There’s no doubt that when it comes to travel, we all accept that first class is by far the best option. However, there’s also no doubt that there’s a significant downside to first class travel… the expense. While first class might be the occasional treat for some travelers, the truth is that if you want to fund your way around the world, cheap, money-saving ideas always triumph over luxury.

As understandable as it is that luxury takes a back seat to affordability, have you ever wondered if there was a way to change the way you look at first class travel? Rather than trying to change your budget to adapt to first class prices, is there anything you can do to make first class adjust to your budget?

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The answer is…

No. Not really.

That may seem a little bit anticlimactic, but unfortunately, first class is always going to be more expensive than standard methods of travel. All that luxury costs money, and if you want to enjoy the luxury, you’re going to have to spend to do so.

However, while you can’t permanently switch the availability of first class to suit your own personal budget, you might be able to make first class a little more manageable on occasion. The methods below aren’t a permanent fix, nor are they the key to achieving low-rate first class travel for the rest of your days, but in isolation, they can work wonders…

Free upgrades

If you have never experienced that glorious moment when you suddenly, for no particular reason, find yourself on the receiving end of a free upgrade, then you’ve missed out. Free upgrades make your travel experience feel even more wonderful than if you had outright booked a first class ticket; the surprise element makes it all the more delightful.

Many of us assume that free upgrades are completely random; based entirely on how busy the flight is, the mood of the cabin crew, and thousands of other small variables. However, some travelers believe that there are a few techniques that can help increase your chances of receiving an upgrade. They are:

  • Ask. Yes, the simplest ways are often the best— if you’re hoping for an upgrade, then asking for one might just be the best way to achieve it. Be polite, of course, and if the airline staff member refuses then thank them for considering it and move on— but you never know, they might just be able to say yes!
  • Check-in early… or late. The advice varies on this one. Some people suggest that you should check in early, so you’re on hand if there’s any extra seats in first class. However, others say that checking in late is the key, so if the standard cabin is becoming overly full, the flight personnel are more likely to agree to a request to be upgraded. If you travel frequently, it might be worth experimenting with both techniques to see what works best.

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Reward points

Put simply, if you’re a frequent flyer, then save your points for one extra special trip where you fly first class all the way. Take your lead from travel expert Alex Miller, who managed to leverage his own loyalty and reward points to enjoy a true trip of a lifetime for relatively little additional investment.

Of course, letting your reward points build up is never the easiest of tasks. If you haven’t traveled in awhile, don’t really have the funds to travel any time soon, and you have reward points sitting waiting to be used… well, it becomes extremely tempting to just jet off on a quick break to reduce your feelings of cabin fever. However, try and remember that if you do let your points accrue, you’ll be able to enjoy an incredible vacation as a reward for your patience in future.

Voluntary bumping

Here’s how voluntary bumping works:

  • Many flights are deliberately overbooked, much to the chagrin of passengers. Airlines do this on the assumption that some people will not make the flight.
  • However, if everyone does make the flight, then they airline has a problem: they have too many passengers for too few seats.
  • The solution that many airlines offer in this situation is called “voluntary bumping”. This means asking passengers if they would be willing to leave the flight and moving to a later scheduled flight.
  • Airlines will usually offer various benefits for doing this, such as a meal at the airport… or potentially, an upgrade.
  • You will likely need to ask for the upgrade; say that you’re happy to voluntarily bump from the flight, but you would appreciate an upgrade for doing so.
  • They might say no, but if there are relatively few people willing to bump from the flight, they might say yes due to lack of option. Airlines also expect that people may ask for an upgrade in exchange for bumping and, if they have first class seats available on the later flight, they will go ahead and arrange the upgrade.
  • Some people suggest that informing the airline that you’re willing to be bumped when you check in is a good way to take advantage of such a scenario, but there is a downside to this: it damages your leverage. If you’ve said you’re happy to be bumped, then the airline isn’t going to feel they have to upgrade your later flight just to persuade you to leave your existing flight, so it might be better to keep quiet!

Of course, you have to do this when your schedule doesn’t depend on you arriving at your location right on time, and you’ll have to wait longer at the airport. However, for long haul flights, it’s well worth a few hours killing time in the airport — usually with some courtesy vouchers from the airline — so you can then travel on to your destination in luxury.

In conclusion

So while you can’t guarantee yourself access to first class travel on a constant basis, there are certain scenarios in which you can fly in luxury for less. Enjoy!