How to find the cheapest business class airlines

19 Feb 2024 · 10
There is little about “economy class” that is truly economical. At least, not by the time you add in the not-so-hidden extra fees, the inconvenience and the discomfort. So does this mean  the reclining seats and extra legroom of business class are out of reach unless your business wins the lottery?
Not necessarily. Road warriors are tough and savvy, and you can use your business traveller miles to book better flights without blowing your budget. But if you hope to score cheap business class tickets for yourself or your employees, you have to understand what drives fares for different cabin seats, which airlines offer cheap flights and what’s reasonable to expect.
We’ll help you understand all the ins-and-outs so you can start getting the best business class fares—without the hassle.
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Airlines with the least expensive business class

Many leisure airlines now promote themselves as low-cost carriers for savvy vacationers. Similarly, when it comes to business class flight deals, some airlines are routinely a better bet for cheap flights. And while “business class” standards can vary dramatically, the lowest cost doesn’t always mean the fewest perks. So, which airlines have the least expensive business class airfares?

Depending on your route routes, these airlines will be worth looking into:
  • Aer Lingus
  • Aero Mexico
  • Air Asia
  • Avianca
  • British Airways 
  • Emirates Icelandair
  • JetBlue
  • Jetstar Airways (a subsidiary of Qantas)
  • Norwegian Air (which claims status as the world’s best low-cost carrier for long-haul flights)
  • TAP Portugal
  • Turkish Airlines
Keep in mind that air travel and airlines are constantly evolving, so what is true today may not be true tomorrow. It always pays to compare before you buy. That said, you shouldn’t only look at outright cost. 
As noted, what you get for those cheap business class tickets might be a magnificent array of amenities without any service fees, or it might be barely better than coach. You might not care on a short flight, but the longer you’ll be in that seat the more you’ll appreciate a quality experience.
Some airlines even offer periodic discounts on business class. Flying business class means you can also save money by avoiding service fees for everything from airport lounge entry to baggage check and in-flight entertainment.
That said, the perks associated with business class are vastly different from one airline to another, so if you’re expecting a lie-flat bed or posh treatment, research airlines before you look for cheap flights.
For example, La Compagnie, a French carrier that offers 100% business class seating, regularly offers sales and BOGO deals on business class fares. And Cathay Pacific, Etihad (a UAE-based airline) and Virgin Atlantic all allow travellers on select flights to place a bid to upgrade their seats to Business or First class.

When is the best time to fly business class?

Not surprisingly, supply and demand can drive business class costs up or down. Fly to a popular destination during high season, and expect to pay a lot. During low season, you may more easily score a cheap business fare.
But there are other factors that affect the best time to buy business class flights, including day of the week. Weekends are the most expensive days to fly, while Tuesdays are easiest to get a cheap deal. If you can be flexible with your travel dates, you can  save big.
Booking last-minute will virtually guarantee the highest possible price. Airlines know last-minute travellers are  desperate to secure a seat, at any price, so they increase fares as the flight date nears. One of the best travel tips you’ll find: book business class flights  at least 21 days out and you’ll have the best shot at landing cheap business class flights.

Where are the best destinations for business class tickets?

Unlike economy, there aren’t always business class flights available on every route, and some destinations are easier to score cheap business class tickets for than others. For example, business class routes from the US to Europe are easy to find, but multi-city routes tend to be difficult to find first-class fares.
Some of the most popular first-class destinations that you can often score good deals on include:
  • London 
  • San Francisco (SFO)
  • Paris 
  • Madrid
  • Rome
  • New York (JFK or Newark airports) 
  • Los Angeles (LAX) 
  • Boston
  • Tokyo, Japan
If you can’t find a business class fare for the route you’re taking, check out Premium Economy! There will be more amenities and better seats, but for a cheaper price than traditional business class. It’s a great way to get the best of both worlds. 

How can you track business class discounts and flight prices?

You can find discounted fares on international flights as well as short, domestic routes if you learn the best ways to track fares and keep your eyes open for bargains:
  • Watch individual airline websites for special promotions or online fare auctions
  • Bookmark websites such as First Class Flyer and MightyTravels that highlight deals on premium airfare. You can also sign up for fare alerts through aggregators like  Google Flights
  • Follow cheap fares blogs such as AirfareSpot, The Points Guy, No Mas Coach, and View from the Wing
  • Take quick advantage of mistakes. Airlines are known to accidentally advertise one-way fares as round-trip or inaccurately list prices, and most of the time they’ll honor what they promoted if you book
  • Talk to about discounted fares and how to skip paying service fees
  • Book with a low-cost carrier. For example, JetBlue and Icelandic Air WOW offer cheap business class tickets with nice amenities like priority check-in and additional baggage allowance. Just keep in mind that you probably won’t find any lie-flat seats.

When do airlines offer discounts on business class?

Aside from periodic special promotions of one kind or another, you may also score cheap business flights if you plan your travel during school holidays. While economy may be packed with families, business and first class seats often go empty because parents are on break with the kids.
One option that’s always in season is . You can use accrued miles (loyalty points) from airline rewards programmes to purchase upgrades to business class if seats are available, or even buy your entire ticket if you have enough points. 
You can also take a chance on using miles to upgrade at check-in. However,the closer you are to flight time, the less likely there will be space available to upgrade.

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How to get an upgrade to business class

Back in the not-so-distant old days, airlines would upgrade passengers to a premium cabin seat, especially if you were a loyal frequent flyer,  just as a courtesy, if there was space. Today, upgrading as a courtesy has generally been replaced by computer-generated eligibility based on factors such as loyalty programme status or frequent flyer miles. 
If you’re trying to score an upgrade, keep in mind that airlines are more likely to upgrade passengers when the main cabin is full. Since many airlines deliberately oversell seats, they may need to shift some passengers to business/first class to accommodate everyone. It’s easier to move a business person travelling alone than couples or families.
If you’re looking to score an on-the-spot upgrade, keep these tips in mind: 
  • Racking up miles as a frequent flyer is a great way to improve your chances of future upgrades. Attaining elite status with an airline opens the door to occasional automatic upgrades, but you can also use miles to “buy” an upgrade if seating is available.
  • Check in as early as possible if you’re hoping to buy a last-minute upgrade, so you’ll have the best chance of availability
  • If the airline has seriously inconvenienced you by fouling up your travel plans, ask if you can get an upgrade to business/first class for your rebooked flight, if possible
  • If your company works with a , ask their rep if they can boost your seating quality

Join airline rewards programmes

One of the most reliable solutions to getting better service and cheaper business class fares is to join an airline rewards programme. There is no downside to doing this, and the benefits can be considerable. Sign up for the loyalty programme of every airline your employer uses for business travel before you ever book, so you don’t miss out on miles. 
Most companies allow , which means you can use those points to purchase future tickets or upgrades for business trips or personal travel.
If you rack up enough points with a specific airline, you can achieve elite status, which comes with additional perks – things such as exclusive security lines, airport lounge memberships, free bag check, and early boarding.
Most airlines and travel-associated credit cards also offer sign-up bonuses, either a big slug of miles to get you started or a free upgrade to a premium seat. Right away, you benefit. But the real value is in the accrual of miles/points you can redeem for already-cheap business class tickets and upgrades. 
You earn points every time you purchase a ticket, and every time you use the credit card. Even better: credit card points are often applicable to hotel stays and other travel-related needs as well as airfare.

Are business class flights cheaper with a package?

Instead of looking for cheap business class tickets, some travellers opt to purchase a package that includes hotel and other travel-related needs as well as the flight.  In many cases, you can save money by bundling, but for business travel, beware. If something goes awry with one part of your package, such as weather-related cancellations, that will affect (negatively, no doubt) the rest of your arrangements as well.
On the upside, for last-minute business trips, helping offset or even erase the high cost of last-minute flight tickets.

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To recap, when looking for cheap business class fares, keep the following in mind: 
  • Timing: booking as early as possible is always better than last-minute. Less convenient scheduling is usually cheaper. And if you can be flexible regarding which day(s) you travel, you might just be able to find cheaper fares. 
  • Destination: low fares are unlikely to hot spots during high season.
  • Airline: some airlines offer discounts on business class fares, or provide business class seats and upgrades at cheaper prices than others. 
  • Total cost: what do you get for your purchase versus what are you sacrificing? Intangibles such as having to make multiple connections, travel at a weird time, stay in a hotel that’s inconveniently located, or foregoing that lie-flat bed you so wanted can outweigh monetary savings.
  • Frequent flyer miles: use ’em if you’ve got ’em!
 Once you know how to play the game, you’ll realize there’s plenty of cheap business class flights to be had. For cheaper business class fares every time, working with can help you find the best deals and get fares that aren’t available to the general public. TravelPerk is an all-in-one travel planning and management platform for businesses who want to provide superior travel experiences for their employees, without breaking the bank. 
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