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Business class vs economy and flight cancelations.

The past 2 years we have had several trips in the U.S. and Canada, but we drove. This year we are planning on a trip to Europe in the fall and 2-3 domestic trips that involve a flight.

We usually fly in the cheap seats, but I'm thinking of booking business class this year. Some of the reasoning is that we're getting older and a couple inches of more leg room would help us. But the main reason is, with all the flight cancelations this year, do you think the airlines are more likely to get business class folks on another flight than they are with their economy passengers?


Posted by
2765 posts

I have no data on this, but I would think so. If you are a frequent flier with “status” in the airline’s program, even better. Of course, there are fewer business class seats, so getting rebooked into one might be tougher.

I can’t afford business class. The only things I have thought of that I can do is only buy through the airline itself (third party bookings get the worst service), and take direct flights wherever possible. That one is simply math - the more flights the more chance for a cancellation. So I’ll drive to bigger airports to get a direct flight, or fly into airports a longer train from my destination in order to get direct. So I will go Chicago to Rome vs. Indianapolis to Florence, since the latter will likely have 2 stops and the former can be direct.

Posted by
8632 posts

I dunno. I am a poor economy class passenger. With the flight cancellations these days, on Thursday, Delta cancelled my Tulsa-Atlanta flight, which meant it would be impossible for me to make my Atlanta-Paris flight that evening. Delta rebooked me for the flights the next day (they notified me of the cancellation and the rebooking in the same message, I.e. they took care of it quickly and all together), and my travels on the 31st went off without a hitch.

Posted by
4964 posts

Your frequent flyer status holds more weight.

If you've booked business class and there are seats available in business on an alternative flight then there's no reason not to be re-booked however if there are no seats available then you'll be out of luck. You might be offered a seat in economy if there are any available but any policy involving re-booking and possible refund will be specific to the airline.

Posted by
98 posts

For an extra 100.00 you can get the wider more leg room seat in economy class. We use it always.

Posted by
286 posts

Whatever the seating class, if a leg is cancelled or delayed and the airline is at fault, they are obligated to get you to your destination. You may well end up there a day (or more, recently) late. They are not obligated to get you there in the same class. If you booked a premium cabin (PE, 1st, or business) and get stuck in economy, you should be due refunded the fare difference (but it can be a pain to try to get the refund).

In 2013 I was flying PDX-ORD-FRA-BCN and on the PDX-ORD leg they thought they smelled smoke in the cabin and we were diverted to MSP. By they time I got to ORD I had missed my ORD-FRA, they had to put me up overnight and I ended up on the same flight a day late.

In 2019 I was flying PDX-DEN-MUC-LIS with Premium Economy on the DEN-MUC leg, and the engine check light came on at the end of the runway at PDX: "Ok folks, we'll get that filter changed out here real quick and get you on your way to Denver. You should all still make your connections... unless you're going to Munich." I got rerouted PDX-SFO-MUC-LIS later in the day and lost my PE seat.

Posted by
22610 posts

There is a huge difference between business class -- lay flat seats -- and premium econ or economy. It is a lot more than a few inches. Also, with business class you get access to the first class lounge both before and after the flight. That is a great benefit. And sometimes there are special desks for First/Business class flyers if needing to rescheduled a cancelled flight. I assume that a business class might be a little better customer service because of more options.

Posted by
14536 posts

We fly business for my husband’s back health, but I am able to book it with miles (Avios on British Airways) so it is not so expensive. If all you need is extra leg room, you might look at Premium Economy as well—on some airlines it is quite nice.

I would not expect being in business class to give a better chance of re-booking on the next flight if your flight is canceled. It is all about the available seats, and as some have said, status with the airline. If there are no seats available in business class on the next flight, you might have to accept being downgraded to Economy (in which case you would be due a refund), or choose to wait for a later flight.

And who know what will be going on by next September. The current wave of flight cancellations is due to a combination of weather issues and low staffing, neither of which may come into play later. But it sure is a mess right now. . .

Another reason for flight cancellations that has been going on for months is that some airlines offered lots of flights for booking, then canceled the ones that had few passengers, to consolidate everyone onto fewer, full flights. This has been more of a problem with domestic flights (both in North America and in Europe) than with flights to or from Europe, but I have noticed that British Airlines in particular has canceled lots of long-haul flights as well (but generally when there are 2 or more flights a day between London and some destination, and they combine them into one). This can mess up your connections in Europe.

Posted by
377 posts

I have had several domestic flight cancellations over the years but the airline notified me with changes already made. No leg work required on my part other than to accept the changes or request alternatives without change fees being imposed. In twenty one years of flying internationally I’ve only experienced one flight cancellation (Europe to United States with a connection in Detroit). Again the airline provided a flight itinerary within my paid class of service (business). I elected to take a different itinerary which included the U.S. domestic leg using economy class but allowing me to arrive home five hours earlier. The airline attendant was concerned with my desire to change because there would be no refund for that leg. Ultimately it was my choice. Delta and its partners have been stellar in my experience.

Posted by
3493 posts

Short answer: Yes, being in upper class seats does give you a better chance chance of getting a replacement seat if needed.

Longer answer: I have (mostly) travelled in business or first class seats on most if my flights to Europe and back on various airlines. Each one that required changes ended up with me getting the same (or some times much better ) seats with minimal effort on my part, i.e I just showed up and got a seat. It should be noted that all of these flights were full-fare (not free or reward travel) for the associated ticketing class. On Lufthansa, I actually got upgraded to full 1st class from a heavily discounted business fare.

Posted by
13111 posts

Flying in business class is much different than flying in economy or premium economy. And it's not just a few extra inches of extra legroom.

While it varies from airline to airline, in business class you can expect (for international flights):

--seperate check in area at the airport;

--use of the business class lounge with free food, booze, more comfortable seating and free wifi;

--lie flat seats onboard if you want to sleep;

--adjustable seats to get in a more comfortable position and more room to spread out;

--separation between the seats;

--better service on board;

--free drinks during the flight

--deplaning before economy

--the use of noise cancelling headphones;

--if changes need to be made they will be of assistance. On my current trip over, my flight was cancelled and they automatically booked me on another flight. I didn't like their choice so I called and got what I wanted. On my next trip, my return flight was cancelled and I was moved to a better flight with the same seat as the type of aircraft is the same.

For most airlines, profit comes from business class and first class passengers as well as cargo. Economy is mostly just a break even. (Except discount airlines.) They want to keep their upper class passengers happy.

And in times of Covid, I appreciate not having to sit side by side with another passenger. My business class seat is in its own little cubicle.

Posted by
9440 posts

In addition to the individualized space on overseas flights, business passengers acquire airline status more quickly. Even the lowest status passengers have dedicated customer service phone numbers.

A business class seat is around the same price as a transatlantic crossing by ship that offers dining room service, shows, planned activities, pool, casino, drink packages....

Posted by
6565 posts

When I hear the term "business class" I always wonder what the person means. Seat classes are continuously changing, Delta for example has nothing called business class; but they do have First, Delta One, Premium Select, Comfort Plus, Main Cabin, and Basic Economy. Other airlines have a similar wide selection of seating classes.

For added leg room, each airline has seating (Plus designation or similar) that is Main cabin but more room, and some additional amenities, that would probably be fine for you, gets you more room, but at a fraction of the cost of the high cost options.

As for services in case of a cancellation? Probably not enough difference for the cost of the highest level seats. As several have noted, your status with the airline matters more, but the very highest seating classes do get you in a different line and different phone numbers to call. However, downloading the airlines App and understanding how to use it is probably quicker than any line at the airport. Managing a cancellation while you are mid-trip is about speed, how soon can you grab any seat on the next flight, and to be honest, lots of the flight you grab could cancel as well.

Posted by
135 posts

Thanks all for your replies. Lots to think about. Probably not much difference in cancellation policies for the various classes.

Paul, I agree about the confusing number of classes Delta offers. I'm glad they let you mix it up. We might go with Premium select on the way over and plain old main cabin on the way home.

Posted by
3643 posts

If you're going to splurge on an upgraded seat, do it on the way home, when you're tired and just need to rest. IMHO of course.

I just did LA to CDG on Delta and I must say they did a very good job, we had premium econ/comfort plus/whatever they wanted to call it. You also get to board sooner, and we were sent into the special TSA line.

Just keep an eye on them, the night before the flight we went to pull up boarding passes and noticed that our seats had changed. And they were no longer adjacent. Turns out there had been an equipment change so Delta just randomly reassigned seats, we were able to work that out at the check-in counter.

Speaking of privilege, apparently Delta really did a number on the couple sitting in front of us leaving CDG. Lost baggage, mixed up seats, whatever. Both an attendant and the purser came up to this guy several times during the flight falling over themselves to apologize and offering goodies from the front cabins; they let slip that he was at one of the highest Delta levels. They both made a point repeatedly of saying that Delta did him wrong and he definitely had to contact corporate when he got home for satisfaction. So yes, as Amex used to say, membership has its privileges.

Posted by
6391 posts

I'll note (old data) that flying on reward miles (i.e. non-revenue) made it harder to get rebooked for us after a cancellation.

Posted by
3762 posts

I don't know what is available elsewhere, but in the past, Delta Business to Heathrow had access to a Virgin Lounge with showers if you get there before it closes at 1 PM. That was my favorite perk.

Posted by
3643 posts

Through Amex Platinum we had access to the Delta club at JFK and it is HUGE. The coffee station near me was not working and I asked the manager if there was another, he walked me over to it and it took about 10 minutes. They seemed to have shower rooms too.