Bargains take off in the business-class bonanza: Airlines are slashing the cost of their plush seats. So why not treat yourself?
- As firms have stopped sending executives abroad for meetings, airlines have cut their business class fares
- If you change at a European hub you can make big savings, especially if you will accept a lengthy stopover
- Frequent flyer clubs are worth joining and most allow you to exchange points for business class upgrades
This may sound bonkers right now — but there’s never been a better time to book yourself a big, comfy business class seat.
While plummeting demand caused by the pandemic has been terrible for the airlines, it’s good news for those of us looking for a boost once restrictions are lifted.
And nothing says pampering more than turning left when boarding an aircraft and settling down to unlimited bubbly, four-course meals on proper china, swanky washbags bursting with designer toiletries, seats which lie flat — and no queue for the loo.
A table showing some of the business class fares on offer right now. Source: Google Flights. All prices correct at time of publication
Not to mention fast-track security, priority boarding and lounge access.
In normal times, business class seats are taken up predominantly by, well, businessmen and women. But as companies stopped sending executives abroad for meetings and instead relied on Zoom, airlines, many of which have expanded and updated their business cabins in recent years, have slashed their fares to tempt leisure travellers.
For those happy to travel with a stopover, it’s now possible to fly return business to Miami for £939, Cancun for £988 and Dubai for £1,046.
If you’d prefer to fly direct, you can get to the ancient sites of Jordan in five hours for £834 or sit back and relax for ten hours before experiencing the golden sands of Jamaica from £1,298.
You can buy a British Airways business class return ticket from London to Montego Bay, Jamaica, for travel in January 2022 for £1,298, down from £2,200. BA flies a Boeing 777 on this route and pictured is its business class seat onboard
‘We’re seeing a lot of great business class deals at the moment,’ says Jack Sheldon, founder of the flight deals newsletter Jack’s Flight Club (jacksflightclub.com).
‘We found business class flights to Hawaii for £1,500, which is amazing. For short haul, there have been cases where, if you plan to take baggage, business is a better deal than economy.’
And even better deals are expected as airlines struggle to sell business class seats when they restart their fleets. Here’s how to secure the very best business class offers.
On selected dates in 2021 and 2022, you can fly business class on Virgin Atlantic from London to Barbados for £1,499 return – a saving of £701. Pictured is the business class cabin you could be relaxing in onboard a Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787, which flies on this route
If you change at a European hub you can make big savings. And if you’re willing to accept a lengthy stopover — or even better an overnight stay — there are even bigger reductions.
For example, you can fly business class from London to New York in September with an overnight stop in Lisbon for £927 — that compares with £316 in economy. The cheapest direct business class flights on the same dates are £3,366 with BA.
TRY OTHER AIRLINES
The best deals are often with airlines you might not think of. Tap Air Portugal, for example, has dozens of long-haul flights from the UK with stopovers in Lisbon (see table).
A return business class ticket from London to Hong Kong, with a stopover in Zurich, aboard Swiss in December is currently £1,549 – down from £2,050. Above are the business class seats onboard a Swiss Boeing 777 – which is used by the carrier on the Zurich to Hong Kong leg of the journey
If you’re heading to Asia, airlines such as China Eastern and China Southern could be your best bet. It’s worth focusing on off-peak days when booking; business travellers like to hit the skies on Mondays and Fridays, so Saturday and mid-week flights are your best bet.
JOIN THE CLUB
Frequent flyer clubs are worth joining and most will allow you to exchange points for an upgrade. With BA, you can upgrade a premium economy seat to business from London to New York for 20,000 Avios points while you’d need 71,200 points to upgrade from economy to upper class on a London to Washington DC Virgin Atlantic flight.
USE SEARCH ENGINES
Websites such as Skyscanner, Expedia and Kayak allow you to pin down the best rates on a particular date. If you’re flexible on your departure, Google Flights is particularly useful.
Travellers can currently book a business class return from Manchester to Dubai, with a stopover in Frankfurt, in September on Lufthansa for £1,046 – a saving of £1,154. Pictured above is a business class seat on a Lufthansa A380 but this exact seat is also used on the carrier’s A330-300 that flies the Frankfurt to Dubai part of the journey
GO FOR AN UPGRADE
‘A lot of airlines have started offering upgrade options,’ says Jack Sheldon, ‘so you can buy an economy seat and then they allow you to bid on a business upgrade. This can often end up fairly good value.’ Airlines such as Qantas, Lufthansa and Aer Lingus offer this service.
‘ERROR FARE’ ALERTS
Error fares are pricing mistakes. Website Secret Flying promoted a business class error fare from various European cities to Peru for £346 return with Latam Airlines (usually £2,150).
- Check the airline’s flexibility policy before booking; each should explain these clearly on their websites.