CO-AUTHORED BY HILLARY FERGUSON
Sometimes, let's admit it: Flying sucks. There is the time-crunch rush to the airport, the people who haven't figured out how to navigate security check quickly (hello, there's a thing called Global Entry or precheck!), the people who stand still in the middle of the fast-walk lane, and like it or not, we all have that awful feeling in the pit of our gut when we see a 400 pound man waddling down the aisle towards our seat -- it's the worst. Add all of that with a jam-packed coach section, and you have first class hell in a third class seat.
Enter business class, the holy grail of flying.
Business class tickets are obscenely expensive. You're looking at $6,000 to $10,000 to Europe, right?
Wrong. Not if you know the strategies that can get you to the front of the plane for less.
First Rule: Take advantage of credit card miles.
If you're a small business owner or a self-employed professional, put everything on a credit card. With many cards -- including some American express Gold Cards -- you can get up to three times your point spending.
It's worth it to note, it takes about 80,000 to 300,000 points for a business class ticket to Europe, so you need a lot of points and flexibility when flying. And don't expect to swap and trade miles with friends--they're yours and only yours. If you buy somebody else's miles from a mileage broker, the airline may tear up your ticket.
Second Rule: Keep an eye out for airline sales and specials.
Airlines -- like British Airways and Delta -- who run sales and specials on a regular basis, are the best way to secure a cheap ticket and bring that $6000 ticket to around $1500-$2000 (non-refundable). These specials typically happen during holidays and low-sale periods -- usually around July or August when business travelers who pay those $6000 prices want to be out at the beach with their families.
Third Rule: Shop lesser known airlines
Look at the lesser-known airlines that fly business class only, such as Air Berlin, Open Skies, XL Norwegian, and La Compagnie. Most airlines fly direct from NYC/LAX/ORD to places like London, Paris, and Berlin -- all the major European hubs. But, remember: not all these airlines have horizontal flat seats. Some of them have lie flat seats which, though almost flat, tilt up at a 15 degree angle. And many of the airlines have the old fashioned business class that though wide and roomy, are not flat.
Still, it sure beats sitting squashed in coach--where a child is kicking the back of your seat, and everybody is pissed, and always, there's always the older man in front of you asking, "Do you think the plan will crash? Do you think we'll survive? I hate flying." Inevitably, there will be one woman in the window seat who drinks too much airplane chardonnay and is up and down, up and down, up and down on her way to the lavatory. Or worse still, you've had a few drinks and now have to crawl over someone's lap to get to the lavatory.
No. We'll take those business class seats even if they don't flatten all the way.
Fourth Rule: Seek out travel agencies.
Many large (and small) travel agencies have net deals and consolidator fares that can reduce the price of airline tickets. Corporate travel agencies have access to a wide variety of upgrades on major airlines, but these upgrades are often only available from expensive coach fares.
In addition to discounted fares, when reaching out to a travel agency (search for example: "Discounts International Business Class Fare"), you're freeing up your time and letting someone else take care of the tickets--at not extra charge. Many agencies don't charge service fees. Not only are you getting cheaper flights, you're also getting a quality service with a reputable travel source, i.e, people who know what they're doing and know the tricks of the trade.
Like any major purchase, don't take the first ticket price at face value. It pays to shop around and be flexible. There are always going to be ways to buy bigger and fly better--without breaking the bank.
Hillary Ferguson is a New York City-based poet and writer. She is currently an MFA candidate in poetry and fiction at The New School and a co-founder of the journal Politics and Poems. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Lamprophonic, the Roanoke Review, On The Verge, and elsewhere. She can be found on twitter @Hillary_Ferg.