore, it’s crucial that you 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 – they’re for everyone. You just need to know how to get them at a price that you can afford.
Read on to learn how to find fantastic deals on first-class seats, no matter what airline you like best and regardless of where you’re headed.
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!
Table of Contents
- Tips for Booking Affordable First Class Flights
- 1. Book Far in Advance
- 2. Book During Sales
- 3. Travel on Weekends
- 4. Book the Round Trip
- The Best Booking Sites for Finding First Class Flight Deals
- 5. Scotts Cheap Flights
- 6. Skyscanner
- 7. Google Flights
- 8. Dollar Flight Club
- 9. Kayak
- 10. Momondo
- 11. NextVacay
- 12. Secret Flying
- 13. Credit Cards
- General Strategies for Scoring First Class Seats
- The Elusive Upgrade
- 14. Upgrade With Points or Miles When You Book
- 15. Upgrade With Points or Miles When You Check-In
- 16. Upgrade With Cash (Or Charm) at the Airport
- 17. Dash for the Open Seat
- 18. Offer to Be Bumped
Tips for Booking Affordable First Class Flights
First, if you are good at planning ahead, 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 need a bit of luck, as well.
You may have to alter your travel dates a little 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.
1. 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.
Some people even book their flights as much as a year before their departure for this very reason. This strategy works for coach seats almost without fail, but many people don’t realize that it applies to first-class tickets as well.
As soon as you know you’re going somewhere, start looking at flight prices – including for first class. If the prices seem lower than you were expecting, then there’s no better time than right now to buy. What are you waiting for?
2. 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 sorts of deals you can find then before pulling the trigger.
3. Travel on Weekends
As you might imagine, many of the people flying first class are flying for work. They get to sit in those great seats at no cost to them 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.
4. 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.
The Best Booking Sites for Finding First Class Flight Deals
You’re not alone in your burning desire to fly first class. However, there are only so many first-class seats available, so the battle for them is becoming more and more 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 be a big help to 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 that you like with their help.
5. Scotts Cheap Flights
One of the best ways to find cheap first-class flights is by joining Scott’s Cheap Flights. This website, founded by traveler Scott Keyes in 2013, has over two million subscribers.
There are three levels of membership, but you can’t do too much with the free basic level. However, if you sign up for a paid membership, you’ll get amazing flight deals in your inbox at a very regular rate.
If you’re looking for deals on first class airline tickets, then you’ll want to sign up for Scott’s Cheap Flights’ Elite membership. It costs $199 a year and caters specifically to travelers who want to fly in business or first class. With that membership, you’ll also be alerted to all the mistake fares that the site finds, which can lead to even greater savings.
You can’t book your flight through 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 as well, and you don’t them to beat you to them!
Skyscanner is one of the very best travel metasearch engines around and many people swear by it for all their travel needs. The company is based in Edinburgh, Scotland, and over one hundred million people use it each month.
Like other travel search engines, Skyscanner searches travel sites all over the internet to find its users the very best deals.
If you know the exact dates that you want to travel, Skyscanner is a great tool to connect you with excellent fares for first or business class flights. All you have to do is use the pulldown menu on the search page to indicate the type of seat you are seeking.
Unfortunately, you can only choose the type of seat you want on Skyscanner if you are searching 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
7. 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. This will allow you to know what days are cheapest for first class or any other flights before continuing.
This is a huge bonus because it means you don’t have to keep trying different dates to get the lowest price. It’s in front of you from the very beginning.
8. Dollar Flight Club
Dollar Flight Club is a subscription email service similar to Scott’s Cheap Flights. Some people prefer Dollar Flight Club over Scott’s Cheap Flights because Dollar Flight Club also has a phone app; Scott’s Cheap Flights is strictly email-based.
Like Scott’s Cheap Flights, Dollar Flight Club has three levels of membership, and the lowest, free level doesn’t offer much. However, if you upgrade to the paid levels of membership, you can save a great deal on any flight you need.
Also like Scott’s Cheap Flights, you’ll get the best first class deals through Dollar Flight Club if you opt for the highest level of membership, which in this case is called 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.
Kayak has been around a long time and because of that fact, many people feel very comfortable using it. Over the years the site has added a lot of 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 first class from the dropdown menu on the initial search page. When you choose the dates, you won’t be able to 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 for you, you can input the earliest date that 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.
A lot of people haven’t heard of Momondo; you might be surprised to learn that it’s been around since 2006. This is yet another metasearch engine that quickly searches a vast number of other sites to find the best deals for users.
You also might be surprised to hear that Momondo regularly has even better deals on both 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 is free, so it’s certainly 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 very 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 deals that are tailor-made for you specifically.
Many of their deals are for economy flights, but they also offer business class deals, and you can always upgrade during the purchasing process.
12. Secret Flying
Everyone should sign up for Secret Flying because it’s absolutely free.
This site was founded in 2014 by traveler Tarik Allag with a focus 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. Your return trip to New York might leave out of Rome instead of Milan, for one example. That’s an open-jaw flight. You can save hundreds of dollars if you’re willing to lean into this kind of 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.
13. Credit Cards
A fantastic way to get great deals on first class flights is through credit card memberships.
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 a 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 all give members the opportunity to earn a large sum of 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 its own card in cooperation with banks like Chase and Barclay’s. If you love one particular airline, you should be part of their 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
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 were unable to get a great deal when you booked, then try these options when the time comes for you to pack your bags and go.
Admittedly, some of the following ideas work all of the time, but some only work some of the time. Either way, if you might end up in first class seats, then giving them a try is definitely worth a shot.
The Elusive Upgrade
One way to move yourself into first class is with an upgrade. Lots of people talk about upgrading themselves to a better seat but some people have better luck in doing so 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 that 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 to you 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 you’ll be 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 to the gate.
If there are open seats 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.
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.
As soon as you hear the boarding door close, you can and 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 a member of the aircrew 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 a bunch of cool stuff!
Most of the time, the incentives offered include rebooking on the next available flight plus a large credit toward future travel. Occasionally, the incentive is cash.
This can be a fun game to play because the longer you hold out, the bigger the credit will be, but if you wait too long, then some other passenger will volunteer first and will beat you to it.
If you do manage to 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.
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Use Skyscanner to book the cheapest flight possible. Skyscanner is my favorite flight search engine as you can find flights around the globe and from every airline possible. You'll be in great shape to get the best price possible.
You must grab a free trial or join Scott's Cheap Flights Premium to get cheap flight alerts directly to your email inbox. My favorite cheap flight alert was 25,000 Delta SkyMiles to London non-stop.