Upgrade the Family From Economy to First — Even on a Budget

By Johnny Jet

Most of us can agree that flying coach class has quite a few disadvantages. Seats are usually compact, there isn’t much leg room and there is a baggage allowance limit. But, the price tag is a lot cheaper than a first-class ticket. You may dream about flying first or business class, but don’t want to or simply can’t afford to pay full price for its many perks for you and your family.

The good news is there are ways to fly first class on a coach-class budget. Here are some tips that can help you enjoy this more luxurious air travel experience.

Be Loyal to One Airline

If you travel a lot, it can pay to be loyal to one airline. This can help you score first-class tickets in two ways. For starters, you’ll rack up more airline points with one company — which can then make for seat upgrades in the future.

Additionally, airlines will sometimes bump loyal passengers for free. An airline will be more willing to give a free upgrade to someone who regularly spends money with the company rather than a passenger who is flying with them for the first time. If you travel a set route often, find an airline you love and stick with them.

Also, sign each member of the family up for their own loyalty number. It is usually free and it doesn’t hurt to have everyone earning points for a flight they will already be on. Note: You can earn even more points by joining their dining program.

Bid for a Better Seat

Some airlines offer passengers the chance to bid on first-class upgrades. When they haven’t sold all available first-class seats at the normal pricing, an airline may send an email to passengers alerting them about upgrade opportunities. Passengers can then bid for a price they feel is fair for the upgraded ticket. This is a good way to take advantage of a better seat at a lower price than you would normally pay upfront.

Most airlines have a minimum bid amount in place. It varies by flight distance and route. You’ll plug your bid amount in and will then get an email (usually a few days before your scheduled flight) if your bid has been accepted. The airline then charges your credit card for the additional amount and you can enjoy a first-class ticket. It’s a great, easy way to save big.

Copa Airlines, Czech Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Icelandair, KLM, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas and TAP Air Portugal are some companies that offer seat upgrade bidding.

Mother and her toddler are on a flight © Radist | Dreamstime.com

Mother and her toddler are on a flight © Radist | Dreamstime.com

Use Bonus Points to Your Advantage

If you’re wanting to fly first class on a coach-class budget, you may also consider utilizing credit card bonus points. Many travel credit cards offer attractive sign-on bonuses to get more individuals to use their cards.

You can find the best cards with the highest bonuses and save your points to fly first class at almost no cost to you. If you’re smart about how you use your points, this can give you the chance to plan an unforgettable international adventure.

Look for Error Fares and Airline Deals

Sometimes airlines make mistakes. You can win big by scoring a great error fare deal. When booking this type of deal, it’s always a good idea to hold off a bit on securing lodging and other essential trip details.

Generally, if an airline cancels an error fare, it will happen within a couple of hours or a couple of days of ticket purchase. Airlines can cancel error fare tickets, but you’ll get a refund if they do.

There are also airline deals that aren’t an error — just a great discount. Always keep an eye on social media and read airline promotional emails to take advantage of these extra ways to save. When you find airline ticket savings, it means you can spend even more once you reach your destination.

Travel During the Off Season

If you and your family have a flexible schedule, you may be able to use this to your advantage. You can find cheaper prices on first-class tickets during less popular times of the year and on non-working days. You may also have more chances of getting a discounted upgrade at check-in than you would during the holidays because first-class and business-class seating is not full. The airline may want to make a bigger sale.

Bottom Line

Whether you have adult children or little ones, traveling doesn’t have to cost a ton of money. An upgrade for you and your family may be more possible than you think. The easiest way to guarantee an upgrade is through loyalty and being a credit card holder. Use some of the above methods to fly first class on a coach-class budget!