Is there a cheaper way to fly first class?

Good God! When I flew to Cologne in March, the first class seats were $4500. And my company specifies that business class is approved for transatlantic flights. Because my company is hemorrhaging money, I chose to fly in tourist class, but every one of my colleagues was up in the front of the plane. Plus, well, I took my wife along at my own expense ($450), and didn’t want to leave her back there alone (and no, I’d not’ve paid for first class).

Actually I think policy is business class on trans-con flights. At least it was when I was still working there.
I have flown first class a bunch of times.
Ways to get into first/business class (in no particular order)
[li]Frequent flier upgrades (fly so many miles and get a cert good for 1,000 mile upgrades. Got three certs and you can fly LA to NY in first if room is available, often these programs are mileage sensitive, ie a guy with 1 million miles will get the seat, and if you only have 100,000 miles you won’t)[/li][li]Pay cash at check in, I had a long flight on American, and when I checked in at the kiosk, I was offered FC for $150. I jumped on that.[/li][li]Take a bump on a previous flight. The secret here is to ask up front. “We are looking for volunteers” [/li]“What are you offering?”
“A later flight and a voucher for a free flight”
“Throw in first class and you got a deal” Works about 75% of the time in my experience
[li]Be nice to the check in agent. (yes this works!)[/li][li]Use frequent flier miles to buy the ticket[/li][li]Use Frequent flier miles to buy the upgrade (this is different from the ff certs mentioned above, here you actually take miles out of your account.)[/li][/ul]

Several years ago my economist-brother postulated that it wouldn’t be long before we saw excess-inventory business-class and first-class airline seats being sold in the same manner as Priceline and/or on discount/consolidator sites. It hasn’t really happened yet. (I remember poking around for this awhile back, and hit a couple of these types of deals, but nothing at all mainstream). Obviously it hasn’t caught on.

I guess I didn’t realize demand was so high in this day and age; it seems like every flight I’m on there’s empty first class seats when I walk through. Obviously hat’s anecdotal, though.

Not to mention, purely from reading the analyses of the top minds here on the Dope, I’ve gleaned that airline pricing models are rather counter-intuitive, and thy would rather let some first class (and economy, for that matter) seats go unsold than try to sell them with the consequence of “cheapening” their product in the mind of fliers.

[nitpick] Frankfurt is in Germany. Frankfort is in Kentucky. [/nitpick]

It works for me, but only once I became a frequent flier. I didn’t get 50% conversion, but I bet I got first class at least a third of the time without paying for it, and always by being forthright and asking for it. (I also got a few bumps without asking, I assume due to overbooking in economy.)

That’s not counting upgrades to which I was entitled, or the frequent offers I got from United kiosks (always United, for some reason) to pay a small fee for an upgrade. I’m just talking upgrades I talked my way into.

It absolutely CAN be done, and the worst thing they can say is no.

I’d just like to thank everyone for the advice. And Huerta88, great links!

When I went to Spain about 15 years ago, our corporate travel agent told us that if we went through Frankfurt on Lufthansa we’d get a business class upgrade - which we took. Bulkhead seats also. Best long flight ever.

For the first, coming back from Las Vegas my wife managed to get bumped, and then get bumped again on the connecting flight, and wind up arriving only an hour after she was supposed to. At a different airport, but since I could get the car and pick her up, no problem.

Today I would make sure I had a seat on the next flight, not a waitlist position. Most flights I’ve been on lately are very crowded.

As for upgrades, there seems to be a lot more availability for short flights rather than long ones. Your frequent flier status is also important - if you are Platinum you are more likely to get an upgrade.


That’s how I’m flying first class to San Diego, I asked my airlines sales rep for some vouchers and paid for an economy ticket. Normally I’d get a free ticket in coach but as it’s a long flight and just a quick weekend I wanted to be comfortable.

Those vouchers are like gold.

You could just join the Army and fly in uniform. Add a little smile, some chatti-chat and the attendents melt like butter. Easy.