Your first flight in business class is something you will remember for a long time, especially if it took a lot of work to earn enough points and to find availability.
Indeed, it does require more points as compared to redeeming for trips in economy, so the travel hacker in you might find it illogical to spend those hard-earned points on one premium flight instead of two, even if you are seated at the back of the plane.
Therefore, when you are ready to book your first flight in business class and experience the left turn, you will want to make sure you get the most bang for your buck, or in this case, points, for this great experience.
How to earn enough points for your first flight in business class?
As I mentioned, travelling in the front will almost always be more expensive than in economy class. I say “almost” because I’ve seen Air Canada’s dynamic pricing do wonders where business class was at a similar cost or even cheaper. So, keep an eye out and look at all the cabins when you are preparing to book.
There are various types of points you can earn easily for your first flight in business class, which are categorized into airline points and transferable airline points:
The table above just compares the two types of points and does not list all types of airline points available.
In Canada, there are many recurring credit cards offer that will give you enough points to book your first flight in business class. Indeed, one card may be sufficient depending on where you want to go and what you want to experience.
Here are some of the most generous welcome bonuses currently:
How many points would I need for my first flight in business class?
The answer will be different depending on various factors, but the main ones are
- Where and how far do you want to go?
- Is there any particular airline product you aspire to?
- Are you flexible with your dates?
To give you a general idea and goal, with 25,000 American Express Membership Rewards or Aeroplan points, you can redeem them for a decent first flight in business class.
That number of points can buy a 5–6-hour one-way trip in a lay-flat seat and include at least one meal service representing the elevated experience. So, you’ll be able to enjoy it properly.
Choose your product carefully
The main thing you should know is that not all business-class seats are created equal. For that reason, you should carefully choose the right product to meet your expectations so you’re not disappointed with your first flight in business class. Once you’ve chosen your product, you will also choose the proper program (or programs) to focus on.
Here, we can see that the price for business class on three of the four flights is 22,600 Aeroplan points: one on the Boeing 737-MAX, one on the Airbus 330, and one on the Boeing 787.
However, the Air Canada product on the Airbus 330 or Boeing 787 is clearly superior to business class on the Boeing 737-MAX. Business class seats on wide-body aircraft recline 180 degrees, while they do not on narrow bodies.
So, you can get a better seat for the same price. If schedules do not restrict you, this is an excellent reason to choose your plane carefully for your first flight in business class!
Another noticeable difference is in Qatar Airways” business class.
The following three products are in the identical service category; you will receive the same kind of service because you are in business class, but the experience will be totally divergent. As a result, selecting your plane allows you to get a superior product in exchange for your hard-earned Avios.
The “hard product” difference between these three Qatar Airways business class seats is evident as one of them is the Qsuite, a stellar closed suite and one of the best ones to experience your first flight in business class, as compared to their old 2-2-2 configuration where you have to jump over your neighbour to reach the aisle. The fixed product, such as the seat and its functionality, is called the “hard product.”
After the selection of the right product you long for, take a look at the seat map on SeatGuru to be aware of the less desirable seats. Indeed, you might have exactly what you wish for on that Dreamliner, but you don’t want to be stunned to find out your seat on your first flight in business class is missing a window while the others have two.
Identify the experience you want
Before booking your first flight in business class, you should also wonder about other things that may be important to you.
Do you want to experience a whole night’s sleep on that 10-hour journey from Montreal to Athens and arrive fully rested just in time for your Greek Island hopping? Or would you rather prefer to enjoy the movies on a bigger screen, meal services, drinks, and massage chairs on a daytime flight?
Your first flight in business class will also come with your initiation to VIP Airport Lounges (unless you’ve already enjoyed it with the many credit cards that give free access). Therefore, you can ask yourself if there is any specific lounge you would like to test.
For example, the Air France-KLM Lounge at Montreal Airport is accessible to Dragon Pass members, yet on a busy night, they will prioritize premium travellers on their own planes. As a result, if you’ve always wanted to try that lounge but never could with your credit cards perks, maybe you should consider booking your first flight in business class with Air France instead of Air Canada, especially if you’ve hit the jackpot with some Flying Blue Promo Rewards!
You probably won’t have this in mind when you’ve never flown premium before, but each company has their own touch in terms of amenities, from simple kits to the United Teddy Bear and limited-edition pyjamas.
If you like branded gear, you might want to do more research on that matter and choose United Airlines Polaris instead of Austrian Airlines to cross the Atlantic if you want the cute little Away amenity kit.
On a similar thought, the meal service is also different from one airline to another. If you love Hong Kong Milk tea, you are better off flying with Cathay Pacific than Japan Airlines.
Find availability on the desired flight
Once you’ve identified what you desire in terms of experience for your first flight in business class, you must find an award space to book it. Starting this process early and being flexible is the key to success.
Premium award seats are often limited, and saver awards are highly coveted. For example, if you want to fly to Japan in business class on All Nippon Airways using Aeroplan, you will have to snag the seats as soon as they get released, which is nearly a year in advance, as they are only one or two of them. Once they are booked, it is not likely to see more of them unless someone cancels or if the cabin is really relatively empty close to departure.
ExpertFlyer is a tool that can help you in this matter, as you can set up alerts for when they are more award seats on the flight you covet.
You can also be prepared by learning about their release patterns. To do so, search for flights and note how many seats are released each day and when new seats usually tend to appear on a flight that initially had none.
Other Tips and Tricks
A noteworthy way to save on business class with Air Canada and avoid dynamic pricing is to use eupgrades. Eupgrades are obtained when you reach an Aeroplan Elite Status and enable you to book in economy, therefore at a lower cost, and upgrade to the front.
Aeroplan Elite Status can be achieved by earning Aeroplan points organically (25K) or by meeting specific requirements by flying. While travelling premium will help, you can manage it even if you usually go in economy.
The upgrade can be instant, or you could be waitlisted depending on available space. If you are waitlisted, the time needed to clear will be based on your fare ticket and your status.
You can view this information on your search result page or by looking for “R Space” on ExpertFlyer, as not all free seats can be upgraded with Eupgrades.
If you don’t have a status, most airlines will allow you to bid for upgrades whether in advance or when you check-in. You can get lucky with this method if the loads are in your favour; airlines want to extract as much revenue as possible, so if the front cabin is nearly empty, they may let them go at a fraction of the cost instead of leaving them vacant. I once heard an announcement at the gate for a £250 upgrade on my LHR-YUL flight while it was at £400 when I checked in online.
You will likely find more success in booking your first flight in business class early, but even if you’ve settled, keep checking back for other flights. For example, if you were satisfied with your YUL-EWR-FCO flight on Air Canada and United but spaced opened up on the YUL-ZRH-FCO, which you would prefer because you’d like to fly with Swiss, you can change it! Of course, there will be fees, so it is up to you if you wish to pay for a different experience if the possibility is present.
Similarly, let’s say you booked a flight to Italy on a partner airline in economy at a reasonable standard price, and you were considering paying for a bid upgrade for your first flight in business class; you most probably will be able to find award seats on Lufthansa and Swiss within two weeks of departure.
While most people aren’t comfortable waiting until that window to buy their flights, if you were ready to pay for an upgrade, you can also pay the change fee and the difference in points instead. Do the math, as that way may be cheaper and more predictable rather than hoping for an upgrade at a reasonable price at the gate.
Also, even if the upgrade cost is lower, consider if the immediate confirmation is worth it. In the following example, switching your economy flight to business class would incur a $100 change fee in addition to the 32,900 Aeroplan points difference (worth $658 according to our value estimation).
While you may score an upgrade while checking in at $500, there is no guarantee of it; there could be no more seats left when the time comes, elite status members may snag them first, etc.
One last pro-tip before you book your first fight in business class with Aeroplan points: I know you’ve heard about avoiding Air Canada like the plague because of their dynamic pricing and focusing solely on finding award space with partner airlines.
However, dynamic pricing works in both ways, meaning it can also lower your cost! As we can see here, this flight from Montreal to Rome is under the standard 70,000 points for partner airlines because the first segment is with Air Canada; the latter is bringing the price down!
Understandably, you’d want your first flight in business class to be a memorable trip at the best price possible. Therefore, it is crucial to do your research to find exactly what would fit your expectations from the product to the cost.
Speaking from experience, turning left may ruin future flights, but that shouldn’t discourage you from trying it at least once. Actually, what it can do is fuel your ambition to keep doing it, and we are fortunate enough in Canada with several great credit card offers, access to American cards, and amazing opportunities to earn a lot of points on organic spending with cards such as the American Express Cobalt® Card with its 5X accelerator.
If you would like to share what your first flight in business class was like, how your selection or booking was made, and your personal tips, please join our Facebook community to talk about it! And if you have any questions, many can help you establish the right plan from start to finish!