All of us love free first class upgrades. But they’re becoming more scarce. Basic Economy passengers sometimes bypass Medallions and get to sit up front. Other times, they’re sold for two bucks.
Some people couldn’t care less if they’re in coach. Others crave first class. But the only way to guarantee a first class seat is to book one. (Sorry. I wanted you to hear that from a friend.)
When I flew to Chicago last fall, I had several long flights, including a red-eye. I wanted first class — so I bought it (with points through Amex and applied some cash, too).
But “booking first class” or “buying first class” doesn’t necessarily mean “paying full price.”
So here are a few ways to reserve the nice seats without spending much — or any — money.
Credit card and loyalty program points provide several avenues for booking first class seats.
Book first or business class for free (at a nice discount) by applying loyalty program points. There’s not always inventory for award tickets, though, or the prices might be prohibitively expensive.
Pay With Miles on Delta
Delta Amex cardholders enjoy a Pay With Miles (PWM) perk allowing them to apply SkyMiles toward any eligible airfare at a 1 mile = 1 cent ratio. Plus, PWM tickets earn MQM! So if you have a nice cache of SkyMiles, this could be a nice way to redeem them for first class seats — and earn the MQM bonuses for premium fares.
Credit Card Points
You can save money by purchasing airline tickets through a credit card’s travel site (i.e. Amex Travel) and paying with points. Plus, those tickets code as cash fares — meaning you’ll actually earn airline loyalty program points.
And let’s face it: airlines almost always have cash fare inventory.
We highly recommend the American Express Business Platinum card because cardholders receive a 35% point rebate on first and business class seats when paying with Membership Rewards points through Amex Travel. For example, a $1000 airfare would cost 100,000 Membership Rewards points before the rebate. In the end, though, you’d only spend 65,000 after receiving the rebate. Plus, the card has great travel benefits ($200 airline incidental credit each year and fantastic lounge access.)
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is another good option. Cardholders can redeem points at 1.5 cents each when buying airfares through Chase’s travel site.
Delta Medallion or SkyBonus Regional upgrade certificates (RUC) were nothing but fool’s gold for me. I ended up burning them on an LAX to Vegas flight because they didn’t work the rest of that year. And even on that flight, only one spot cleared — and that was at the gate.
Still, RUC might work great on some routes — if you book them way ahead of time.
Same goes with Global Upgrade Certificates. My wife and I will never forget flying Delta One roundtrip between Los Angeles and Tokyo — compliments of my Diamond Medallion status.
First Class Monetization (FCM)
René will kill me for mentioning this one. 😉 Alas, it’s a viable option and people take advantage of it.
Delta occasionally offers post-booking deals giving passengers the option to purchase first class seats, occasionally at a discount. Payment can be made with credit card or, occasionally, SkyMiles.
Companion Certificate/Buy-One-Get-One-Free (BOGOF)
This perk entitles someone to purchase an eligible first class ticket — and receive a complimentary first class seat on the same flight so a companion may join them.
There are times (not always) when one first class seat costs about the same as two coach tickets. So, hey, why not spend it in first class? Or, you can always split the cost between you and friend.
Airline gift cards are an awesome way to offset airfares — especially when purchased at a discount. We blog Delta gift card deals whenever we hear about them. Plus, travel booked with airline gift cards earn miles and points!
Any Other Tips?
Can you think of any more ways to offset the cost of booking first class tickets? Please share them in the below Comments section!
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