Fly First-Class for the Less than Economy

One Trick that scored me three First-Class tickets for $600 LESS THAN FLYING ECONOMY

First, I will tell you I did not use points or credit card bonuses.  I have no travel credit cards or airline miles pooled. What I’ve discovered below anyone can do. No credit card bonus. No sign-ups. No miles needed!

MFA residency time is drawing near again, which means my biannual round-trip to Pittsburgh. This year I made a holiday out of my excursion as I’m flying to Pittsburgh on June 2nd from Burlington, VT. (about a 3-hour drive from our home in the Adirondacks). This year the gang and I are spending New Year’s Eve in Burlington to check out Burlington’s NYE Highlights Celebration.  I will spend an extra day with the kids before I’ll be away for two weeks.

After booking my flights, I received the wonderful news of one of my oldest friend’s upcoming nuptials in the Dominican Republic on January 11th.  Since I will be residency until the 9th I attempted to change my flights and fly from school to Punta Cana all my insane luggage and all. But what do you care about all that?

You are here to discover how I saved over $600 and bought First-Class tickets.

I’ll share the trick that did it for me.  Remember what I did does not always work out cheaper, but in my case, it saved me a bundle of money.

It took a little research and time calculating costs, but using google flights I found the best deal and grab a little luxury on the way.

I identified the airline I wanted to fly.  I narrowed my search using google flights and decided on Delta before I know I needed to fly to Punta Cana.  The tickets were already booked but luckily under the 24-hour time limit for refunds or changes. I went to work scouring for airfares; the clock was ticking.

I had choices. Two round trip flights—Burlington to Pittsburgh, and then Burlington to Punta Cana. Or a multi-city Itinerary, what I needed to do, flying Burlington to Pittsburgh, then a week later, Pittsburgh to Punta Cana, and five days after that Punta Cana to Burlington. Complicated.

Since I would have credit on Delta for canceling my round trip to Pittsburgh, and they had most of the best prices anyway, I stuck with them. Here are screenshots for what a multi-city flight would cost:

I paid less for my First-Class Flights than this cheapest Main Cabin fare listed here for the same flights.

Main Cabin (Economy): $1815.22

Comfort+ (Premium Economy) $2032.24

First Class: $2552.95

WHAT I PAID FOR MY FIRST CLASS FLIGHTS:

$1209.15  That is more than $600 less than flying economy in this… and saving of a whopping $1343 off the first-class tickets.  How you ask? I booked three one-way tickets. 

MY TRICK:  BOOK ONE-WAY TICKETS

The first portion of my itinerary Burlington to Pittsburgh for residency. Short flight, two planes.

Instead of booking a multi-city itinerary, I started my search over and priced each leg of the journey. One-way BVT—PIT. One-way PIT—PUJ. One-way PUJ—BVT.  Same itinerary. Same flights.  HUGE PRICE DIFFERENCE. Here are the screenshots for the three flights individually.

Flying from Pittsburgh to Punta Cana for Girl’s Fun in the Sun and a Wedding.
Flying back home.

As you can see, booking the flights separately resulted in a tremendous saving and my total cost for my flights $1209.15.

First-Class flights for less than $50 more than flying Coach

But, but, but, you say I could have done this even cheaper if I fly economy. Perhaps. But when doing a cost comparison you want to look at all the variables.  I will ignore the “perks” of first-class flights beyond the dollar amounts for these purposes and stick just to the numbers. (Again remembering for this trip and the numbers don’t always work out this way, but always worth your time to check.)

CALCULATE THE COSTS:

I am flying First class for less than $50 more than it would have cost to fly economy.

You read that correctly.  Less than $50 more–$44.50 to be exact.

Would flying Basic, Main, or Comfort+ in this example given me a cheaper flight? Let’s see.

The biggest reason for my sticking to my first-class guns for this residency trip is because of luggage. I am not traveling light this time as I have to give a teaching presentation, winter, AND I’m flying to a tropical climate for a wedding.  Books, computers, presentation, winter gear, coats, bathing suits, shorts, and wedding attire—I will need the two suitcases.

So for me, the biggest first-class “perk” is the two free checked bags. Second, for me is the ability to choose a seat.  I never fly without choosing my seat, and always take extra legroom seats and many carriers (I’m looking at you, United) make you pay up for the privilege.  So I will ignore the cheapest fair in the list: Basic.

Looking across at Main Cabin. The total for these flights would cost: $818.35 I would have saved $390.90, or would I have?  No. I have two checked-in bags.  The baggage fees for these trips are $70 each for a combined total of $210 extra bucks. And two of the flights are long, but only offer complimentary snacks in all the economy seats with the option to buy meals on board.  So I will spend only $20 per flight for food onboard. I’m being conservation because I would likely purchase a lunch, soft drink or coffee, and a cocktail during the flight spending way more than $20 or get a meal in the airport—the same scenario.  But for thrift’s sake, I am sticking to the $20 per flight number.  $20 x 2 flights: $40. 

Economy numbers:

Baggage: $210.00

Food: $40

Add $250 to the cost of the basic fares shown.

Main Cabin jumps to $1068.

Comfort+ with the added bags and food, the cost rises to $1164.65. Each flight has two legs, which means I am on and off six planes. The cost to move from Main to Comfort+ with the extra room and comfy seats is less than $100 for SIX FLIGHTS!  I’m moving.

So now I am spending $1164, minimum.

First-class flights include meals, baggage, premium seats and choice (still ignoring the fact you are flying first, priority boarding, etc, etc.) The cost for these flights in first is only $1209.15 a difference of only $44.50.  Would I pay an additional $44.50 to fly first-class on six planes throughout my adventure—Hell, yes.

Heading for the beach!

I hope my little flight search/cost breakdown has helped you see that sometimes a little time, research muscle, and a calculator could go a long way to scoring a great deal! I’m now looking forward to the madness and will be back in January with my reviews of both Delta’s first-class service on small regional planes and Delta’s first-class review on my flight from JFK to Punta Cana.

RECAP TIPS TO SAVE ON FLIGHTS AND POSSIBLY SCORE AN AWESOME DEAL ON FIRST-CLASS:

  • Use Google flights to find the cheapest itinerary for your planned trip.
  • Search multi-city trips if you need to fly an alternate itinerary
  • Even if you are flying RT price two one-way tickets to see if they are cheaper. Note you can then also use google flights to see if flying different airlines to and from your destination saves even more money.  On the flights above American Airlines was slightly cheaper, but as I stated above, I already had a credit with Delta.
  • Calculate the costs of cabin fares. I’ve found more instances where flying first-class was only a tad more expensive than the economy tickets. It might be worth a small splurge. ***During my search this week, I also found a few flights were the economy tickets were priced higher than the first class.  The Delta representative explained that it meant that the economy was filling up on those planes fast, but there were plenty of first-class seats left.
  • Cravat: This took me time. I researched for several hours and made two calls to Delta, but my legwork was worth it.