When you board an airplane and stroll by business class on your way to your economy seat, don't be misled: Some of those folks paid about the same price as you did.
The last time I flew business class with my wife, I told her, “We might have been the only passengers up front who took the bus to the airport.” Even though we’re frugal travelers, a business-class ticket can sometimes make more sense than a coach ticket – when we’re using frequent-flier miles.
When booking award travel, the value of business-class tickets is so profound that it’s truly the most frugal way to travel. Why? A half-dozen reasons…
1. Business-class award tickets are a bargain
International air travel is an ordeal when sitting in economy. Yet we put up with it because business-class tickets often cost 5 to 10 times the price of the lowest economy seat available.
With award travel, flying in business class is a bargain. For example, take a look at the US Airways partner award chart. A round-trip ticket to the South Pacific region in economy is 80,000 miles. To upgrade to business class is 110,000 miles, a mere 27 percent more. For those extra 30,000 miles, you can reserve a premium seat that normally costs several times the price of an economy ticket: That’s miles well spent.
2. You save on fees
If you have a lot of luggage, you can save hundreds of dollars in baggage fees alone. Travel abroad on most carriers, and you’ll likely be restricted to a single 50-pound bag. Additional bags can cost $75 each – or much more if they are even slightly overweight. In contrast, business-class passengers typically receive an allowance of two bags that can weigh up to 70 pounds.
3. You’re whisked through the airport
You can shave hours off of your travel time when you avoid the lines at check-in and security – just by flashing your business-class ticket. Upon arrival, you’ll exit the plane first and find your priority-tagged bags waiting for you.
4. You save money on food
When flying in economy class on an international flight, the food tastes like the plastic wrap it comes in. But premium passengers are spoiled with creations from celebrity chefs. Knowing this, you can treat your business-class flight like a reservation to a fine restaurant. Even during a layover, you can enjoy free drinks and snacks in the business lounges rather than the overpriced fast food in the concourse.
5. You arrive refreshed
It makes no sense to begin an international vacation crunched into an economy seat. To make the most of a trip overseas, it helps to arrive somewhat rested and intact – a feat more easily achieved in a sleeper seat. When you arrive on a morning flight to Europe, you may even have access to an arrival lounge with a shower.
6. You get better service
Before actually flying in business class, I made the mistake of assuming that the larger seat was the real benefit of the premium ticket. In fact, the nice seat is merely an added perk compared to the rare privilege of being treated with dignity and respect. Back in economy class, flight attendants make their rounds like prison guards, while their colleagues up front are allowed to perform customer service. Even on the ground, delayed passengers are handled with dispatch at the airline service counters and business lounges.
Before you sneer at the free-spending travelers smugly occupying their business-class seats, consider that at least some of them got there with upgrades and frequent-flier miles. For them, booking a business-class seat was actually a wise and frugal decision. And if you’d like to learn how to best earn frequent-flier miles, be sure to check out Travel-Hacking Tips.