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The Art of Flying First Class (Without Breaking the Bank)

Flying First Class
Written by Gabby Teaman

This blog post was updated on June 13, 2022.

If you need a little extra pizzazz on your next trip, or you just want to take a break from those long lines and cramped seats, flying first-class may be just what you need. Believe it or not, there are plenty of ways to save up for that upgrade without burning a hole in your wallet. It will take patience, some research, and a little bit of street smarts. But, it can be well worth it once you’re living the life the next time you’re up, up, and away. Without further ado, here are a few easy steps you can take to fly in style in no time — without breaking the bank!

Embrace Airline Loyalty

Flying First Class

First, consider using your favorite airline’s credit card. The idea is that the money you’re spending anyway — on anything from doctor’s visits to dining out – will build up points toward airline tickets for your next flight or class upgrade. These cards often come with annual fees, but make up for it in rewards earned. Hooray!

Another option is to join your favorite airline’s loyalty program. A common misconception is that you have to be a frequent flyer to enjoy these rewards, but that isn’t necessarily the case. Even if you only fly once or twice a year, it’s still good to take advantage of your airline’s rewards program and start building up points for your next vacay. Some cool perks may include access to your airport’s private lounge, magazine subscriptions, or even charity donations. Don’t forget to check that the dates on all offers haven’t expired.

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Know When to Fly

Flying First Class

Choosing the right date and time to fly is a good strategy for finding better prices. Most likely, first-class seats will be harder to find during the week since most business travelers fly during this time. Therefore, booking early in the morning during the weekend might help you fly first class for for much less. If you’re flying internationally, do some quick research to see if there are any big holidays coming up in the country you’re traveling to. For domestic travel in the US, September and October are among some of the best months to find flights for a bargain.

Consider Smaller Airlines

Flying First Class

While you may be hesitant to fly with a smaller airline, many of them have revamped their amenities and first-class seating. Before you go, check out the airline’s website to make sure they have the type of first-class experience you’re looking for. Some airlines, like Hainan Airlines or LOT Polish Airlines, even have lie-flat seating where you could sit back and relax. Since there’s a limit to how many cheap first-class seats are sold on each airline, it may be a good idea to buy a one-way ticket from two separate airlines, especially if you’re open to trying different ones.

Look Out for “Y-Up Fares”

Flying First Class

When airlines don’t sell all of their first-class tickets, they like to sell them as Y-Up fares. Essentially, they’re like full-price coach tickets or regular last-minute tickets — and they’re usually one way. While they aren’t always cheap, they’re still usually considered a solid deal. Also, they’re usually refundable. These are great for special occasions, business travel, or last-minute emergency travel. “Why have I never heard of this?” you may ask. Well, most of us aren’t looking for first-class tickets when initially booking, so we rarely see them, but they’re out there! The only catch is it may take some research to discover them.

Check at the Last Minute

Flying First Class

If you’re already on the go but feel super spontaneous, it wouldn’t hurt to do a quick check online to see if there are any upgrades available for your seat. Usually, first-class upgrades will be a lot cheaper at the last minute. If you don’t have any luck there, you could always ask the desk attendant how much it would cost to upgrade. If you still have no luck there, wait until you board the plane. If your flight is relatively empty, you may notice there are a few extra spots up in first class. You could always ask the flight attendant — hey, it wouldn’t hurt!


Have you ever scored first-class tickets for less? Share any pointers you may have in the comments section!

About the author

Gabby Teaman

Gabby Teaman is a content writer who loves writing (of course!), editing, food, and the Oxford comma. When she’s not writing for Fareportal, she can be found Snapchatting videos of her puppy, blasting show tunes, or watching Netflix, all while trying to read everything in sight.

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