Air Travel Travel Tips

Three ways to fly Business Class on the cheap (ok just cheaper)

I’m in trouble.

Three ways to fly Business Class on the cheap

I’ve hit rock bottom.

My (travel) life has spun out of control.

No, I don’t have a drug problem, doing questionably amorous things with complete strangers in back alleys for a hit.

I’m not even addicted to food, porn, or Nikes with sick colorways, at least any more than usual.

My newfound desire is even more disturbing and potentially expensive, as I’m addicted to…wait for it…

Flying Business Class.

Don’t laugh – that’s a severe problem, especially for a beer budget but champagne taste traveler like me. I also travel A LOT – like 50 or even 60 flights a year a lot, so the cliche that I once you go first class, you can’t go back to economy haunts me.

My first taste with the better life of Business Class was back in ’99, when a good buddy and I backpacked around the world for a year. Since we booked a round-the-world ticket with United, we got points with all of their partners on the Star Alliance throughout the globe. So, we got bumped up to Biz Class for free about eight out of ten times – which was interesting considering that we were skinny, dusty, hungry, and wearing the same clothes every day mixing in with rich and elite passengers.

I didn’t go back to Business Class for nearly twenty years until last month, when I managed to score business class on a flight from Manila to San Francisco (12+ hours). To be clear, I’m not claiming this was free by any means, or even that I have some special hack that will get you discounted business class tickets. In fact, the average Business Class airline ticket is now about four times more than the average economy seat fare, and that’s even more pronounced for long trans-continental flights when they are more in demand.

However, if you do want to splurge (or your company is paying!) and commandeer a Business Class seat on your next long flight, here are three ways you can make that happen outside of booking it from the outset:

1. Use your miles to get a bump.
Of course, you’re diligently registering for frequent flyer miles, making sure you get credit for every flight, and using a credit card that awards you miles, right? Me neither, but I try. If you’ve gathered a nice chunk of miles or reward points, ask about cashing them in for a Business Class upgrade.

2. Bid for the Biz.
On my flight from NAI to SFO, I booked an economy ticket but then an option to bid for a better seat popped up. I went for it, bidding the minimum on their sliding scale, $250, and never thought about it again. So, I was ecstatic when I got an email from Philippine Airlines 48 hours before my flight announcing that my bid had been accepted. Sometimes, it can be much more, but you don’t pay anything if your bid isn’t accepted so why not give it a shot? More and more airlines are offering this bidding option.

3. Pay at the check-in counter.
As a last resort, you can ask how much a business class upgrade would be when you check in for your flight. By that time, they are 99.9% certain how many seats are sold and what’s still available, so many airlines offer discounted business class upgrades at the last minute.

Happy flying…and see you up front!

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Norm Schriever is a blogger, Amazon best-sellling author, cultural mad scientist, and enemy of the comfort zone. His work appears in the Huffington Post,, Good Morning America, The Anderson Cooper Show on CNN, NBC, MSN, Yahoo,, and media all around the world.
Norm grew up in Connecticut and graduated from the University of Connecticut, where he was never accused of overstudying. After expatriating to Costa Rica in 2011, he started traveling the world and documenting what he saw. He now lives in Southeast Asia, writing his heart out and working with local charities.

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