Are Recent Premium Cabin “Amazing Deal” Fares Really Affordable?

It occurs to me that over the past few months we have seen a bunch (but perhaps, not nearly enough) “Amazing Deal” Business Class fares. Examples include:
And these are all deals that we’re not terribly used to seeing (ok, some of the European deals have been around for at least the last 18-24 months), and that’s not all. Heck, even I have talked about buying premium cabin fares in the past, primarily to earn American Airlines Executive Platinum Status, because some fares can really be reasonable, when you look at the cost from the perspective Elite Qualifying Points (EQP) or Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM).  In a vacuum, it’s a kind’ve a foolish way to gauge flights, but for me, I looked at it as a way to fold a vacation into a mileage run. Yet still, at the end of the day, I viewed them as expensive… and we’re talking about $1200-1500 Qatar Fares out of Egypt for example.
Lucky wrote earlier this week that “Premium cabin fares are more reasonable than ever before.” This may be true when you compare a $12k fare to a $1k fare, yes, it’s more reasonable when it is 1/12th the cost. Is the fare less expensive? Yes.

But is it Affordable?

Before I get to the answer to that question, i want to share a little backstory:
This past weekend, my wife and I caught up with a good friend for lunch. He’s taking his first international trip, and we were quite excited for him. I even offered that if he wanted, he could probably get a second trip, by nesting a round trip “good business class fare” ticket for around $1500. Then he could fly comfortably for half the trip each way! Of course, in my mind, I’m thinking this is a no brainer, but he looks at me with this “cat in headlights” look, and says “$1500 just for a plane ticket? Are you crazy?” Well, maybe….
Now back to the question of affordability. First of all, it can be a very personal question. Many within the miles and points game are at different stages of life. Some starting out, using miles and points to see the world, when they could otherwise not. Others leverage miles and points for premium travel that they could not otherwise afford. While others may be able to afford premium travel once or twice a year, but miles and points afford them the opportunity to travel much more frequently.
Simplistically, the answer comes down to where travel is on your priority list, and how much available resources (time and funds), you have to commit to it. Yes, that’s way too simplistic, I mean, you’ve got non-negotiable things like rent, food, college loans, etc to think about before you can even get close to buying a ticket. It’s kind’ve like the real Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (vs. my version focused on the Hierarchy of Travel).

Wrapping Up

I’m not sure I’ve got an answer. I know what I’ve done in the past, including a pretty crazy mileage run, and a less crazy vacation run. But, as I’m seeing more and more of these “cheap” business class fares, I’m starting to ask myself, are they really “cheap,” or is this more a reflection of the changing socio-economic status of some of the more prominent members of the miles and points game.

14 thoughts on “Are Recent Premium Cabin “Amazing Deal” Fares Really Affordable?

  1. I have had the same change to myself. I used to be all about stretching the points and miles and flying as cheaply as possible, but I’ve started to change that a little. For an upcoming trip my mother will be joining me for a portion of it and she found a flight for $600. I was doing a little sleuthing and, with purchasing some points, said that she could get business class(and a much worse routing) for around $1400. She was shocked and said that was way more than she would spend and she wanted the most direct flight. I couldn’t use my points because I had blown them all on a first class ticket for myself. In future I am going to reevaluate. I’ve flown coach for a long time and have managed it in some of the longest flights in the world so I should be ok.

    • @Beth – I’m not sure I could see myself flying in coach more than 8-10 hours… and even that, I can honestly say, I haven’t done since 2014. But I’m starting to look at some of these fares and question whether they really are amazing deals. I mean, if I can afford a $1k+ fare, great, but how many really can? I acknowledge that most folks don’t spend a significant percentage of their income on travel expenses, there are more important things for many (e.g. schools, health care, housing, etc.).

      • I think I finally understand what you’re really getting at. I’d say that yes, they are amazing deals. In the same way that there are amazing deals on luxury cars and 60″ tvs and Burberry trench coats. But when you’re in a community of people who routinely buy, wear and advertise these Burberry trench coats, you can start to feel like these are things that everyone needs. When really, there are a lot of coats out there that cost a lot less, look almost as good, and will keep you just as warm and dry.
        I really think $1500 for a business class transatlantic flight is an amazing deal. What a lot of people forget to ask is whether that deal is really something they should take advantage of. Or should they (I?, We?) really be moving on and looking for that $500 coach transatlantic amazing deal.

  2. In theory, I’m willing to pay up to 50% more for a premium cabin. I’ve never had to due to having miles, but I would consider it if one day I’m out of miles. But it would be for a real trip, not just a mileage run (which I’ve never done).

    • @italdesign – That’s awesome that you’ve got that option, of course, miles are a better option sometimes, but there are times that buying the fare will generate more miles than you would have burned. The real question though is whether or not these are “amazing deals” or just deals to consider if you are in a financial position to do so…

  3. “I’m starting to ask myself, are they really “cheap,” or is this more a reflection of the changing socio-economic status of some of the more prominent members of the miles and points game.”

    I think this is probably the most resonant part of your post. The more prominent bloggers are making so much money now, that anything with a $1 as the first of four numbers is “cheap ” to them.

      • @Dia – Yeah, FOMO is a big deal… Sometimes I wonder though. I mean, 2x EQMs, no stress from waiting for SWU’s to come through. I guess the part that is hard for me, is that its still a lot of money.

    • @MommyTraveler – you pretty much keyed right in on my thesis. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve bought some of those fares, but I have to ask the question for most of the players in the miles and points game, are $1k+ J fares “affordable”?

  4. I don’t know. I’m looking at tickets to the UK this summer, and they pretty much look over $1000 to me. I wish I’d known a few months ago that we were planning this trip. If sub $1750 business class fares to Europe come up again, I will be jumping on them. I just hate that coach flight and being a zombie for the whole first day. You’re right, though, it’s a matter of whether you’ve got the money. And also, whether you’ve internalized the concept of premium cabin travel as something that normal people do.

    • @Jamie – the marginal cost is a big deal, and a reasonable consideration — that said, if you are considering business class, don’t forget the AARP $400 discount on BA tickets… could make a big difference!

  5. I only get so much vacation per year, and being more functional on two of those days per round trip is worth quite a bit to me.

    Plus I value earning status with half the effort, so count me in on $1700 business class fares to Europe.

    • @Scott – I totally get the limited vacation time, so you want to be more functional. Its kind’ve that Time / Cost / Performance (in the PM world, we call that the “Iron Triangle”)

  6. I used to fly business class for work to Asia and Europe nearly every month for 10 years. So, yes, I think it is worth it because you arrive more refreshed and can resume “normal” much quicker. And these ARE great fares, especially compared against the low negotiated corporate rates that I used to pay ($2500 on the low end to $5500 on the top – averaging somewhere around $3500). However, I couldn’t see myself actually paying that much for a ticket unless it was a for a special destination/occasion. Certainly not to Europe, it would have to be transpacific or maybe something like South Africa that is a 12+ hour flight. I did try to get in on the Avios+AARP BA deal a few months ago, but got greedy trying to find better routings/destinations than my original pick…by the time I went back to book, it was gone. I live in an upper income neighborhood and when I’ve talked travel with neighbors, I’d mention a sub-$500 coach to Europe deal as a great price. They’d give me that look like I’m insane and say “But that is $2k for 4 people!”

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