Guide: How to Get First and Business Class Seats for Less
Updated: Aug 26, 2020
How to score a great seat at a crazy good price
by Siri Kay Jostad
Everyone wants to fly in style,
and no one wants to fork over the cash to live that First/Business Class dream.
Turns out...you don't really have to and I'm going to show you how.
Not All First and Business Class Seats are Equal...
Airlines age and so do their First and Business Class offerings. When you pay the big bucks, this is going to matter to you. It absolutely makes it worth your time to do a little advance recon. I have a total system that leaves my friends in awe (and sort of makes ME the ad hoc travel planner for my BFFs). Once you do it a time or two, it will get easier.
How I Score a Great Seat at a Cheap Price
Learn Which Airlines Fly Your Route
Multiple airlines fly almost every route in the World, so you normally have lots of choice.
When looking at the options, pay attention to the routing.
I travel out of San Diego, California. This means, if I am traveling East towards Europe, there is a strong probability that my flight will stop somewhere before it heads out over the Atlantic.
Typically for me that means, depending on the airline, a stop in Salt Lake City, Dallas, Atlanta, Minneapolis or New York.
To be up front, the ENTIRE reason I get a First or Business Class seat is so that I can lay down and sleep. I just can't function without enough sleep. And I'm of the mindset, why would I waste a minute of a vacation trying to catch up on the lack of sleep from a rough, long flight? Too many times I flew home in Coach bobble-head exhausted from 14+ hours sitting up in an uncomfortable seat with increasingly less leg room, leaning my forehead against the tilted-back seat of the passenger in front of me, unsuccessfully attempting to doze off. Ugh.
If you feel the same, then it's important you check to be sure that the seat you are booking is a 'lie flat' seat...meaning it folds into a flat bed. Stretch them legs out and find yourself in dreamland baby!
When I pay the big bucks (even if discounted) for a perfect seat, I want to ensure that I have that seat for the longest duration of time on my journey. If I have to stopover domestically, it means almost 100% I won't get that lay flat bed seat until the over-water portion of the long-haul flight. It also means that potentially for up to 5 hours, I will simply be flying in a wider seat with more leg room. Thus, I choose my airline and my routing based on having that lay-flat bed for the longest leg of the flight. For me, that means hubbing through Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland or Seattle, even Salt Lake City. I can handle an hour or two in a nice wide seat to secure the 10+ hours of laying down flat and sleeping.
Typically on my outbound flight, I'm excited, awake and could probably live with slightly less perfection, but I always have my eye on that long return flight, when I'm potentially worn out (exhausted?) from traveling, when the direction of the jet lag is more challenging, and when I want to secure the longest block of uninterrupted sleep I can.
To discover what type of plane you're looking at simply Google the airline and flight number.
For example: search United flight 58 San Francisco to Frankfurt and in the details section of the results you will see something like this:
The plane for that route is a Boeing 777-300ER. Repeat for each of the airlines and routes you are econsidering. Keep in mind, airlines fly different planes between different cities. If you are flying United Polaris Business Class SFO to Frankfurt, your plane and experience may be different if you return Munich to SFO.
You will use this information in the next step.
Study First and Business Class reviews
Next go online and search for First and Business Class reviews.
After years of watching airline reviews, my favorites and most reliable come from The Points Guy. In the search bar of his site, just type in the the airline, the type of plane and the route. For routes he hasn't reviewed there are plenty of other reviewers online to help inform your choice. Simply Google it.
Pick the Perfect Seat on the Plane
Just like all First/Business Class is not the same, neither is every seat in that class! Yes, it's sort of surprising how big the differences can be for seats sold at the same price. It's not so much the physicality of the seat itself, it's about more minor details like is it near a bathroom? Does it have a window? Is there less storage for some reason? And so on.
I use Seat Guru for this part of the research.
Simply type in the airline and flight number, choose the route and viola! Full seat map. Hover over each seat and get pop-ups that tell you details like this:
Score the Lowest Price
I use a Business Class Consolidator service called Skylux for my tickets (Once you buy a ticket you're invited to join their referral program. Use my code R1-54-75-3 and get $100 off your first purchase. (I will get $100 credit towards my next ticket as well. From then on, you can use your own referral code for your family and friends. Earned referral fees are valid for one year).
Skylux purchases frequent flier miles from people, then resells the seats at a much reduced price. A $9000 flight could be as low as $4000. The first time I used them, I was nervous. I read all the reviews and still worried right up until the days I took my flights. Result: Everything was flawless. I had the best up front service. Turnaround on flights and pricing was incredibly fast and my personal agent was responsive to all my quirky requests. He secured every highly-specific seat I requested. It couldn't have gone better.
There are other consolidators that I have not tried and cannot vouch for, but you can Google and take your chances.
Alternate Flight Idea
If you're flying between the United States and Europe, you might try a Business Class-only airline like La Compagnie which flies between New York and Paris. You can split your long flight in two parts by flying coach domestically and Business Class on the International leg. Saves you money and lets you have lie-flat seats to sleep for part of the trip.