During the 1980s European first class was largely phased out in favour of 6-abreast seating throughout the aircraft, with variable numbers of seats allocated to business class (the business class cabin often being marked with a moveable divider). This allowed greater flexibility for the airlines, allowing them to allocate differing amounts of premium seating depending on the route. Turkish Airlines are one of the few European airlines still offering 4-abreast seating in their premium intra-Europe cabins, but they're sold as business class seats rather than first class. Same situation is in Russia onboard Aeroflot – Russian Airlines intra-Europe flights.
If that sounds like a small number, it is. It’s even smaller considering that there are only six suites per aircraft. Each suite has 40 square feet of completely enclosed personal space—a first for any airline—with stitched-leather seating created in collaboration with Mercedes-Benz and inspired by the automaker’s S-Class vehicles. The seats also have in-suite minibars, personal temperature zones and mood lighting, and a privacy hatch for meal service.
Joe also recounts that Air France emailed him a couple of times on the day of departure offering a cheap (not free) upgrade. “I’ve twice missed this because I didn’t check my emails close enough to departure. One of these times I had even called the airline to ask if they had any deals and they said no! So keep checking your emails even up to a couple of hours before you fly.”
All of the major U.S. frequent flier programs now let you book one-way tickets with your miles for half the price of a round trip. If you have a stash of miles, consider using them one way and buying a return ticket that originates outside the U.S. Thanks to the strong dollar, there are many fares below $2,000 round trip to the U.S. this summer, like Copenhagen to New York for less than $1,400 and Dublin to Chicago for less than $1,600.
4. Use Elite or Airline Credit Cards. Some of the mid-tier cards offer travel rewards, but the elite travel cards are where to find the real perks. Cards such as American Express Platinum, Chase Sapphire Preferred, and some of the co-branded cards like the Delta SkyMiles American Express card or the United MileagePlus Explorer Card offer big bonuses if you sign up and spend a certain amount within a short period of time.
Complimentary black car chauffeur transfers, exclusive airline lounges, priority check-in, boarding and baggage handling, free checked luggage and extra frequent flyer points are all just a tip of the iceberg. Redefine your travel experience with comfort fit for royalty; succulent made-to-order meals designed by Michelin-starred chefs, hand-picked wines from the world's top wineries and decadent desserts to die for - all ready when you are. Unwind with a sky-high massage, an in-flight shower or a signature cocktail at the bar or simply recline in your seat with countless hours of five-star seat-back entertainment.
2. Remain Loyal. Airline loyalty programs aren't what they used to be. Even if you’re a frequent traveler, the perks you receive aren't nearly what they once were. All the same, those miles will add up and eventually you can use them for a free upgrade. But watch the expiration dates and make sure to read all e-mails that come from the airline. Don’t let points expire.
I don’t care how fancy the hotel is, my room has to have a bath. I would absolutely look out on a car park and a wall as long as I could have a bath in my room, rather than a shower. I’ve changed rooms in hotels, taking a smaller one, so I could have a better bath. The best one I’ve ever seen was at the Post Ranch Inn in California. My favorite rooms are built into the cliff, right on the Pacific Ocean; it’s not even a view, because you’re in the view. They have huge, square baths, like a high-end hot tub. You could live in it, it’s so nice. It’s very deep, the water is very hot, and everything smells of lavender, which I love, and there’s a proper wood fire with logs. It feels a bit like classic Twin Peaks. That’s the most beautiful hotel in the world.
I love the winter scent, by the White Company, which is literally the smell of Christmas for me—and I’m obsessed with Christmas. But it doesn’t come in small bottles or anything you can really decant. So I have the room spray, and I spray it on absolutely everything: my cashmere scarf, full of holes, that I travel with, always; the inside of my suitcase; any piece of hand luggage; inside my shoes; my socks. I go to town with it. If I am going to die in a twisted, white hot, melting fuselage at 30,000 feet, I want to do it smelling of cinnamon and cloves. I want to do it festively.
While you may balk at first, smaller carriers have upped their game in recent years. LOT Polish and Hainan Airlines, to take two examples, often offer very low prices from Europe and Asia to the U.S., and all of their international service is on brand-new aircraft with lie-flat seating. You'll need to shop carefully: Some airlines like Norwegian, Condor, and Air Transat offer a business-class fare, but the actual onboard amenities are not comparable to what you'll find on more established international carriers.
You don’t have to be elite by birth to become an elite flyer. Your credit card can actually help you to get special status. All major airlines offer their customers co-branded credit cards that allow earning miles and using those to get an upgrade to first or business class. Even though most airlines charge certain fees for that, you’re still able to hugely economize. There are also travel-themed credit cards, such as Capital One Venture Rewards, Chase Sapphire Preferred, Discover it Miles etc., you can use flying with major air carriers.
Ask your travel agent. My own travel agent has a relationship with certain airlines that let her book her customers into preferred seats that are not released to everyone (usually toward the front of the plane, in exit rows and the like). She can also see upgrade availability fairly quickly, and many agents can add comments to your reservation that increase your chances of being chosen for an upgrade. Ask about these the next time you talk to your travel agent.
The best deals to international destinations are often short lived, so alerts can get you in on the action. FirstClassFlyer.com has a monthly newsletter and curated fare alerts for paying subscribers. The Twitter feed of TheFlightDeal has nothing but low fare alerts, though most are for coach fares. And, if you want to do it yourself, the "Premium Fare Deals" forum on FlyerTalk is often the first source of some great offers.
Just be nice is my advice. So many people are so nasty to the agents at the desks and to the flight attendants. It’s not their fault the flight is delayed due to weather, that’s the hazards of flying in the winter. Mother Nature is unpredictable. Plan for the worst and hope for the best but always be nice. I used to travel with a friend that worked for an airline. Her advice was be nice and go with the flow. Only take a carry on bag because it is much easier to change flights and accommodate you and your fellow companions. Always say please and thank you to the agents and attendants, you just might make their day a little brighter in this crazy go go go world.
Another benefit of flying First Class is access to exclusive airline lounges. Most major airlines have a collection of lounges throughout the world, and most also have a network of partner airline lounges you can access if flying First Class. Common features of airline lounges include WiFi, restaurant quality meal and beverages, televisions, reading material, showers and computers. Refer to your airline for more information on the lounges offered.
Another low-cost carrier that offers a more affordable business class is Jetstar Business. Called the ‘poor man’s business class’ by one reviewer, you can’t argue with low airfares. Leather seats that recline 20cm, with leg-rests and adjustable lumbar support increase the comfort factor. In business class, entertainment is provided via complimentary iPads (which economy class passengers have to pay for). You can also enjoy amenity kits, pillows and blankets.
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We know that in today’s economy, ever-changing markets and far-reaching hubs of industry, first class flights have become an even greater necessity but can be very costly to any company trying to keep an eye on the bottom line while still doing business effectively, both domestically and internationally. Booking a cheap first class flight used to be a time-consuming process, but not anymore.
Over the past years, first class travel has been undergoing unprecedented improvements, as more airlines upgrade their “upper decks” to meet the growing expectations of the most discerning fryers. At the same time, a growing number of carriers choose aggressive pricing strategies, offering volume discounts and wholesale first class airfares through select consolidators with results-proven distribution channels.
Don’t get me wrong — when I am filing past the first few rows of seats on my way to the back of the plane, those big leather seats with folks already drinking wine in them have a strong allure. But those seats come with a cost, whether in cash or in miles, and on domestic flights you don’t get all that much more than the folks in coach — it’s usually the same meals, albeit for “free,” the same headphones with the same movies or DirecTV, and the same limited seat incline.
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If you're going to ask, being polite and undemanding and doing it with a cheeky smile is the best way. And be prepared for them to answer that you can pay for an upgrade. If they do, try haggling down the price. Some airline staff report that very occasionally, even when they have to upgrade because of space shortages, they're told to ask people to pay – and if they won't pay, they give the upgrade anyway.
But Matrix can show you the discounted fares too (as many frequent fliers and travel hackers know). Matrix, as we've mentioned before, is the Google-owned software that powers the most popular travel search engines, as well as many airlines and travel agents' tools. To find the discounted fares, all you have to do is choose "Business class or higher" in the search box. The Y-Up fares are rolled into the search results and show the seats as first class.
When it comes to flight upgrades, the airlines are caught in what is viewed by many to be a real Catch-22. Like any business, the airlines have an obligation to maximize revenue and make money for the company. Part of this revenue is generated from the outright sale of tickets in their Premium cabins - First Class and Business Class. However, they also have an obligation to their best customers, namely the frequent flyer and more specifically the Elite flyer to offer flight upgrades and other incentives. Maintaining, and even growing, the base of frequent flyers of an airline depends almost entirely on the "value" of their frequent flyer programs, especially for Elite members. The value of most programs is often judged by the number of seats an airline allocates for either free or mileage upgrades in the very same Premium cabins they are obligated to sell. Hence the Catch-22.