7 Ways to Fly First Class for Economy Prices

Did you know 85% of people flying first class are flying on an economy class ticket? I’m going to share 7 proven ways that I’ve actually used to fly first class on economy tickets.

7 Ways to Fly First Class for Economy Prices

Speaking on leadership development and coaching skills takes me around the world. I’ve flown over 100,000 miles each of the past 5 years. Along the way I’ve made a few discoveries to ease the pain of travel.

There are a number of benefits of flying first class, or business class on international flights:

  1. A seat that reclines means you can sleep. United and other airlines have fully-flat seats. I’m 6′ 3″ and need all the room I can get.
  2. Reduce jet-lag. On long flights, the difference for me in flying first (or business on international flights) is in my energy level and soreness the next day. Jet-lag is nearly non-existent.
  3. Better food. While no one is going to write home about airline food, except perhaps on Singapore Airlines, it’s better up front.
This is the first in a series of articles on traveling well for less cost. Subscribe today to have future posts delivered to you via email.

7 ways to fly first class for economy prices

Using these techniques I consistently fly first class 8 out of 10 flights domestically and half my flights internationally.

  1. Join a frequent flier program. Most airlines fill up their unsold first class domestic seats with frequent fliers.
  2. Use an upgrade certificate. Higher status frequent flier program members are given upgrade certificates to go to the front of the line to get that upgrade.
  3. Purchase a higher economy fare. United and Delta automatically upgrade full-fare economy tickets.
  4. Buy a discounted first class ticket. The one sure way to fly first class is to purchase a first class ticket. I’ve seen discounted first class tickets priced less than the available economy tickets.
  5. Check-in online as early as possible. Two reasons: 1) the airline may be offering unsold first class seats at a discount, and 2) if you have frequent flier status, check-in order is one (small) factor in who gets “bump up” at the gate.
  6. Get a companion upgrade. Have your frequent flier colleague book your ticket together with hers and you may both get a complementary upgrade.
  7. Go for “Jr.” first class seats. These are economy seats with more leg room. Delta and United offer them for free to frequent fliers program members. You can also purchase these seats as “upgrades.”

Notice that begging for an upgrade at the check-in counter isn’t on the list. Most airline check-in personnel do not have the authority to upgrade you. The gate agents do. However, airlines have stricter upgrade criteria these days and rarely hand out an upgrade to someone who doesn’t fit one of the above criteria.

Working these flying strategies will land you in first class soon!

Question: What is your free first class upgrade experience? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

This is the first in a series of articles on traveling well for less money.  Here are the others:

1. 7 Ways to Fly First Class for Economy Prices
2. 10 Ways to Avoid Airline Baggage Fees
3. 15 Airline Perks You Can Get for Free

    Keith is President of Creative Results Management. He helps busy leaders multiply their impact. Keith is the author of several books including The COACH Model for Christian Leaders.

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    4 thoughts on “7 Ways to Fly First Class for Economy Prices

    1. Keith I know this has gotten a lot of traffic. I can see why. The massive difference between the seating! treated as cattle or human. I guess since begging does not work that laying in the floor pitching a fit is also out. Not that I have tested it….

      • Pitching fits only work if you have high frequent flier status! And if you have high status, you get upgraded anyway. Another way I’ve done it is by getting the airline credit card and used the bonus miles to upgrade. Good luck!