Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Business of Flying Business Class

“You should start flying Business Class” a friend’s accountant told her not too long ago, she said during one of our regular coffee chat sessions.

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Business class - champagne served in real stemware
Nice to think that after all those years of working and saving that we’ve reached an age and retirement income that allows such recommendations, we both agreed.

Then we laughed at the thought. We know the price of that kind of  comfort at 35,000-feet.  And we aren’t about to pay it. . .full price anyway!

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Emirates A380 - double-decker - we'll be upstairs
It wasn’t long after that conversation, though, that The Scout booked us in Business Class on Emirates Airlines for what will be a 35-hour trip from San Francisco to  Bangkok, Thailand, (via Dubai).  We’ll be upstairs at the front of the plane in an A380 like that one pictured above.

No, we are not paying the $13,810 (price tag on two one-way tickets).  Thanks to frequent flier miles (75,000 miles, each) we are paying only the taxes and fees of less than $100.

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KLM Business Class meals

It’s not the first time we’ve burned air miles to fly Business Class. In the last decade or so we’ve experienced that luxury end of the plane on British Air, Air France and KLM.  Each flight was above and beyond ‘pampered’ experiences: food (real food) served on china plates, champagne, wine and cocktails flowed freely (literally and figuratively) and space, lots and lots of space.

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The Scout unkownly demonstrating Business Class seat comfort
Frequent flier seats can be as elusive in Business Class as they are in Coach class but if you’ve got a long-haul trip coming up (eight or more hours in a plane is our definition) it might just be worth it to use them to get a lot more space and comfort.

Flexibility is  Key to Budget Business Class 

You may need to be as flexible as the seats in Business Class in order to nab a ticket though.

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Business Class Seat Position control panel
Flexible in Routes/Departure Cities?

If Business Class FF (frequent flier mile) seats aren’t available to your destination from your nearest  departure city, try thinking outside the box. Three years ago we flew a KLM flight from Vancouver, British Columbia (our Canadian neighbor) to Amsterdam. We took a 30-minute flight from Seattle to make the connection – as no Business Class seats were available flying directly out of Seattle.

The Emirates flight to Dubai is from San Francisco as there were no FF Business Class seats available on the direct flight to Dubai from Seattle.

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Champagne and leg-room - Business class treats
Change your destination?

Using our trips to Greece as an example, we’ve found that for some unexplained reason,  flights from Seattle to Istanbul, Turkey have been cheaper than those to Athens, Greece.  We’ve been flying there and catching a short flight to Athens to save several hundred dollars in ticket costs.  Could you change your destination to one where seats are available and then use a train or commuter flight to get to where you want to be?

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Istanbul as a hub vs. Athens

Can you Reverse your Route?

Because we’ll be – in a manner of speaking – commuting between Seattle and Greece the next few years, we can book flights round-trip from Seattle or round-trip to Seattle.  If you routinely fly a certain route, check out prices for tickets starting at the other city – you might be surprised at the price difference.

An example:  We will be returning to Seattle this spring from Istanbul. While checking prices The Scout happened upon a Business Class airfare, Istanbul – Seattle – Istanbul that was only $300 a ticket more than what we paid for coach class (Seattle- Seattle round-trip) last summer. We booked it, directly with the airline. (The round trip  flight between Istanbul and Athens is about $150).

That same Business Class seat starting in London is several thousand dollars more than starting in Istanbul.

Option to Pay for an Upgrade?

Airlines don’t want those premium seats to go empty any more than cruise lines want ships sailing with empty cabins.  Depending on the airline you may find some last minute upgrade-from-coach-class deals are available.  Sometimes airlines will alert you to their availability at the time of your on-line check-in or make an announcement at the gate.  The upgrade cost won’t necessarily be inexpensive, but will be far less than paying full fare.

Frequent Flyer Miles to Upgrade from Coach?

Some airlines will allow you to upgrade your coach class seats by spending your FF miles to do so.  If you are seriously considering doing so, check with the airline to make sure the coach class fare you book allows you to make such an upgrade.

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In Business Class you can wait in private lounges - instead of sitting at the gate

Shop Early and Shop for Sales

Start your ‘window shopping’ early.  Sometimes airlines will put premium seats on sale and you might just happen upon one of them.  The Scout was doing just that when he happened upon the fare I told you about above -  a fare so good that a premium seat ticket discounter told us he couldn’t match it.

Discount Ticket Agencies

We’ve never yet used one of these places as The Scout is doing a good job for us, but we’ve seen them mentioned as sources of good discounts.  Check out their track record before using one – and if earning FF miles is important to you, make sure the cheap ticket will allow you to earn miles. (Often times discounted tickets are in a class that doesn’t qualify – or qualifies for fewer earned miles).  A Google search turned up any number of agencies advertising cut rates.

Monitor Mileage Award changes to Frequent Flier programs

We are members of Alaska Airlines mileage program and therefore fly their partner airlines to earn miles towards our Alaska account.  We then use them to book Business Class on the partner airlines.
The flight we took in coach class on Delta in December to Greece earned us some 4,000 miles on Alaska. While in Greece, Delta changed its awards program so the return flight earned us less than 2,000 miles. 

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Above Athens, Greece
Happy Travels to you all and thanks for ‘flying’ with us today!  We appreciate the time you spend and love reading your comments and emails! Have you some tips you'd like to share with others about ways to find inexpensive airline tickets. . .coach or premium seats? If so, please do in the comments below or shoot us an email and we will add the tip for you!

This week we are linking up with the fine bloggers at:
Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox  
Our World Tuesday
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route 
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening

42 comments:

  1. Interesting information, Jackie! I used to fly a lot for business and the airline would often send me free First Class upgrade certificates from time to time. I no longer am able to do that and I miss the amenities. Especially leg room! :)

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    1. Oh to have it so good again, Beth! We used to also get First Class upgrades from Alaska Air which was such a treat. . .sigh, 'those were the days'. . . Thanks for dropping by!!

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  2. Useful to know. But especially today, I'm wondering of what will be the future of airtravels...Flying is becoming increasingly more dangerous in the last years I think with all those problems around the world. When I was younger, air travel fascinated me so much but no more. Maybe I'm wrong...
    Thinking of you
    Olympia

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    1. I am a fearful flier - always have been. I used to worry about the mechanical parts working and now I have to worry that fellow passengers might be terrorists and after yesterday's news, now I've added to my 'worry list' the mental state of the airplane pilots. I understand completely, Olympia. Hugs to you~ Jackie

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  3. What an interesting thought to reverse your travel to get better rates.
    Amazing.
    As Olympia just said, it's difficult to wrap our head's around the disasters of some recent international airlines. For me, I know for certain that I will only be flying USA flag carriers, or European major airlines. I may miss some places I've wanted to see but this is so scary, just thinking about it makes me cringe. I love this post! Happy travels !!

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    1. We've always flown Europe's discount carriers once we were over there. And obviously, lived to tell about it. I do think the move by major and discount airlines yesterday to change the regulations regarding one person in the cockpit are a step in the right direction - wish they'd have done it sooner! Thanks for visiting, Marsha - happy weekend to you!

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  4. Thanks for all the tips. I never thought about reversing my route. Considering how much flying we've done, we are horrible with the frequent flier miles. They seem to be spread out over so many airlines that they aren't worth much. Hubby, and only hubby, was once upgraded to Business on a family trip, and he was kind enough to give his seat to me. I think that if we ever let our kids into Business, they'd rebel against going back to Economy.

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    1. We've been obsessively focused on air miles in recent years. And as the airlines, Delta comes to mind, get increasingly stingy with them, we've been less loyal to those companies even if the price is a bit better. My theory is loyalty works both ways. (We are fearful that after two back to back flights in Business Class we many rebel about going back to economy as well!)

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  5. Hi Jackie, I completely agree with you about not paying for Business Class. D and I would always rather put that money towards a nice hotel at our destination. You get a lot more out of a nice room than a seat on an aeroplane. Like you however we do fly Business and Premium Economy from time to time using frequent flyer points. Thanks for the tips. I did have a laugh though at your definition of a long flight - 8 hours or more. Living in Australia we consider 8 hours a lovely short flight. We think of a long flight as more than about 15 hours not including airport wait times.

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    1. Oh Lyn that is so funny about the definition of long flights. We know people who nearly faint at the thought of flying to Hawaii from Seattle (between 5 and 6 hours, depending on direction). I had been going to define a long flight as more than what I did but decided most of the readers probably could related to 8 hours! Glad to have made your acquaintance - hope to see you here often! Jackie

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  6. We don't fly enough to get many miles, but we did get a one-way trip to Las Vegas in first class and a round trip to Hawaii in first class using points for upgrades. Now I have to spend lots on my credit card to build it back up again for another nice adventure. - Margy

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    1. Isn't it just a treat when that number finally reaches a point that you can cash them in Margy? (We do the same with the credit cards. . .and on occasion Joel will ask me how much I am spending to get that 'free' flight ;-) !) Thanks for commenting - come back soon! Jackie

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  7. Most informative dear Jackie!
    Unfortunately there aren't so many good deals flying from NZ - mores the pity... as all our flights are long ones as we're so far from everywhere!!!
    I mentally prepare myself for days before so by the time I'm squeezed into the aircraft , I'm focusing on stepping off at the end of the flight - it's a mind game.
    Our flights are usually to Paris for the reason of visiting our daughter and little ones in France!
    Because we buy our tickets on sale we don't qualify for airpoints.... if you know otherwise please tell me Jackie!
    Happy travels - what gorgeous photographs and good on you two for travelling the world as you do!
    love
    Shane

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    1. Hi Shane, You're not so far from everywhere - what about Australia - lol. With the cricket world cup final on this afternoon is there anyone left in NZ right now, or are they all in Melbourne?

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    2. Hi Shane, Okay so you and Lyn both win when it comes to distances. I have to admit that getting back to Seattle from Sydney was a bit of a bun-numbing experience. We flew JetStar economy to Honolulu and then caught an Alaska Airlines flight - also economy (and I was stuffed into the middle seat next to a woman who really needed to have booked it for herself as well as the one she was in). Sigh. . . I am curious what do you fly to Paris and what is your routing? Thanks much for the visit!!

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  8. I learned the great pleasure of flying business class once with an unexpected upgrade. Looking forward to using some of your suggestions to do it again!

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    1. It is such a difference, isn't it Elaine? Too bad just a bit of its comforts could be returned to those of us who more-often-than-not fly coach.

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  9. Not looking forward to our 11 hour flight from Tel Aviv to Philadelphia on Wednesday night. We are sooooo not flying in business class. Given the degradation of the airlines' frequent flier programs, I'm now loving our Chase Sapphire Credit Card. They let you use points to partially pay for plane tickets even if you don't have enough to cover the entire flight. We crank up our credit card points by buying --- plane tickets. :)

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    1. Capitol One also allows you to use accumulated points for simply buying plane tickets and not searching for those elusive FF seats. I predicted not long ago that the FF benefit will soon be a thing of the past as more of us give up on finding those mythical seats. . .but when you do it is like hitting the jackpot in Vegas! Safe travels home - I've enjoyed your israel updates on FB.

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  10. These are fabulous tips and mirror what we've learned in various travel hacking venues over the years. Only 75k miles for that Emirates flight is a major league score! Give that man a well-deserved martini!

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    1. Well, the 75,000 was for one way, but still beat the price of paying for that one-way ticket (which we would never in a million years have done!). It also gives us the option of now looking for tickets that fly round-trip to Seattle and not from Seattle -- so far, that is a major cost savings!

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  11. Interesting. Need to learn more about this

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    1. It is a lovely way to get from Point A to Point B, especially if those points are dozens of flight hours apart!

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  12. I've only flown Business once...loved it! Thanks for linking up with #wkendtravelinspiration!

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    1. It was love at first sight for me, Corinne! Thanks for hosting such a great linkup -- I look forward to it!

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  13. I did that Emirates flight from Los Angeles-Dubai-Bangkok. It was fabulous. I was in business class. I hope they are serving black pepper chicken when you fly. It was so good--I do wish I could find it in a local restaurant!

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    1. Carole, we have made note of your recommendation for black pepper chicken and will certainly hope it is being served on board. I can't believe I am 'almost' looking forward to this flight . . .even me, the white-knuckler!

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  14. I wish I had thought to ask about upgrading when my friend and I flew back from Ireland. There were empty pods at the front and I would have loved to stretch out in one of them. (haha,like your hubby!) Real glass for your champagne - what a treat!
    Thanks for linking to Mosaic Monday Jackie.

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    1. It is always worth an ask, Judith. Our fave airline, Alaska now posts the upgrade requests on a board above the gate desk. We usually are about number 20 on the hopefuls list! One time it was number 2 on the list - we stood a chance, but it just said, "JSmith" so we laughed at whether that would be Joel or Jackie and if we'd have to flip a coin - never made it up the list to find out! Thanks for stopping by!!!

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  15. Great information and post.. It would be nice to stretch out on a long flight.. have a happy week!

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    1. I am so short Eileen that I can pretty much stretch out, somewhat, in those cramped coach seats, but it will be nice having a real bed. Now I am thinking what do I wear that would be like 'public pajamas' and not look wrinkled when we arrive. Have a great week~

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  16. I flew business class with points twice this year. Now, I am point poor....boo hoo! I do have to say your taxes are much lower than what I paid. Out of Seoul the airlines tend to tax more. Why I don't now. However, four hundred is much better than 1500. :) Now, I have to save my points again!

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    1. Points are our preferred way to travel business class and our upcoming return flight is the first time we've actually paid for Business (and we certainly wouldn't have paid for it had it not been so close to what it cost us to fly coach last year). Afraid we will be spoiled . . .sigh. . .

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  17. Very interesting information, thanks for sharing.

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    1. Glad you found it interesting! Hopefully, you got some useful tips out of it!

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  18. You and the Skipper sure know how to travel in pure style! Champagne, real food, and leg room sounds like heaven in the earthly skies! I don't think I'll ever be able to afford such luxury, so I'll really have to armchair these experiences via your adventures!

    Thanks for sharing, Jackie, and Happy Wednesday!

    Hugs.
    Poppy

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    1. Just save those airline points, Poppy! It can happen! Actually if the plane gets up, stays up, and comes down when and where it is supposed to with little turbulence in between, I don't really care where I am in the plane. Some of the recent news from France and Halifax have put me in my 'Nervous Nellie" state again and I likely won't be able to sleep even though the next flight will offer that option! Happy April 1st!!

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  19. Wow! This is the way to travel! Great information and we'll have to research these options further. Flying coach for short distances in doable but long distances ... It would be so nice to look forward to the journey instead of steeling oneself to just getting through it!

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    1. It is interesting that while I am a white-knuckler I am 'almost' eager for this flight - it will be fun to see what all the hoopla about Emirates business class is about!

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  20. We've got some long trips coming up and I like the suggestion of trying to go in and out from a neighboring city. Boston certainly has quite a few to choose from. Thanks for the tip.

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  21. Lots of good tips - it does make traveling easier when you travel Business or First. I got spoiled at work where they always flew me first class; but paying for it on our own is a tough nut to swallow. We did do it when flying to and from Israel, and it was really worth it!

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So happy to see you took the time to comment. We read them all - and each is much appreciated. We hope you will be a regular here and comment often!

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