Every year, around this time, there’s a nearly-simultaneous sale on multiple airlines, with discounts for business class airfares across the oceans. It’s as predictable as the Rockettes’ act. (There will be high-kicking.)
Blame seasonality. Beyond the economic slowdown that’s killed premium-cabin traffic, there’s the seasonal slowdown, as business travel grinds to a halt near year-end. What this means for the leisure traveler is premium class deals in premium economy, business class, and first.
Most of the deals are to Europe. Very few deals target Asia. There are a handful of deals to Australia, too, but they’re not the best I’ve seen.
Sure, even the discounted premium seats will still cost you more than a coach seat. But there are some decent prices nonetheless.
Compare a roundtrip in coach from New York to Paris for $858, all-in, on American, with a $1415 fare for the same dates on OpenSkies, the British Airways subsidiary operating an all-premium configuration. (The quoted fare is for a cradle seat, which they call “BizSeat,” vs. their lie-flat “BizBed” product. It’s arguably a high-end premium economy seat, or a low-end business class seat.)
Or Continental’s BusinessFirst sale: Houston to London for $2087 all-in, vs. $1096 for the same flights in coach.
Or check out Lufthansa, which is running specials to a range of European destinations from each of the US cities where it has nonstop departures to Frankfurt or Munich. Cities that don’t see regular fare sales, like Charlotte, get a little love thrown their way, though it’s not quite as generous as the discounts New Yorkers get. (E.g., Charlotte to Amsterdam for $2278 all-in, vs. $1099 for the same flights in coach.)
These flights would cost thousands more at other times of the year.
But not all airlines are playing along. I test-drove Virgin Atlantic Upper Class fares, and I wasn’t impressed at all. Over $3000 for a flight from New York to London? That’s hardly a sale.
Bottom line: If you haven’t booked international travel around the holidays, don’t neglect to search for business class fares. You may find a deal.