I can confidently say I’ll never meet a single soul that doesn’t wish they turned left when boarding a plane. Business class and first class air travel is up there with some of the most elusive luxury experiences that many of us can only dream of, generally reserved for the ultra rich, corporate travellers, or at most a one-off special treat.
Not only do you have to have extra money (or tons of frequent flyer points) to be able to fly, you have to be able to justify paying up to fifteen times the price of an economy fare to sit in what’s essentially a slightly more comfortable flying chair. The thing that always stops me splurging is the opportunity cost of how many other flights I could be buying. A $6000 Business class ticket from Melbourne to London, to me, is the equivalent of four economy flights home to see friends and family. It’s just not worth it, when you’re essentially still sitting still for 27 hours. I value my space and comfort, but on my current salary, I certainly don’t value it that much!
So, how can you fly in luxury without spending thousands? Here’s how you can make your economy experience as close to a Business class one as possible:
1. Get in the lounges
Whether you get lounge access through your credit card, frequent flyer program or a private program like Priority Pass, just get access. It makes flying economy SO much more pleasant. Between the peace and quiet, comfy seats, wifi that actually works, and unlimited food and drink, I never looked back after my first lounge experience. If you don’t want to sign up to a specific program, you can often book access in advance to a single lounge, ideal for those who don’t fly often. LoungeBuddy.Com is great for one-off bookings.
2. Fly on quieter days
The quieter it is in the economy cabin, the better experience you’ll have. When flights are full, cabin crew are stretched, toilets and galley areas get busy, and you really understand why some call it ‘cattle class’. Booking your flight on quieter days can help improve your economy experience. There’s no way to truly know how many people will be flying, but thinking about your destination and the type of people that’ll fly there can help. Look at where your layover is, too, as don’t forget some people will get off there. Quiet flights can mean you get a whole row to yourself – which means you can lay flat, for free!
For example, if you’re flying from Sydney to London on QF1, the flight leaves Sydey at 4pm. If you want to fly on a Friday, chances are lots of people will have taken advantage of only having to take a half day of leave to make the flight, and be able to land in London first thing on Saturday. They’re maximising their holiday by landing on a Saturday, and still being able to work a few hours on the Friday. Fly that route on a Wednesday, however, and you may find it’s quieter, as landing on a Thursday morning isn’t hugely desirable, and starting a holiday on a Wednesday isn’t super common.
3. Consider paying up for legroom seats
When you first book your flight, log in to your booking with the airline directly and see how much they charge for the legroom seats by the bulkhead. Use SeatGuru to check out what other people think of the seats on your flight, and weigh up whether it’s worth paying a bit extra for the comfort of being able to stretch out. A couple of hundred dollars isn’t cheap, but it’s far cheaper than Business class, and it might be worth it if you get claustrophobic.
4. Avoid queues by checking in online
One of the perks of Business and First Class is minimal queuing. As an economy passenger, you can minimise your time spent in line by checking in online. I recently sauntered right past a huge queue of passengers, all because I could use the fast track check-in queue.
5. Sit at the back of the plane
Top tip: planes fill front to back, and lots of people are DESPO to get off the plane first. Personally I think it’s pointless, because any time I save getting off first is only ever spent waiting for my baggage. If you’re not in a huge rush to get off, sit further back, as you’ve got far more chance of having spare seats in your row. Every time I’ve had an entire row to myself, I’ve been at the back of the plane.
6. Befriend the crew and ground staff
It pays to be polite to crew and ground staff, as doing so can get you sneaky privileges. I’ve been given fast track security passes before, which let you can shoot straight through customs with the Business and First class passengers, without the price tag. Whether it’s an extra drink, fast passes, a tip off about an empty row or if you’re really lucky, an actual upgrade, being nice to the staff costs nothing, and you could score a freebie out of it.