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How to Save up to 60% on Business and First Class International Air Fares

Strategies 6 & 7 might get you free lounge passes as well as discounted business and first class travel.

Part 3 of a 3 part series - click for Parts  One  Two  Three



Update - the MileSpy program no longer exists, but if you can find alternate ways to buy miles for less than their value to you, you should still pursue such opportunities with alacrity.

The other suggestions remain valid and valuable.  Good luck on your quest for the best value international premium cabin travel.

Special Bonus Strategy : Frequent Flier Mileage Purchase Deal

Here's a wonderful end of year bonus that can enable you to buy frequent flier miles at less than 1c per mile! Strategy 5 in part two of this series showed how frequent flier miles can get you the cheapest possible premium cabin tickets, even when you're paying 2.5c-3c a mile - here now is a chance to buy miles for less than half the normal price!

There are two ways you can do this - the easy way and the cheap way. The easy way is to go to the MileSpy website and have them do it all for you. They will sell you the miles at the slightly increased rate of 1.5c per mile in return for taking care of the all the somewhat convoluted paperwork. I have spoken with one of the two owners of this company, and have also received high praise of them and their service from Mileage Guru Randy Petersen; they seem to be reputable and reliable, and by charging the miles to your credit card, you retain the ability to dispute the charge for up to 60 days if you don't get what they promise.

Alternatively, if you want to jump through all the hoops yourself, you can go directly to the Radisson GoldRewards site, where they have a special promotion making miles available for as little as 0.9c/mile (plus you get valuable magazine subscriptions essentially 'for free' as well!). Details about how the program works are available at Randy Petersen's excellent website (as well as on the MileSpy site).

Note that this special offer is only available through 4 January at the MileSpy website, or through 31 December through Radisson directly.

This is a wonderful deal and the MileSpy people report that they are being deluged with people buying as many as a million miles at a time! At these prices, it is no wonder, and if you think you have any chance of valuably using the miles, I urge you to join the stampede!

Strategy 6 : Get Help from a Travel Agent

Okay, to a lot of you internet mavens, an 'old fashioned' travel agent may seem exactly that - old fashioned. But if you can find a good travel agent, you'll find that they remain just as invaluable today as they ever have been when it comes to saving you money and helping you with your travel plans.

Here are a couple of examples how travel agents can uniquely help you.

First, they can guide you through the 'consolidator/bucket shop' minefield. Although many companies will claim to be consolidators, the 'true' consolidators are companies which deal exclusively with travel agents, not direct to the public. Anyone that sells direct to you is just another discount travel agency (just like a so called 'direct to the public wholesaler' or factory outlet) in any other industry.

True consolidation, via a travel agent, is available for business and first class fares as well as for coach fares. I recommend you negotiate with your travel agent how much they will keep as commission, up front, so that there are no misunderstandings. It seems fair that they should earn $100 a ticket as a minimum, and perhaps more depending on how special the saving that can be shared between you. Expect a consolidator ticket to be sold to the travel agent for generally 20% up to sometimes as much as 50% below the full published fare (discounts vary depending on your itinerary and airline preferences).

In addition, sometimes there are other special 'hidden' deals that airlines discreetly release as a way of secretly discounting their published business and first class fares. For example, if you are looking at traveling to the South Pacific on a business class fare, it may be cheaper to buy a package holiday from a specialist travel company and then get a non-advertised upgrade to business class than it would be to buy a business class ticket by itself! You'll never find this anywhere on the internet, and if you called the major airline involved in this directly, they wouldn't/couldn't sell it to you, indeed their general phone reservations staff don't even know it exists! Such deals are only available through travel agencies.

Second, sometimes travel agents can lean on their airline sales representative to get you a courtesy upgrade, or perhaps they might have some upgrade coupons in their office that they are saving to give out to a special VIP client of theirs. You might be too small to be a VIP in the eyes of the airline, but you still might be plenty large enough to be a VIP for the travel agency.

Sometimes (although not nearly as often as used to be the case in the 'good old days') you'll find that the travel agency can help get you upgraded, either with some sort of upgrade coupon or just by putting some comments in your computer record asking the airline to consider you for an upgrade if one comes available. I always have such comments ('CIP' or 'VIP' OSI tags) put into my reservations, and infrequently but occasionally I'll get a courtesy upgrade or some other special treatment from the airline.

A travel agency can leverage their own importance to an airline with your own importance to both them and the airline, and also, the travel agency can 'call the airline's bluff' better than you can. If you've got a switched on travel agent, she (or, much less commonly, he) can sometimes work miracles for you.

Strategy 7 : Negotiated Fares direct with the Airlines

Yes - believe it or not, the airlines can also be your 'friend' as well as your sometimes seeming adversarial enemy!

If your company is spending perhaps $100,000 a year or more in business and first class travel, then you should see about getting a direct contract with a preferred airline or airline alliance. (Note that a 'direct contract' will usually still allow a travel agent to make arrangements for you - you're not necessarily cutting them out of the loop).

You can realistically expect such a contract to give you anywhere from a 10% up to a 30% and higher discount off your travel costs.

In addition, some companies report success in negotiating 'upgrade' contracts whereby you pay for one class of travel and get upgraded to the next class of travel- sometimes on a space available basis and sometimes on a guaranteed basis. This can represent as much as a 50% or more saving off the regular premium cabin fares!

Also, you should ask your airline representative for one-off help with upgrades and also for upgrade coupons, passes to their membership lounges, and just about any other perks that the airlines have available. If you don't ask, you're much less likely to receive!

Read more in Parts 1 & 2

Be sure to read the other two parts of this series for more strategies, including a strategy that will get the airline offering you discounted fares itself!

If so, please donate to keep the website free and fund the addition of more articles like this. Any help is most appreciated - simply click below to securely send a contribution through a credit card and Paypal.


Originally published 28 Dec 2001, last update 30 May 2021

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

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Part 1
Part 1 reader replies
Part 2
Part 3
All About Round the World and Circle Pacific Fares


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