Should You Fly First Class -Tips You Need To Know

When you are planning a trip involving airline travel one consideration is which class to book your flight. Most of us end up booking economy tickets, yet dream about riding in the front of the plane in the luxury and decadence of first class.

American Airlines First Class

If you are in the financial bracket that can afford first class all the time this post may not be for you. But if like me you typically travel on a budget, here are 8 times you may want to consider booking your flight in Business/First class.

Domestic Flights

Personally I don’t bother with paying the extra (or heaven forbid, wasting miles) on flying first class on domestic flights. Here in the U.S. most domestic flights are no longer than 5 or 5 1/2 hours. For the extra cost of first class you get a slightly bigger seat (1.5x) get to board early and get a free glass of crappy wine or non-top shelf spirits. For the cost differential you might as well just buy yourself a couple of drinks and just ride in the main cabin.

International Flights

My theory with international flights is that if the flight is less than 8 hours, for example Chicago to Dublin, which is 7 hours, it’s not worth the extra cost. If a flight is 8 hours or more it can be a really great option to turn left when you are boarding!

champgne in first class on al italia
“Ms Cooke, can I interest you in a pre-flight glass of wine?”
“Actually, it just so happens you can…”

Some of the benefits flying Business or First class internationally include extra luggage allowance, use of the club lounge in the airport (which can be worth its weight in gold), early boarding – there are an average of 300 people getting on this flight so it helps to get ahead of the crush, and in most cases have a separate entrance onto the plane.

business class menu on alitalia flight from LAX to Rome
The food was actually pretty fabulous

You get greeted by name, escorted to your seat, your coat is hung up for you. There are pre-flight champagne, a la carte menus and you eat from real plates, have real cups and glasses, and best of all you have a wide seat that lies down flat so you can sleep. It’s fabulous!

International business class food on American Airlines
Business class appetizer on American Airlines flight from Paris

Related Post: 10 Best Tips To Help You Sleep On A Plane

When Should You Fly First Class?

Let me preface this by saying I am a single mom so don’t normally factor first or business class flights into my travel budget.

I generally find that most international flights seem to have a hybrid first/business class instead of the old school economy, business and first class configuration. When I talk about first class for the most part that is the first/business combo.

I tend to buy economy tickets but by using the tips and tactics I tell you about in my book Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy: Secrets To Glamorous Travel (On A Not So Glamorous Budget) I get upgraded a lot. Not quite half the time I fly, but close to it. I doubt I will ever spend $6000 on a business class ticket, but I do sometimes pay for an upgrade – I just don’t pay much for it.

But let’s look at 8 times you might want to fly first class

1. When It Is A Really Long Flight

I have a personal (budget) rule that I won’t pay to upgrade to business class on any flight that is less than 8 hours. On international flights anything under 8 hours is in my mind not worth the extra cost – I’ll keep the money for shopping.

However when you are flying 8 hours or more, I think it is really worthwhile, especially if you get a good deal on your ticket. Flying from Los Angeles to Australia or to the main hubs in Asia can take 14 to 16 hours, with L.A – Asia being the hardest route on your body for jet lag. I do my best to get upgraded or find a deal on a business or first class seat on those flights.

2. When You Have To Work

If you have to work during the flight, be that prep for a meeting or get a paper written etc, that business class seat can be a Godsend. Not only do you have the benefit of a good sleep and arriving well rested, but also your seat table converts into a really good desk space too.

Business class American Airlines Barcelona to JFK
The table on the seat across from mine on a flight from Barcelona. Plenty big enough to use as a desk and get work done during the flight. Or to line up drinks…

One of the flights to Milan that I flew up front on had seats that converted into office style leather chairs that turned to face the window, where the side panel turned into a perfect desk space. It was really cool, and if you were working (I wasn’t) would have been incredibly functional.

Want to know how I fly around the world for free? Read this blog post where I explain it all!

3. When It Is A Special Occasion

Another great time to splurge and fly first class/business class is when it is a special occasion. Honeymoons, anniversaries, major birthdays all are great opportunities or excuses to turn left when you board that international flight!

Corinna Bs World first class American Airlines
Flying home from Barcelona in Business/First Class on American Airlines on a birthday trip.

4. When You Are Exhausted

When you arrive at the airport completely exhausted, flying business class or first class can be a game changer. Having the ability to lie flat in a comfortable bed-chair with a fluffy pillow and a comforter in the quiet that happens in front of the engines (no annoying engine hum to keep you awake) is just fantastic.

First class seat on American Airlines international flight

A couple of years ago I arrived at the airport in Los Angeles beyond exhausted after having worked 7 days per week for weeks on end. I was flying to Paris to work and wasn’t looking forward to being in a cramped seat for 12 hours. I was upgraded to business/first class, and although I barely slept because it was too fabulous to miss one minute of, I still arrived at Charles de Gaulle feeling rested and ready to take on the world!

Want to know how I get upgraded so often on international flights? I go into detail on how I do it in my book Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy: Secrets To Glamorous Travel (On A Not So Glamorous Budget)

5. When You Need Pampering

Sometimes life gets difficult and you just need pampering. (I pretty much always feel like I need pampering) If I had the disposable income available I would fly up front all the time, but of course I don’t and can’t. But if you need or feel like being pampered in the air and your budget allows for it, try flying business/first class at least once in your life.

6. When Jet Lag and DVT Are A Real Concern

Jet lag happens due to crossing multiple time zones flying east/west. You can’t get jet lag flying north/south. There are many factors that contribute to jet lag and travel fatigue but I sincerely believe that lack of comfort on long flights contributes to them. I have never deplaned from business/first class and felt anything less than fantastic. If you have to bop off that long international flight and roll into a garden party looking your most fabulous, this could be the answer!

RELATED POST: HOW TO BEAT JET LAG

DVT or Deep Vein Thrombosis is very, very serious. Also known as an economy class disorder, it doesn’t happen nearly as much in business class or first class. Basically DVT is deep vein blood clots that primarily occur in the lower legs, sometimes upper legs. Those clots can then dislodge and work their way into the lungs causing pulmonary embolism. DVT can be fatal.

I always recommend taking an aspirin before you fly to thin out your blood, (in case that actually works) and to wear compression socks or hose to keep pushing the blood and fluids up and stop them pooling in your lower extremities. Studies have shown that keeping the feet/legs elevated on long haul flights is a powerful remedy. If you are at risk for DVT and have a long flight coming up, getting an upgrade or buying a business class seat can be invaluable.

If that isn’t in you budget it is worth your while to pay for an exit row or bulkhead seat and once the seat belt sign has turned off put your carry on bag on the floor in front of you and rest your feet on it. Most Premium Economy seats have a bar that comes down below the seat in front of you to rest your feet on. When it comes to DVT you have to do whatever you can to avoid it.

7. When The Price Is Right

Sometimes you can get lucky and find deals where Business/First class doesn’t cost much more than economy. This is especially true on days that aren’t popular flight days. Always check the prices the consolidators have and click on their business and first class options as well as economy. Every so often you will find a flight that is priced too low for Business/First. When you see it, grab it!

Al Italia Business Class
An ottoman to put your feet up on (the seat lies out into a flat bed incorporating the ottoman) with a hotel pillow and fluffy comforter. Alitalia Business Class

8. When The Timing Is Right

Other times you can get lucky and find your way into an airline computer glitch. Should you find some ridiculously low fare, jump on it. If you don’t someone else will, or when you come back after thinking about it the airline will have already corrected it.

And sometimes the airline just makes mistakes. Last year I flew Los Angeles – Amsterdam – Rome. The airline emailed me and offered me an upgrade on the Amsterdam to Rome connection for $221. Normally I would have declined as it was a short flight, but I had to get through passport control in Amsterdam and back to the gate, and I figured a business class connection might help me. Somehow the airline’s computer messed up and instead of just putting me in seat 2A on the Amsterdam to Rome flight it put me in 2A all the way!

On top of that there was bad weather in Amsterdam and we had a four hour delay. The upgrade gave me entry into the club lounge in Amsterdam and then when my business class flight arrived into Rome too late for me to catch my train to Florence I was comped a hotel room for the night!

Keep your eye out for airline errors and take advantage of them.

Bonus

Does the thought of planning a trip or getting organized to leave on one feel a bit overwhelming or stressful? I have a set of Free Resources to help you plan, organize and get ready for your trip. These are the same travel planners, questionnaires and checklists I give to my Glam Italia Tour travelers. This is a set of PDF’s that you can use over and over. Get Your Free Resources HERE

Hidden City Flights – What you Need To Know Before You Buy

When I fly to Europe I always start my trip in Los Angeles, where I don’t live, instead of Phoenix, where I do live. It saves me as much as $800 on my round trip flight. I will fly to L.A on Southwest airlines for around $50 each way and with no checked luggage fee (yay Southwest!) which means my total flight cost goes up, but I still end up saving $650+ on my airfare.

Sometimes as stupid as it may seem, my flight from L.A routes back through Phoenix on its way to or from Europe.

But it costs me massively less money to not start or finish my air travel here. I can’t just get on the plane in Phoenix and I can’t just get off it here either, unless I want to pay hundreds of dollars more.

Last year my flight from Rome to JFK got delayed and so I missed my connecting flight. The fabulous person from Delta Airlines told me “Honey this is just plain dumb. I’m putting you on a direct flight to Phoenix!”, saving me hours of extra travel time.

Theoretically I could have just deplaned at Phoenix anyway (if I didn’t have checked bags), making it a hidden city flight, but I had bags checked through to Los Angeles, so that tactic wouldn’t have worked. So God bless the Delta Airlines transfer desk staff!

But it brings me to what I want to talk to you about today, and that is Hidden City Flights, or Hidden City Ticketing, and what you need to know about them.

What You Need To Know About Hidden City Flights

Hidden City Flights

What Is A Hidden City Flight?

So what exactly is a hidden city flight??

Say you want to fly from Los Angeles To Philadelphia and the ticket costs $795. (I’m making up prices for the sake of the example). Then when you dig a little deeper you find a flight from Los Angeles to Chicago that routes through Philly, for $375. You could buy the cheaper L.A – Philly – Chicago flight and just get off at the Philly stopover, saving yourself $420. Philadelphia would be the “hidden city”.

Hidden city ticketing or booking a hidden city flight in this example would be booking that flight to Chicago, but not continuing past Philadelphia.

Seems smart, right? Maybe not…

RELATED POST: 7 GREAT TRAVEL HACKS TO SEE THE WORLD ON A SHOESTRING BUDGET

Are There Restrictions?

If you were to book a hidden city flight there are some restrictions you would need to be aware of.

Cabin Bags Only

You can’t check bags if you are doing a hidden city flight. When you check luggage it gets checked through to your final destination, so in the above scenario the suitcase would go to Chicago and you would be in Philly.

Taking carry on only can be tricky too – if the overhead bins are small or if they are full the gate agent may have to check your bag before you can get on the plane. They don’t check it to the next stop, they check it to the final stop.

One Way Only

You can only do this on one way flights. If you miss a leg of your flight it cancels out the entirety of the rest of your ticket. So with the example above had you purchased a round trip Los Angeles to Chicago flight you would forfeit everything after that first Philly stop.

No Frequent Flier Miles

You can’t use your frequent flier miles when you do this. There is a chance that the airline will invalidate your frequent flier account if you do.

If There’s An International Connection

If you are part of a flight plan that is international you will need to have your passport and any required visas for the final destination.

Here is an example, and again I am making this up. If you wanted to go from Seattle to Chicago and the airfare was $725 but you found a super cheap flight from Seattle to Iceland for $300, and the flight plan was Seattle – Chicago – Rekyavik you would have to show your passport at check in, even though the flight to Iceland was departing from Chicago. Technically once you landed in Chicago you would be walking to a transfer gate, and not passing back through airport security.

Even though we don’t need a travel visa for Iceland, for the sake of the example let’s pretend that a US passport required an entry visa for Iceland, you would had to have acquired it prior to going to the airport.

RELATED POST: WHY IT’S BETTER TO BE A TRAVELER THAN A TOURIST

Is It Legal?

A website called Skiplagged uses this technique to get cheap flights. Both Orbitz and United Airlines have filed federal lawsuits against Skiplagged, but lost due to a technicality. The contract is between the passenger and the airline, not Skiplagged and the airline. Sooooo you could be the one on the hook.

As far as I know (and I’m not a lawyer) using this loophole is not illegal. It is controversial, is probably unethical, and can have consequences.

Airplane

Consequences

The Visa Application

There is a chance that you could be breaking the law with your visa application. I haven’t had to do one for a while, but last time I did I had to specify the dates that I would be in the other country, and provide a reason for my travel. You could be opening yourself up to a world of trouble. Without knowing the specific legalities I would emphatically advise against it. You just don’t know when something like this could come back to haunt you.

Re-Routing

Planes sometimes get re-routed. There can be many reasons why, from weather to a passenger getting sick during the flight, to an airplane issue, to a terror threat, to who only knows what else. If you fly often enough you will at some point run into re-routed flights.

Using our L.A – Philly – Chicago example you could find that there was a maintenance problem with that plane so now all the Chicago passengers are being put on a plane that is going from L.A to Dulles to Chicago, and the Philly passengers are being put on a later flight. You would have no recourse in this situation, and the airline would not have to get you on a plane to Philadelphia.

Global Priority and TSA Pre-Check

Everything you do is tracked now, so you have to question whether you are jeopardizing your Global Priority or TSA Pre Check status, or perhaps making yourself ineligible to get them down the line. Just because you don’t have or want them now doesn’t mean you won’t in the future.

RELATED POST: 11 CREDIT CARD TIPS FOR INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL

Ethics

There is an ethical question involved with this too, and this is what really bothers me with the concept. If the airline hasn’t been informed that you are not getting back on board, the plane will sit there on the tarmac while they try to find you. There are layers of follow on problems that can cause for other passengers.

Those who are on their way to an international connection can miss that flight, causing them to lose the first day/days of their vacation.

Passengers with a tight connection to another domestic flight can end up missing it because everyone is searching for you.

Airport security now has to find a missing passenger inside an airport terminal – just think for a minute as to how much chaos that can create. In a post 9/11 world I have zero patience or tolerance for any airport hijinx.

The plane can’t take off until they are certain that you didn’t have any checked bags and that you haven’t left anything on board.

These days most of the flights that I go on seem to be full, which means that there is a good chance that someone else needed that seat that you disappeared from.

Conclusion

I fly a lot and would not be willing to take the risk of doing a hidden city flight. I am always working the angles, looking for cheaper ways to fly and looking for the best possible deals, and although this may initially sound like a good idea I don’t think it’s worth it.

I am also a huge advocate for on-time flights and air travel safety, so although I get that its a money saving concept, it doesn’t sit well with me. I wouldn’t do it.

What are your thoughts?

Have you read my book? Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy is available worldwide on Amazon.com


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