A restful flight is essential for those travelling long distances for business. The luxurious services offered in first class are perfect for getting that much-needed rest — but is the steep price worth it?
Here are five reasons why you should opt out of that first-class ticket and fly business class instead:
1. You’ll get almost the same amenities at a cheaper price.
The services you receive in business class tend to vary depending on the airline and whether the flight is domestic or international. Still, there’s no doubt that business class is nearly as luxurious as first, at a much more reasonable price point.
These days, both business and first-class sections typically feature lie-flat seats, plenty of food, and free alcohol. Really the only noticeable differences between the two is that some international first-class cabins feature fancier meal choices and enclosed, suite-like spaces for each passenger.
There’s not usually a difference in lounge access, either.
“Many airlines use the same lounge for passengers in business and in first, so why pay extra for first?” said business travel journalist Ramsey Qubein. “Premium service for business and first are often prioritised over economy, so [there’s] no need to go all the way up to a first class ticket to get better service.”
2. You’re more likely to be able to expense a business-class ticket.
Most companies have policies regarding business-class tickets, especially for international flights. Many corporations will allow those travelling for work to expense business-class flights over a certain number of hours, but they most likely will never spend the thousands of dollars necessary for a first-class ticket over long distances.
This obviously varies from company to company, so check your employer’s policy before booking your flight.
3. The perks in business class are getting better and better.
Many airlines are focusing their efforts on improving the perks of business class instead of first. According to Jad Mouawad of The New York Times, business travel is where airlines are making the most money. The Global Business Travel Association estimates that business travellers will spend $US273 billion on airfares in 2013, a 4.3% increase from last year.
This means that the main competition between airlines takes place in the business-class seats. Airlines pay billions of dollars to research and develop seats with the most innovative features, employing architects, industrial designers, and even yacht designers to do it. The New York Times says that it can cost up to $US80,000 to make a single business-class seat. And when Lufthansa updated the premium class seats on its Boeing 747-8 last year, only 8 of the 100 new seats were in first class.
All of that means that when you buy a business-class seat, you’re paying to have a flying experience that’s at the very forefront of aeroplane technology.
4. Rumour has it that first class may soon disappear.
With all this focus on business class, some airlines are getting rid of first class altogether.
“A lot of airlines have given up on first class entirely since business class has become so opulent you wouldn’t ask more,” says Ed Perkins of Smarter Travel.
Installing the horizontal lie-flat seats business travellers have come to expect from premium seats means that airlines either have to reduce the number of seats or increase cabin size. While Delta Airlines, Continental Airlines, Air New Zealand, and Air Canada have already gotten rid of first class completely, others, like American and United, plan to dramatically downsize.
5. You’ll earn almost the same amount of miles you would with an expensive first-class ticket.
Another perk of flying in a premium seat is the mileage bonuses you earn. Travellers earn miles at different rates depending on the class of the seat. This varies by airline, but industry standards dictate that an economy ticket will earn flyers 100% of the miles actually flown, while business class earns miles at a rate of 125% and first class at 150%.
Why pay twice as much for a first-class ticket if you’re only going to earn 16% more in mileage bonuses? Qubein says it’s just not worth it.
“Mileage bonuses earned are often the same or only slightly more in first and not worth the huge jump in cost,” he said.
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