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Flying business class

First of all I have never flown business class in my life.
I am a frugal traveler, but when this pandemic is over, I am considering purchasing a business class for two to ROME.
For those who did experience the joy of traveling via business class, is it worth it?? Any business class hacks to not overpay for the seats?
Any airline preferences in business classes? (for example, TAP has very small business class seats and generally not worth it)
Right now business class is 5X the cost of economy... yichhes... Is this even worth it for 6.5 hour flight?
thanks

Posted by
1663 posts

For 6.5 hours, no, but I'd do premium economy for a flight of that length. For a long flight, it is probably worth it. I don't think I will ever know personally, but my spouse flies business class for work, and it certainly made flying to Australia pleasant for him!

Posted by
6059 posts

For the shorter 6.5 hour flights from east coast we fly Premium Economy on a daytime flight from NY or Boston to London. If we fly from the west, we fly Bus Class and always on BusCl on long haul( 12-17 hours) flights like Asia, Middle East. If we fly economy on those it takes us several days to recover. If paying for BusCl be sure they are flat beds!! Check on seatguru for flights you are considering.

Posted by
6793 posts

For 6.5 hrs Prem econ is probably the best bang for the buck to get some additional comfort and not devastate the wallet.

I would not pay 5x $$ for 6.5 hr flight

Posted by
571 posts

Not all Business Class seats/cabins are equal. Study the seat plan carefully. Are you getting lay flat bed seats? Norwegian has nice Premium Economy level seats they call “business” but no bed seats and not true (by today’s standards) international business class seats.

From the east coast on a 7-8 hr flight the argument is hard to make if money is a serious concern for you when a wide (Virgin Atlantic) Prem Economy seat may make do for the short period.

For west coast flights out of Los Angeles/San Francisco then real Business is perfect for flights to London/Paris. Easy dedicated check in, relax in the lounge, steak dinner on board, maybe a little hot fudge sundae for desert, bedtime in a bed, wake up and arrive. Any checked bag will beat you to the luggage claim (waiting for you with a bright Priority tag). One of the first off...out of the airport quickly. In short from the West Coast $4500 for a proper business class seat or a free economy seat- I’d spend the money on the Business seat. I have not sat in an economy transatlantic seat in 15 years and I never will again. Like the late great Jim Hutton said, “I’m not a marine, I believe in my comfort.“

But it also depends upon where you are in life. My wife and I are at a stage where time, energy, comfort, convenience greatly outweigh cost. It’s only money, I can make more. Others may not be in that situation so I will not judge them. But I will ask you one question- will such a splurge financially ruin you; just how much money do you plan on lining your coffin with?

Posted by
7077 posts

With the pandemic, I’m only flying business transatlantic (dual citizens so we can go—at least at this moment). The price isn’t 5X, more like 2.3X. The flight is over 7 hours going east, not 6.5, and over 8 going west.

The best seats are the walled-off Delta One Suites. Google it. KLM is flying with those now, too.
We’re in the second best, some sort of Air France wrap around seat angled toward the window. Right now there are only five people in this large business section, allowing a lot of distancing.

Is it worth it? To me yes, given the risk in flying. A wise man named Ed once said to travel as cheaply as possible, but when there is a problem, throw money at it. To me COVID is a problem. I don’t think we’ll be done with it easily.

BTW, domestically, to get to our international airport, I chose the last row in economy; the back row boards first, it’s away from others as no one wants to be in the back, and others aren’t walking past us to board. Someone else can have the business seat and drink.

Posted by
4290 posts

So has business class started serving real food and adult beverages again? I checked earlier this year, after the pandemic began but when we still thought our fall tours might go, and our British Airways business class tickets no longer included meals (just "grab and go!") or alcohol.

The last few years we've chosen either business class or premium economy. Business is better, but when the price difference is more than I can swallow, we'll go premium economy.

Posted by
96 posts

We fly business when it’s an international flight and over 5 hours. We also make sure it’s on lie flat seats when it’s an overnight flight. Husband and I flew business all the time when we worked and it’s just worth it to us now that we’re retired for the convenience and comfort. Usually we use our miles to fly business internationally but if we see a reasonable east coast to Europe business fare for under $3k or $4k pp, we pay cash instead. At this point in our lives, the journey matters nearly as much as the destination and flying comfortably in business/first really enhances the journey.

Posted by
3561 posts

Hi Gene, i have never paid for business class, but I used to travel some for work. Between that and my personal vacations, i had a couple of years where i was moved up to business class on most flights either leaving or arriving in Seattle.

I agree with others that if you’re going to pay for it, be sure the beds are the type that lay completely flat. I sleep on my stomach or side, and those beds allow me to sleep most of the night. I would wake up ready to go vs. having several light naps during the flight in Premium Economy. The food is definitely better as mentioned above, and it’s a much better ambiance.

Would I personally pay for business class? Only if I had a bad back or something that would cause me a few days to recover. Otherwise, for me I would much rather spend that money on extra days in Europe, on classical concerts, cooking classes, and splurge on one hotel location where it makes sense. The business class tickets cost probably what I spend on 1/3 to 1/2 of our entire trip.

Posted by
60 posts

Bets posted.. "The price isn’t 5X, more like 2.3X"

Sorry Bets, I rechecked the flights to Rome.. $535 economy RT, $3500 Business class...
If you can find me 2.3x business fare, I'll jump right on it...

Posted by
801 posts

I vote for premium economy too. Business class (American and BA) are fine but I only did it when I had enough miles to upgrade. Premium (on American and Air Canada) is a major step up from economy. Do your shopping on the airline websites for the best deals. Last year I got (late June to early August r/t to Rome from Philly) on Air Canada for LESS than economy - must have hit the site at the right time (a Tuesday, according to my appointment book). You have to play their game and catch when their "fares are down." BTW, at that time the food was also better and the bar was open. I'm not sure there was much of a difference from Business Class.

Posted by
7077 posts

That is a huge difference and must be the super economy fare. I’m flying Air France and Delta, and have never considered the super economy ticket for International, only domestic. Air France economy was 1,200 vs 3,200 In business when I bought our tickets . But if only business were three times the price you saw for economy to Rome, that would be wonderful!

Posted by
1485 posts

We’re on the west coast and have chosen business class ever since my husband’s knees went bad. We’ve done Delta, American, Air France and British Airways. We start watching flights as soon as we decided where we were going. I also have kept a log of flight prices over the years. I think the last time I caught a sale was 3 years ago, but if there is a sale, it was right around $2500. The last couple of years we’ve paid $3100-3300. However, this is less than we paid back when we first started and prices were $4000. Back then I could pay for economy on the first leg and then upgrade for the overseas leg. Not anymore. We usually choose British Airways as it is an AlaskaAir partner. They have great lounges.

In our experience, the seasoned travelers bed down as quickly as possible and don’t worry about getting using all the amenities. We like to get a flight that approximates our sleep time as much as possible, but that’s not everyone’s choice.

Posted by
1453 posts

I have flown business class a couple of times and if it is worth it depends very much on what is costs. If it is not that much extra, I'd go for it. But I won't pay too much and often I find premium economy to be better value for money. But others may have other opinions.

Regarding airline preferences, a small advice is to avoid airlines that offer first class. If business class is the best they have to offer, it can be a bit better compared to airlines where it is the 2nd best offer. For seats, from what I've heard from people who fly more than me, Swiss and SAS have among the best business class seats among European airlines. But Austrian is also pretty good, and TAP's new seats doesn't look that bad. But it also depends on which is your closest airport and which airlines fly there.

Posted by
1669 posts

When we took our Trip to Tuscany to celebrate the 50th anniversary of our first kiss, which was in Florence, we splurged and flew business class. I travel extensively for work and we also charge everything on our AMEX SkyMiles card, so we had a ton of SkyMiles to use towards the upgrade.

It was a great experience, especially going over at night. Our seats fully reclined into a bed and we had a restful evening. We also got a bunch of little things, like champagne while you wait for them to load steerage, and premium meals.

While we could get spoiled, since then we've returned to Europe several times, but subsequent flights have been standard economy or economy plus.

It's a hard decision. Personally, I'm willing to fly cheaper and have the extra money to spend once in Europe.

Posted by
2 posts

I fly Business class, or at a minimum Premium Econ, for work on flights over 4 hours. Its always worth it... BUT - if I had to pay for it myself, I always consider my options. I once flew from Atlanta to Frankfurt in an Economy seat... six hours. It was painful... I use my points/ miles and whatever other option available to make sure I can get just a little comfort on those flights!!

Posted by
20833 posts

Business class is worth it on any international overnight flight approaching 6 to 10 hours. Prices are all over the place and are not discounted as much as you will find in economy. My experiences on pricing matches Beth's. And, of course, it is a great use of F Flyer points. If you have nerves of steel with flexibility there is a game you can play with FF points and business class. You can often get business class seats the week, ten days before you travel date fairly easy.

Posted by
8889 posts

As you can see, whether or not flying business class is worth it is subjective. I think it is. I only fly business class. But not all business classes are the same. I won't go into details because others have already done so.

However, ever since I started flying business class, I have never had any jet lag.

Posted by
21 posts

In the last couple of years - we have booked a couple of trips business going across the pond and coach coming home. That has saved Us Quite a bit of US dollars/miles. We are good with being in economy coming home since it is day travel and we just watch a lot of movies. We have tried Delta/Virgin/Air France premium economy and so far Virgin has been the best. Air France the worst and TOTALLY not worth it. We have not tried Delta Premium Select. We have AMEX platinum card and it gives us lounge access in most major airports - US and abroad.

My new rule is - if a red eye like going to South America as We did end of Feb - business class. Across the pond to europe from the east coast (we are in florida) business class if it makes sense - if not a decent premium economy - NOT Air France. Coach is fine coming home. With Covid - we were very happy coming back from SA in Mid March (cutting our trip short by about 10 days) in business given there was better social distancing and it was very early in the pandemic in Chile.

We have several million miles to burn so the cost for us was not out of pocket.

Posted by
9477 posts

For overseas travel we are now doing only Bus Class, with points if we can, but have purchased when necessary. We take very long trips (6 to 8 weeks) and fly from the West Coast. We arrive feeling human and more rested even if we don’t sleep a lot. As we have aged this has become more important and we are willing to cut expenses in other places to make up for this extravagance. Too bad the meals probably will not ever be as good as they once were. But we shall see...

One note of caution: take no more than one change of planes. We took a connector to SFO from PDX then went SFO to LHR and changed planes to MXP. It was waayyyy too much for one day. Very stressful change at LHR with barely enough time. And it made for a long day, arriving MXP after 6 PM. Next time we will stay in London on arrival a couple of nights and not push through like that.

Posted by
85 posts

I agree with people's suggestion of deciding based on the length of the flight, but want to mention some additional criteria: segment, direction, arrival time and crowding.

Though most airline and third-party booking sites don't make this obvious, not all of the flights in your itinerary have to be business class. You can price mixed-class itineraries using Google's ITA Software site (Advanced controls, Extension codes, Faring, +CABIN) and you can coax some Web sites to book them. Otherwise, call the airline.

To me, it's worth paying extra to arrive in Europe well-rested. If my arrival time is early in the day, as is typical for US–Europe flights, I will pay for business class in that direction. For the return direction, I don't care as much, because I won't be missing out on anything if I need to rest for a day or two at home.

If my itinerary includes a connection on the way to Europe, I might opt for business class on the domestic segment if connection time is short and there are few alternative flights to Europe. Being first off the plane reduces the odds that I'll be stuck in an airport hotel for the night.

If the airline has a decent international premium economy offering, I might even chose business for the domestic segment and premium economy for the transatlantic segment. We can grumble about transatlantic coach, but domestic coach is guaranteed to be worse!

Last but not least, if I'm traveling during a busy season, on a busy day of the week, or at a busy time of day, I'm more likely to choose business class for the affected segments, just to avoid waiting in lines and dealing with crowds.

There are many ways to save money on business class. (All bets about fares are off after the shock of the pandemic, though.)

First, you might find a discounted business class fare on a single segment, that you wouldn't qualify for if you chose business class for the whole itinerary — because the discounted business class fare might be sold out on the other segments, kicking the whole itinerary up to a higher business class fare.

Second, connections and airline alliances
can help. If business class is expensive on a direct flight, consider connecting. If one airline charges a high business class fare, see if a codeshare partner can sell you a ticket on the same flight, at a lower price.

Third, more and more airlines are offering paid upgrades. Sometimes you can buy at a known price, either long before you fly, a few days before you fly, or during the check-in window. Some airlines let you submit a bid, and give you an answer a few days before you fly. Paid upgrades are not always advantageous, but they are worth looking into.

Posted by
2562 posts

Back when we could travel, my husband would fly business class on the overnight trip to Europe and premium economy on the day flight back. He considers a business flight on the way over to be essential. I prefer premium economy, but when I fly with him it has to be business(full fare economy ticket and points to upgrade) because it would embarrass him for me to be in premium economy. On a trip to Greece last summer without him, my intention to fly regular economy came to a quick end when I saw how reasonably priced it was to upgrade to premium economy. I think premium economy is always worth it on long flights. You will probably find business class to be cheaper from Kennedy.

Posted by
2907 posts

2 Ativan tablets cost 20¢. You get the same sleep as business class for 0.00007 the cost.

Posted by
403 posts

One little trick that has worked for us more than once is to buy Premium Economy seats and then take advantage of a subsequent offer to upgrade to Business Class. We just received a refund to the cc from Lufthansa for our cancelled April 2020 Greece/Italy flight which involved Premium Econ for about $2600 CDN pp, and a $690 CDN pp Business Class upgrade for the flight over. We fly out of Vancouver so the upgrade for the 9.5 hour flight is worth it. As mentioned previously, we are fine with Premium Economy home as it’s a daytime flying west into Vancouver and as nice as it is to have the extra service in Business Class, and recline or lay flat, we don’t sleep on the way home anyway.

Ive been looking at multi city flights for a proposed near term trip to Provence and Premium Econ is still trending around $2600 CDN pp but Business is way up around $7100 CDN pp. Hoping it will settle down to around $4500 CDN pp where it was previously.

Posted by
20833 posts

...2 Ativan tablets cost 20¢. You get the same sleep as business class for 0.00007 the cost..... Appreciate the humor. If it works for you - fine. For me I will apply the .20 to the fare.

Posted by
6793 posts

2 Ativan tablets cost 20¢. You get the same sleep as business class for 0.00007 the cost.

And then you wake up and try to move...... its not just about 'sleeping'

Posted by
31137 posts

Gene,

I've only flown Business Class once, and have to say that it was a very comfortable trip! On that occasion, someone else was paying the bill so I wasn't concerned about the cost. Unfortunately on a trip that involves several flights, the Business Class seating is usually only provided for the longest segment. Even though I'm paying for high priced seating, the shorter connecting flights are via Economy or Premium Economy, so I'm not really getting the full benefit that I've paid for.

I'm also a somewhat frugal traveller, and I've found that Premium Economy is a good compromise.

Posted by
4113 posts

I always fly business or first when flying long haul. The primary reason is comfort with plenty of legroom and a lie flat bed. I have only flown BA or Virgin as those are the airlines that offer the best routes/times for us (BA more so than Virgin) and also because of loyalty programs. Virgin doesn't have a first class, their Upper Class is their interpretation of first class and it's a step up from BA's busness. Virgin also has the best lounge at Heathrow.

There are no secrets to getting cheap business class fares. There are plenty of dodgy sites offering cheap fares but don't go anywhere near them. You're best bet is to keep an eye on the airline sales, that is when we buy our flights (sign up to the airlines mailing program to receive notice of when the sales are on). Also be flexible with your dates, last year we found first class flights to Phuket (via Kuala Lumpur) with BA that were cheaper than business class just by changing the flight to a Wednesday from a Saturday. That flight was the best I've experienced so far, the new first class cabin, eight seats (our family took up four of them) with exceptional room and a bed that was the most comfortable I've slept on in an aircraft (I'm 6' 3").

Your experience will also depend on the type and age of the aircraft. I've experienced some tired cabins on old planes but it's difficult to predict what the exact aircraft will be as they can change at the last minute. We flew BA first class to San Francisco a few years ago and when we checked into the lounge we were told that our cabin hadn't been upgraded to the new style. They were extremely apologetic and offered us a cash or Avios points as an apology. We took the points which were enough for four return business class tickets to Washington DC the following year. As it was the cabin was perfectly fine, simply the brown interior rather than the current blue.

Buying tickets in the sale usually results in paying 2x to 3x the price of economy but in my opinion it's worth it for the comfort alone. I've done my time flying long haul in economy and I no longer wish to do so. As long as my finances allow I will continue to fly business or first.

Posted by
3787 posts

Is it worth it? If you have to ask, then it probably isn’t.

So you do get access to a lounge, with food, drink, TV, and workspaces.

Your seat (at least on a British Airways 747) is noticeably nicer than one at the back section of the plane, with a fold-flat seat if you use that feature, and it’s maybe in the rarified upper deck of the plane.

Fewer crying babies, or people gathering on the aisle to chat with others in their group that were seated several rows away.

But if you have a Business window seat, to get to the toilet, you still have to vault over the footrest of the person in the next row, if they’re asleep and stretched out. The toilets are less-visited than those in back, and will come with exotic lotions, but aren’t any more spacious, or with a heated seat or anything.

Overall, Nicer? Undoubtedly! Worth it? Hmmmmm.

Then in Rome, are your accommodations going to be upscale? Finer dining? Could maybe use your savings on the flight to go for some fancier things on the ground.

Posted by
571 posts

Worth it- YES. And many business class seats have direct aisle access for all seats in that class- best to know your airline seating set up before booking.

Fancier hotel and dinner, no, same level as always (but if I’m flying business I’m not the type of person to stay at a hostel or Motel 6 am I) so why would an airline seat effect that? There is no rule that it is one or the other. I can almost assure you that those of us who fly Business/First don’t fret over the expense and stay at bargain basement hotels.

OP- as you call yourself a frugal traveler I’d vote that you spend the Business Class ticket money as a celebration for getting through all of this but I’d strongly suggest you spend it on high quality Prem Economy seats (and those seats are radically different on each airline- so research them) AND the balance on a sharply upgraded hotel (again an assumption on my part via your use of the terms frugal traveler). Spread the luxury out a bit.

Posted by
8889 posts

You can also get some amazing offers. On my last two flights from NY to London, I booked in business class. But on the return trips, for just $300 more I could fly in first. I took them up on it.

Posted by
812 posts

I usually purchase Traveller Plus on BA. I have been bumped up several times as I am an Executive Club member - though of the lowest status. I can get by fine on Traveller Plus. But, I had the opportunity last December to book Business with points. Coincidentally a workmate was flying the same day and we were across the aisle from each other - on the top floor of the 747. I will cherish that memory now that the 747s are being retired.

Don't discount using the business lounge as a perk. It certainly added to the enjoyment of the trip in Philly, Heathrow, and Vienna. And, now that BA in Europe has become more like a discount airline (tap water?), using a few points for Business in short-haul made those legs of the trip more enjoyable.

Alternatively, on the last leg of that December trip, I had to fly cattle class AA. I tried my best to buy-up, but some large groups had filled up Business. Economy, however, was empty. I had space and privacy and was very happy.

I will stick to my strategy of Traveller Plus but give myself treats of Business when feasible.

Posted by
2907 posts

Just a note that all of these terms are not standard across airlines, and not every class is available on every plane. Not many planes have both first class and business class. AFAIK the workhorse of the transatlantic Delta fleet, the A330, does not offer premium economy. Also a warning that premium economy and comfort plus/economy plus/Y+ are completely different animals.

I'm seeing that currently business class is running about 7 times the price of coach, even if historically that difference has been lower.

Repeating a previous comment on another topic that some airlines offer non-class change options that increase comfort dramatically. For example Air New Zealand allows purchasing an empty seat next to you in coach for only $60 US on 787 flights, but they no longer fly across the Atlantic.

Posted by
7077 posts

As stated seats vary within a labeled class. Use seat guru not only for the seating plan, but also for the customers' reviews of the types of seat offered. They do get changed out for new models and configurations.

Posted by
3437 posts

I always fly in business or first (depending on what the airline calls it) when flying to Europe. I am a large person, both tall and heavy, and most seats in economy (plus or regular) simply are painfully uncomfortable after more than an hour or two.

The lay flat seats are the main benefit of flying business, so make sure whichever airline you choose does have them in their business class on the plane you will be flying -- not all planes on specific routes by a specific airline have them. Even if you don't lay flat in them, many people don't, these type of seats usually have a pod around them (a hard shell that allows the seat to recline all the way). This is nice when people are getting up from their seat behind you and feel the need to grab something to stand. They grab the pod, not your seat back, so you are not disturbed by a movement of your seat back. Also the pods provide a bit more privacy than standard seats. If you are lucky, the plane will also have direct aisle access from every business seat meaning no climbing over anyone to get in or out of a seat. Air Canada has their seats set this way (at least on the flights I took with them) and most United planes on transatlantic flights do as well.

Food and drinks are another benefit of business class. It is a major step up from economy. Alcohol is included at no additional charge if that is important to you. How good the food is depends on the airline of course and in my experience which direction you are flying seems to make a difference as well. Of course, right now, there is a very limited, very un-business class like, food and beverage on all flights anywhere. Even service in the airline airport clubs usually accessible to business class passengers is nearly non existent. Hopefully this will go back to what is was as soon as it is safer.

Airport club access is also a part of most business class tickets. The clubs give you a (usually) quiet space with comfy seats, food ranging from snacks like cheese and crackers all the way to individually chef prepared dishes, a large selection of drinks, sometimes showers on arrival, and dedicated ticketing staff to assist if there are any issues with your flights. In a few instances, this alone made the extra cost of the business class ticket more than worthwhile.

I have been lucky in the past where the business seats were only around 2 times the cost of economy for the routes, days, and destinations I chose. This meant that sometimes I ended up flying into an alternate to my original destination, but still within a comfortable distance easily covered by a short train ride. One example was when Lufthansa started flying non stop from Denver to Munich. Business seats on that flight (2008 I think it was) was only $1,750 return while economy was $1,000. The flights to Frankfurt were over $3,000. I took the Munich flight and was treated to special meals and an expanded selection of beers made specifically for the flight. You just have to keep an eye open for specials offered by the airlines, I would not trust highly discounted tickets from any other source, and you might get lucky.

Posted by
255 posts

We have always traveled either economy or premium economy overseas. Last fall, we flew Lufthansa for the first time on the A380 and booked economy seats in the upstairs area. There were four of us traveling. We bought our tickets with points on our Chase card with discounted fare. We received an email from Lufthansa a couple of weeks before departure giving us a chance to "bid" on an upgrade to business. We (two of us) put in our bid without ever thinking we could be upgraded. We got it. It was bliss. The upstairs was where the business class was located, and it was so peaceful and quiet. My only issue was I still wasn't able to get much sleep. Being a side sleeper, those seats were still very tight. But would I do it again? Absolutely. And would still do economy coming back for the day trip.

Posted by
303 posts

I've flown 1st/Business on BA & Delta. Both flights were for over 10 hours. Highly recommended, but pricey. Use points/miles if possible. Otherwise, bump up to a higher level of Economy for short hauls (East Coast to Paris/Rome/Milan/London).

Posted by
4290 posts

Airport lounge access is one of the reasons we fly business when we can. The lounges themselves vary wildly of course, depending on airline, airport, and your own status. But if your flight is delayed for hours, any of the lounges is a welcome change from sitting in the airport gate areas. There was one year when, for some reason I've never figured out, we had a higher (Silver) level status on British Airways. Goodness, that was wonderful. Quiet spacious lounges with everything one could want. Hot food, cold beverages (champagne for breakfast, anyone?) comfortable seats, computers available for use, showers; it was, as someone mentioned upthread, bliss.

We only had that status one year, and were promptly demoted a level as soon as the new membership year started, but it was great while it lasted.

Posted by
2562 posts

I admit that I really love being able to take a shower in the Virgin Airlines lounge after the overnight trip.