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How to Manage Your Business Travel to Fly First Class for Free

January 29th, 2019 by Holly Godbey | Comments Off on How to Manage Your Business Travel to Fly First Class for Free

First-class upgrades are hardly available on the scale they once were. In fact, they’re rarely given out for free as a nice little surprise at airport check-in. First-class seats come with a big price tag these days, into the tens of thousands of dollars, and upgrading from business class to first class can cost you thousands. Even just upgrading from the back of economy to one of the first few rows of economy (and not even premium economy at that) can cost an easy $100. 

So, how do you get into first class for free? After all, you’re a frequent business traveler. You deserve the nice things in life every once in a while. 

“Flying first class is an experience every business traveler should enjoy as regularly as possible. If your company’s travel budget can’t quite swing it, you can work your own magic to better your chances of getting upgraded to first class completely for free,” says Jason Hartman, frequent business traveler and founder of The Hartman Media Company.

Here’s how you can managing your business travel like a pro, and end up in that coveted first-class seat, all for nothing. 

1. Show Some Loyalty

As a business traveler, you’re likely in the air a lot, maybe even every week. So show some loyalty to a particular airline. They’ll notice, especially if you’re frequently on the same route, working with the same gate agents and sharing the skyways with the same flight attendants. (Note: always be nice to these people; they remember bad and good passengers, and treat them accordingly.) Which airline you choose only really matters if your company tends to frequently book you on the same one, in which case it’s best to start there. Otherwise, pick an airline you like, and make sure it serves all the destinations you frequently visit. 

Next, join that airline’s loyalty program, sign-up for the credit card and start earning your miles. The more you earn, the more you fly, the faster you can achieve elite tier status. It’s those passengers with elite tier status that are considered airline VIPs. They’re the first to be considered for an available upgrade. 

2. Look into the Corporate Program

Some airlines have corporate traveler programs with extra benefits, which can include free upgrades. The catch is, in many programs, you can’t just hop in as an individual. Your entire company must be in the program. Talk to the people at your office about making this happen. 

3. Consider Your Routes and Travel Time

Look for opportunities other passengers are missing. If you have any flexibility about when and where you travel, use it. Naturally, other business travelers are more likely to compete with you for coveted first-class upgrades, so look into flying when they’re not, to destinations most business travelers don’t frequent. For example, if there’s a smaller airport just outside your destination, and the you know the usual herd of business travelers is landing at the larger airport, opt for the smaller one. You can spend the extra cash on a longer, and possibly more scenic Uber ride into the city. Likewise, most business travelers prefer to fly early Monday morning and on Thursday and Friday evenings. So pick a different departure time to avoid competing with the multitudes for in-flight perks.  

4. Book Your Flight as Soon as Possible

When airlines are considering who to upgrade, they take a lot into consideration — your elite tier status, the amount you’ve spent on your credit card, how loyal you’ve been — but if it’s still a toss up between several passengers, they’ll look to who booked their flight earliest. While it’s not always possible to book your flight months in advance, if you know you have a conference coming up in the next few months, book now to have a better chance of getting that spot in first class.

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