This Is the Cheapest Way to Fly First Class

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  • The cash price for a premium airline ticket is typically much higher than an economy ticket.
  • Travelers flying with some airlines may be able to score a better seat by placing a bid for a seat upgrade.
  • Seat upgrade bidding opportunities can allow travelers to fly in first class or business class for a lower price.

Flying in a premium class seat may be cheaper than you realize.

Want to fly in premium seats but don't have enough credit card miles saved up for an award redemption? There may be another way to travel in comfort without spending thousands of dollars.

Some airlines allow passengers to bid on first class and business class seats, making a seat upgrade much cheaper. It's a fun and unique way to score a better seat.

I love to travel internationally -- but I don't love being jam-packed in my seat with so many people around me on long-haul flights. Some travelers don't honor other people's personal space, so it can be an uncomfortable journey if you get stuck next to an inconsiderate person.

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While I usually fly economy, I have flown first class several times. However, I've never paid the full cash ticket price for a premium seat. One way I've been able to fly first class more affordably is by taking advantage of seat upgrade bidding opportunities.

How to bid for a better airplane seat

Instead of letting premium tickets go unsold, some airlines allow passengers to bid on a seat upgrade. While not every airline offers this, quite a few do. Copa Airlines, Czech Airlines, Icelandair, Lufthansa, and Qantas are some airlines that do this.

How does it work? You decide how much an upgrade is worth and make a bid -- though the airline may set a minimum bid amount. Like an auction, the airline will take multiple bids from passengers and choose who gets the upgrade.

If the airline likes your bid, you'll be approved for an upgrade and charged accordingly. Your previously purchased airline ticket will be revised so that you now have a business or first class ticket.

This is a fantastic way to score a first class ticket for less money. I don't know about you, but I'd rather pay a couple hundred dollars extra for a first class ticket than thousands.

My experience bidding on business class seats

I've bid on seat upgrades a handful of times when flying with airlines that offer this opportunity. I found a past example to help illustrate how inexpensive a premium ticket was with this method.

Six years ago, my husband and I flew from Seoul to Prague -- it was a one-way ticket as we were going to spend several weeks traveling through Europe. We flew with Czech Airlines, an airline that offers upgrade bidding opportunities.

Several days before our departure date, I got an email asking if I wanted to bid for upgraded seats. Since this was the first flight leading into a hectic, jam-packed trip, I went ahead and put in a bid. I figured it would be a nice way to surprise my husband if my bid was approved.

I put in a bid of $325. Since I was flying with my husband, I was bidding on two seats -- so I offered a total of $650 to upgrade our seats to business class. Much to my surprise, I got an email a couple of days before we were set to fly out saying that we had been upgraded.

Our original economy tickets cost $290 each, for a total of $580. With our upgrade approved, we spent a total of $1,230 for two passengers to fly business class on a nearly twelve-hour flight.

At $615 per flier, I'd say that's not a bad price to pay for a more comfortable long-haul journey.

Is a premium seat worth it?

You may wonder if flying in a first class or business class seat is worth the cost.

That answer will differ for every traveler. You should consider what is important to you and review your personal finance goals and budget before deciding what kind of ticket to buy.

If you're the kind of traveler that would rather spend most of your vacation budget on unique experiences and high-quality meals, but don't care about your flight experience, an upgrade probably isn't worth it.

But a premium ticket may be a good move if you value comfort, extra space, and a more personalized travel experience.

You don't always have to spend thousands for a premium ticket. Bidding on a seat upgrade is one way to fly in style without spending all the funds in your bank account.

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