You order a glass of fine wine, step into the luxurious business class lounge and settle into a beautiful seat while waiting for your flight. Never again has budget flying been so tempting with spacious legroom, exquisite food, exceptional service and other amenities.
But spending more than economy seats often isn’t worth it if you’re used to flying business class. Here’s when it’s time to skip the business class upgrade.
The Exorbitant Price Makes It Impossible to Justify
A business class roundtrip ticket from Los Angeles to Paris can exceed $10,000. Compare that to about $800 for a roundtrip economy ticket that goes the same route. An 11-hour business trip certainly offers more comfort and amenities, but is it really worth spending 12 times more? Probably not for most travelers.
Using points on a travel rewards credit card can greatly reduce spending. But it is difficult to rationalize the hefty premium once paid in cash. Economy only gets you to one place, so it makes sense to save money for other parts of the trip.
You Have a Short Flight
Business class has very little profit while short journeys of 1-2 hours cost more. You may get wider seats, better food, and nicer drinks, but spending so little time in the air won’t make up for the whole thing.
For example, a business class ticket from New York to Montreal starts at around $600, while an economy ticket starts at $100. That’s a premium of 500% on just a 90-minute flight. The huge price difference is not outweighed by the additional features.
Additionally, short-haul flights are priced lower than long-haul international flights. The seats recline low and are small. The quality of food is affected. And leaves a lot to be desired for the whole experience.
You’d Be Better Off Spending the Money on Other Aspects of Your Trip
From guided tours to local products to priceless experiences, there’s a lot you can fit into your travel budget. You may have less money left over for making memories on vacation if you leave an extra few thousand in business class.
For example, instead of staying in a 5-star hotel, you can use the money you save by flying economy. A beautiful hotel room with top amenities may prove to be much more valuable than a slightly more comfortable flight.
Or you can turn it into a once-in-a-lifetime experience, like an African safari, cooking classes in Paris or a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon. The memories of those unique adventures will last longer than the flight of the economy.
When Flying Business Class Makes Sense
Although the above pictures are more suitable for economy seats, there are instances where business class is very much needed:
1. Long Haul International Flights
The business class upgrade offers the biggest benefits when you make an 18-hour journey from New York to Singapore or a 15-hour journey from San Francisco to Sydney. You’ll appreciate and make full use of the extra space, fine dining, personal entertainment, comfortable seating and other amenities during long journeys.
2. Special Occasions
Is it a retirement celebration, honeymoon, or milestone birthday? Despite the higher cost, business class can make these important trips even more different and memorable. The fully enhanced experience is perfectly suited for important events.
3. Using Rewards Points Instead of Cash
Because of travel rewards credit cards, you can often redeem earned points and miles to book business class flights for free or at significant discounts rather than paying cash. Business class tickets booked with awards can offer tremendous value unless you pay full retail price.
Tips for Flying Business Class More Often
If you like the flying business but don’t want to spend a lot of money, look into travel rewards cards and programs. Here are some wise moves:
- Win a big signup bonus — Cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred come with over 60,000 points as a welcome bonus, giving you a boost toward free flights.
- Meet requirements sparingly Spend the entire bonus in the first few months.
- Transfer points to airline partners: Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer 1:1 to airlines to purchase premium award tickets.
- Fly on off-peak days—use fewer points on days with less demand.
- Get credit cards that meet your needs Buy airline specific cards if you’re loyal to one organization.
- Pool points with others: Collect rewards with all cards and confidants.
Flying business class is all about convenience, but sometimes comfort isn’t worth the high price. But with the right rewards credit card plan, you can still take premium trips without spending too much. It’s a matter of choosing your battles given the circumstances of each trip.