They say once you've flown flat, you'll never go back.
Unfortunately, for average Joes, the cost of business class seats can mean it's pure flight-mode fantasy. There are, however, ways you can lift comfort levels without emptying your bank account.
First, consider budget airlines. Jetstar and Scoot have larger, more comfortable reclining seats in their business class. AirAsia X and VietJet have flatbed offerings.
"If I wasn't concerned about lounge access, earning points or the potential for a points upgrade, I'd choose business class with a budget airline [over economy with a heritage airline]," said Brandon Loo from Point Hacks.
"I like that they offer the core product - a more spacious seat - at a reasonable price without the extras such as unlimited champagne and fine dining that you'd expect in full-service business class."
AirAsia X chief executive Benyamin Ismail says premium flatbed sale fares between Australia and Kuala Lumpur on AirAsia X are often $599, sometimes lower.
"We offer upgrades at the airport if any premium flatbed seats are available, and the cost depends on the route and length of flight," he said. As these are always in high demand, he advises securing the seat by booking the best available fare in advance.
If you're flying Scoot, you can upgrade to ScootPlus by ringing the call centre, asking at check-in, putting in a bid request or even once on board, subject to availability. Travellers are reported paying as little as $150 between Melbourne and Singapore and $160 between Singapore and Athens. Scoot's other European destination is Berlin, giving Aussies an inexpensive way to comfortably fly halfway around the world, if they're willing to risk not being able to move to the front of the plane.
It's not just budget airlines with upgrade options. You can go to the Qatar Upgrade on Departure desk at Doha Airport and ask about the price of an upgrade. Some airlines will send you an email with upgrade offers. Although these are often upwards of $1000, the total cost can be significantly less than buying a business class ticket outright.
If you're not ready to gamble on business-class comfort, find good deals before they happen. Sign up for as many airline emails as you can cope with, then be flexible with dates (and even destinations) when you get one offering cheap upfront seats. Once, thanks to a sale email, I bagged return business class fares with Jetstar between Melbourne and Honolulu for less than $1000. The result was a decent amount of sleep before the 6am arrival and an excellent start to a well-deserved break.
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