How do I score 1st class seats on a flight – without breaking the bank?
Wow it’s gotten really tough. Back in the day, if there was available first class seats on a flight you had booked, you could upgrade for around $100 or even less. Enter the world of banking, Airline rewards programs became tied to credit cards, and everyone started playing the “status” game. So those with the greatest status became eligible for first class upgrades with nothing left for the masses to grab at the last minute.
But there are two things you can do to help your odds –
If you travel a lot, choose one airline, join their rewards program, and get their credit card. Most airlines have varying numbers of sign-up bonuses at different times so watch and try to sign up for the card when they’re giving the most miles (50 – 60,000 mile bonus is a great time to sign up). Use that airline every time you travel (even if the fare is a little higher), and use the credit card for everything you buy – groceries, gas, everything (pay it off every month so you’re good to play again next month). You may not accumulate enough miles for a first class ticket (airlines have raised the point cost incredibly since miles have become easier to accumulate), but you may be able to pay for a main cabin fare and use the miles for the upgrade.
If you travel only a little, your best bet is a search of the discount travel sites like Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity, and maybe you’ll score. Just watch out for some of these obscure airlines that have popped up, where a first class ticket may mean the difference between being able to recline your seat 2 centimeters instead of 1 centimeter.
Either way, if it’s an option for you, always check the “flexible dates” link on the airline’s website (it’s always there but sometimes you really have to hunt for it). Sometimes changing your departure or arrival date by just a day or two makes a huge difference.