How To Find Cheap Business Class Flights

how to find cheap business class flights on Singapore Airlines
The thought of getting a good night’s sleep on a bed or having a meal prepared by chef can seem like a distant, very expensive dream for many. But what if you could find a cheap business class flights using your frequent flyer points or for a small premium if you’re paying cash?
In the post COVID world, airfares have increased dramatically. This includes fares in premium economy, business and first class to the point where cash prices are unaffordable for most. This is especially the case from Australia where it isn’t uncommon to pay almost as much as you would for a car for one return flight.
Let’s have a look at how to find cheap business class flights.
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    Using Frequent Flyer Points

    This is the best way to fly in business class for less than the cost of an economy ticket. Through frequent flyer points, which you can acquire through your regular spend or through signing up for different credit card bonuses (called churning). You might also acquire these through flying, especially if you have a career requiring frequent travel. Either way, check out my tips and tricks on redeeming these for business class seats from Australia.

    Creative routing is the name of the game here. Look for recently launched routes or routes that have increased in frequency as this can lead to an influx of reward seats onto the market. Make sure you start searching early as this gets you the best chance of finding a reward seat.

    Buying Frequent Flyer Points

    Here is a slightly lesser known trick. It might seem counter intuitive to buy frequent flyer points. After all you’re buying them surely you can just buy the flight yourself right? Wrong. Airlines price frequent flyer points differently to their tickets. In addition, I have mentioned how pricing of tickets with frequent flyer points remains consistent in most programs regardless of demand (or in the case of British Airways on two tiers). There are two ways to use this system.

    Buying miles to top up points

    First, you can buy miles to top up points if you’re slightly short. This is what I would say is the originally intended purpose. It’s generally okay if you’re missing a few thousand points but becomes expensive very quickly. Qantas for example charges $56 for 1,000 points (awful when you consider sometimes spending $10 on groceries can get you the same amount of points). Buying 20,000 points will set you back $645. British Airways charges about the same but the cost for both will decrease with the more points you buy. Overall earning points even through shopping is a much cheaper way to acquire points so I would use this as a last resort and only when you’re a few thousand points shy of your goal.

    Buying miles to cover the ticket cost

    This is where it gets interesting. Some airlines such as British Airways (a Qantas partner) have relatively frequent sales on their points offering up to 50% off the ability to purchase points. A return flight on Sydney to Singapore costs $4500 in business class off-peak. A reward seat on British Airways’ Executive Club costs 160,000 points + £350 and buying 160,000 points during a 50% off sale will cost you £1295. This converts to a total cost of ~$3000. As you can see you have save at least $1500 taking this route!
    Some advice for if you’re trying to use this method is not to buy points until you know the seats you want are available. You don’t want to be stuck with points you can’t use that you’ve paid money for. Secondly, British Airways requires you to have earned at least 1 Avios before you can buy points. If you are considering going down this route you should make sure to sign up when there is an offer for bonus points or you can transfer points from a hotel program to Avios to meet this requirement.
    A number of  airlines offer the ability to buy points as well. Ever since Qatar switched over to Avios they also have frequent offers to buy points for less. Finnair recently had an interesting proposition allowing you to buy not only points but tier miles on top of this essentially allowing you to buy Platinum status in their frequent flyer program which alone is potentially useful in getting upgrades to business class in the future.

    Upgrading with Frequent Flyer Points

    Most frequent flyer programs have a way to upgrade your seat using points. This can be decent value if you manage to land the upgrade but upgrades are far from guaranteed and there are a number of conditions you need to be aware of before going down this path. If you’re willing to try your luck then this is definitely an option but if it’s a case of you really wanting to fly business under all circumstances then I think look more at options 1,2 and 5.

    How to upgrade to business class

    In short, it depends on the airline. Qantas for example lets you request an upgrade to business class from either economy or premium economy with points. The cost depends on what class of ticket you have booked. Discount economy costing the most and premium economy the least. The biggest catch here is the requests are processed in order of frequent flyer status. In reality this means if you are Silver or Bronze, you have almost no chance of being upgraded to business class on an international Qantas flight. You also cannot request upgrades on partner flights. To give you an idea of cost, see below. A big advantage of upgrading your flight with Qantas points is you don’t need to pay additional taxes and you can even take a shot at upgrading your classic reward economy ticket.
    Krisflyer unfortunately also presents more hurdles here which is disappointing given the generosity of their regular reward flights. Upgrading requires many points when going from economy to business class and is only eligible for certain fare classes. This is typically the most expensive economy ticket which can be quite a pricey upgrade. In the case of Krisflyer you’re generally better waiting until you can redeem the entire flight on business class. One exception to this is when you book an Advantage reward flight or certain fare class, the options to upgrade with case may be offered. These vary and are by no means guaranteed but most recently I received an offer to upgrade from Sydney to Singapore for $800 which isn’t bad compared to the cash price of the fare.
    Asia Miles presents a decent value proposition to upgrade with the points cost being relatively low but the catch is you can only upgrade one class above the one you’ve paid for. So if you’ve booked economy, you can only upgrade to premium economy class. Business class upgrades require a paid premium economy ticket unless the flight doesn’t have premium economy. This to me decreases the value you get quite significantly as you have to pay for more expensive tickets to be eligible for upgrades.
    Overall, while this option is available, there are much better ways to get cheap business class flights.

    Paying cash to upgrade at the check-in desk (or bid before)

    How much does it cost to upgrade to business class? Based on space available you can ask at the check-in desk for a paid upgrade to business class. Some airlines will periodically send you an offer to upgrade or allow you to bid for an upgrade to business class. This is highly variable depending on the airline and seat availability and an upgrade is not always guaranteed especially if you’re flying a popular route with lots of paying business class customers.
    From personal experience some of the reasonable offers I’ve received are $900 to upgrade from economy to business class on a flight from Singapore to Helsinki on Finnair (from a reward economy seat!) and $800 from Sydney to Singapore on Singapore Airlines. On the other hand, Qatar Airways has offered me an upgrade for $2500 from Doha to Sydney while offering me an upgrade for only $400 from London to Doha. The price is unpredictable and varies based on many factors but it never hurts to ask and sometimes you might hit the jackpot.
    In the post COVID world this option is getting harder to use as business class cabins to and from Australia are often full of paying customers making upgrades a very rare treat. It’s often easier to find upgrades when you start your journey in South East Asia. 

    Buying fares from South East Asia

    how to redeem velocity points for seats on Qatar's QSuite
    This is one of my favourite tricks to use. Growing up in Australia, I’ve always known business class tickets to be extremely expensive. I have expected flights to Europe to be over $5,000 and in the last couple of years over $10,000 is seen routinely. But this isn’t the case from everywhere. Business class flights to Europe from Asia are commonly only around the $3000 mark! What this means is you can book a flight from Australia to Asia for significantly less money or even using points – some easy redemptions are Singapore, Jakarta and Bali and then from here book a return business class flight for sometimes 33% of the price you would be able to from Australia. The rules here are of course the same as booking any other flight. Book in advance if possible and try and travel off-peak if you can for the best discounts. To show you it’s possible, here’s one I found from Singapore departing November 2023. This is approximately $3200.
    An added advantage here is because you’re paying cash for flights you also accumulate all the status benefits of flying business class, allowing you to accumulate status points and get access to more perks down the road if you fly enough. Including increasing you chances of upgrades with Qantas frequent flyer if you would like. This strategy will also let you book cheaper economy or even budget airline flights for the shorter leg to Asia and then fly business class in the longer remaining leg of the flight giving you lounge access, a place to refresh yourself, and a good night’s rest before you reach your destination.
    As you can see there are a number of creative ways that you can get cheaper business class flights. Paying full price can be prohibitively expensive for most of us and I hope these little tricks can make flying at the pointy end a reality for a few of you.
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