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.
If you’re done with intricate schemes for winning cheap first class tickets on airlines, there’s a perfect alternative. Just consider it only works at busy times when flights are overbooked. Test your luck! Don’t reserve your seat and be late for your plane – if the day is yours, you might get a free upgrade. Yet schedule your time carefully: if you arrive after the check-in is over, you will likely miss the entire trip.
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.
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.
How to book it for less than coach: Good news for U.S.-based fliers: Cathay is a member of the Oneworld airline alliance, along with American Airlines Inc., so you can use AAdvantage miles for award tickets on the Asian carrier. That costs 110,000 miles each way from the airline’s hub in Hong Kong to the continental U.S., or 90,000 miles each way between Hong Kong and Europe. Have Alaska Airlines miles? You’re in even better luck. It costs only 70,000 Alaska miles for a one-way, first-class ticket between Asia and the U.S. or Europe. Pro tip: Cathay often opens up award seats at the last minute, so spontaneous travelers can be handsomely rewarded.
Not always airlines spread the word about first class ticket sales. Sometimes, upgrades are available to customers who only book their tickets on the website. They offer you discounted first class seats after you’ve already reserved one in coach class. Offers might pop up as you book a flight or check in for it so remember to constantly monitor your reservation online.
Another way to join is to get a BA American Express card, which automatically lets you in. It's also one of the best-paying reward schemes on the market, paying points for normal spending on the card, and if you hit a certain amount, giving a free 'companion flight' on top. Always set up a direct debit to pay it off in full each month – otherwise it's 22.9% representative APR. See the Airline Credit Cards guide for more details.
First class service was formerly available on intra-European flights on airlines such as British Airways, Lufthansa and Swissair. First class seats were typically configured in a 4-abreast configuration, similar to current North American domestic first class seats, rather than the 6-abreast configuration used for economy and latterly business class services.