We all have different reasons for wanting to fly business class. The trick is doing it without breaking the bank.
If you’ve ever booked a flight, you know that flying in a premium class isn’t cheap. In many cases, it’s at least three times more expensive than an economy ticket. But if luxury is calling your name and you don’t have the money or frequent flyer miles to spare, not all is lost. Here are a few of the best ways to score a cheap business-class seat on a flight between North America and Asia.
From the West Coast
If you live in Los Angeles, San Francisco or nearby, then consider yourself in luck. Singapore Airlines, dubbed one of the best carriers in the world, is one of the cheapest options for flying to Asia Business Class. How is one of the best airlines also one of the cheapest? Well, technically, it’s not. A premium cabin on this airline usually costs an arm and a leg — unless you look out for promotions.
Singapore Airlines runs promotions for those who book flights in advance. For example, right now you can book a round-trip between Los Angeles and either Tokyo or Seoul, South Korea, for about $3,500 per ticket in business class. Is $3,500 still quite expensive? Sure. But business class flights on Singapore Airlines are usually $7,000 so you’re getting a deal. If you can afford to splurge on a 13-hour flight, it’s worth the experience.
INSIDER TIPAt this price, you won’t be flying Singapore’s famous Airbus 380. The flight is on Boeing 777-300ER, which still provides excellent service.
You’ll start your flight experience by enjoying the amenities of the Star Alliance Lounge located in the Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport. Once on board, you can enjoy your lie-flat business-class seat with 55 inches of pitch, equipped with a personal in-flight entertainment system and a personal vanity mirror. You will be able to choose your meals and snacks from an extended menu and experience some of the best service in the sky.
From the Midwest
If you’re a travel addict, Chicago is a fantastic city to live in or be near (within a three-hour drive). There are simply so many options when it comes to choosing an airline, including Japan Airlines.
Trust me, if you’ve never flown in a premium cabin before, JAL is the way to go. And it’s possible to find a round-trip business-class flight to Beijing in the Sky Suite on Boeing 777 for under $2,500. Meals to-order are served in the sky along with champagne and a selection of other wine, spirits, and sake. You can also use your touchscreen to order any additional snacks after your meal as you relax in the comfy seat.
The Sky Suite cabin features staggered seats equipped with partitions, which are perfect for allowing a lot of privacy in a 49-seat cabin. All seats have direct aisle access and are convenient for traveling alone or with a companion. During your flight, you’ll also be able to enjoy an amenity kit, slippers and noise canceling headphones along with in-flight entertainment on a 23-inch screen or use Wi-Fi (although you’ll have to pay for it).
From the East Coast
Although not quite on the East Coast, Toronto is a nice gateway city for flights to Asia. Why? Because our neighbors in the Great White North offer affordable flights to Asia on their national carrier, Air Canada. The exchange rate for the U.S. dollar to Canadian dollar might have something to do with it.
I’ve been able to find sub-$3,000 business-class flights between Toronto and Tokyo with one stop. With many business-class flights going for $5,000 or more, this is not a bad deal. The first (short) leg is in domestic business class in a recliner seat with a stop in either Calgary or Vancouver. The second 11+ hour flight to Tokyo is in an international Air Canada Signature Class lie-flat sleeper pod.
Plus, when you fly business class through Toronto Pearson International Airport, you can check in through the shorter business class line and wait for your flight in the Air Canada Signature Suite in Terminal 1 for à la carte dining and free drinks at the bar.
In the air, the menu is created by David Hawksworth, an award-winning Canadian chef. And because Air Canada also serves destination-inspired dishes onboard, you can get a taste of Asia before you even get there.
An honorable mention goes to Scoot, a subsidiary of Singapore Airlines. This low-cost carrier flies from Hawaii to Singapore Changi Airport for $1,800 to $2,000, which is not bad for more than 14 hours of flight time. The aircraft does make a stop in Osaka, Japan, so it’s not a direct flight. But, you can take it directly to Japan for just $1,200 to $1,500 business class, depending on the season.
Scoot is a low-cost option, however, so you can’t expect anything extravagant. As a ScootBiz passenger, you get access to a priority line when checking in for your flight. coot flies a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner on the long-haul flight to the Aloha State. Once on board, you’ll notice there are no IFE screens and the seats do not recline to 180 degrees.
However, you can enjoy extra legroom and plug in your own device into an internationally configured in-seat outlet and stream movies via the ScooTV app for free. (You do have to pay for the service when flying economy.)You’ll be served a meal, which you can choose in advance based on your preference or dietary restrictions.
Bid on Upgrades to Fly Business-Class Flights
Another way to get cheap business class flights to Asia is to bid on upgrades. How?
Buy an economy ticket to your destination, then wait. In the week leading up to your flight, you’ll receive an email from the airline offering to bid on an upgrade.
The offer will have a minimum bid value, which varies by airline, and you can determine whether you want to make an offer and how much. You can only make one bid, so make it count. One way to increase your chances of a bid acceptance is to bid slightly above the minimum threshold. That way you outbid the fellow flyers who bid the lowest amount in the hopes of scoring an upgrade. If the airline accepts your offer, you can make all your friends and family jealous by sharing photos of an in-flight bed, fancy meal and beverages.
INSIDER TIPHere’s a little advice: don’t pay more than $50 per hour of flight time. If your flight is 10 hours long, I don’t recommend paying more than $500 to upgrade.
Not all airlines offer auctions for a chance to upgrade, but among those carriers that extensively cover Asia, it’s possible to make a bid when flying international carriers such as Air China, Cathay Pacific, Garuda Indonesia, and Sri Lankan Airlines.
With flights ranging from 10 to 14 hours, a trip from North American to Asia is one of the longest flights you can take. Naturally, you want to be as comfortable as possible, well fed and rested when making such a long journey. Thanks to low-cost options and competition between airlines, flying in a premium cabin has never been more affordable, and you can enjoy a flat-bed and a nice meal without breaking the bank.