Yes, there are a ton of great perks that come with upgrading to business class. You get airport lounge access, priority service, and better onboard dining. (The improved dining alone is almost enough to justify the upgrade, in this food-lovers opinion.)
However, none of that is really worth paying an eye-boggling $4,000 for a seat on the same plane with $500 economy seats. (That’s eight times more expensive, for those wondering about the math.)
No, at the end of the day, deciding whether it’s worth the cost to fly business class will come down to one simple question.
How much do you value sleeping on the plane?
Arriving at your destination well-rested and ready to go can be a powerful tool against jet lag. It can also allow you to jump right into your trip, be it heading directly into a business meeting or making an early museum reservation.
There are those lucky folks who can sleep anywhere, at any time, and wake up refreshed. I am not one of those people. If you are also not one of those people, then sleeping on a plane can be very difficult. The noises, the people, the butt-falling-asleep-from-sitting-for-five-hours. There is zero chance I will get any kind of quality sleep in an economy seat on a long-haul flight.
Business class changes all that.
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Business class seats turn into beds (it’s like magic)
On long-haul flights, the core difference between a business class seat and a coach seat is just that: the seat. Business class seats have significantly more room than other classes. They have so much room, most have full-on beds.
The best business class seats can fold flat into a modest-sized single bed, offering room for passengers to stretch out for a proper sleep. Pair that with privacy panels, linens, and actual pillows, and you’re talking about an experience nowhere near that of economy.
Even I can sleep in business class, and that’s saying a lot.
The value of sleep
If you’re the person snoring in economy before the wheels are up, then a business class seat probably isn’t worth the cost. You won the sleep lottery and have my eternal envy.
If you, like me, can’t sleep sitting up in a tiny seat in the middle of a five-seat row…the cost-value equation changes.
I don’t get a lot of vacation time, so I value it very highly. For me, being able to actually sleep on the plane and start my vacation as soon as I land — that’s a cost that buys me very valuable time. It’s worth it to me to fly business class whenever it’s an option.
Cutting the cost of business class
Here’s where I say that as much as I value sleep and vacations, that still doesn’t mean I spend $3,000 a pop on business class tickets. I fly business class whenever possible, but it’s possible because of travel rewards.
Every airline I’ve seen has a frequent flyer program where you can earn and redeem miles for flights. The majority of them also have some sort of airline credit card that will earn those miles on every card purchase.
Even better, most of those frequent flyer programs are also partnered with at least one of these four credit card points programs:
If you have an eligible travel rewards credit card, you can earn points that can then be turned into airline miles. Those miles can then be used to book business class award flights.
How many miles do you need?
The exact number of miles you need to get a free business class flight will vary by airline, the time of year, and even by demand for that specific flight. (I’ve seen business class awards from the U.S. to Europe for as low as 60,000 miles and for over 300,000 miles — all from the same airline.)
You’ll need to research the specific flights you want to take to determine how many miles you’ll need. Looking at flexible date calendars during booking can help you find the lowest-cost flights.
It’s not entirely free
Keep in mind that you’ll still need to pay some money for your award flights. There are various taxes and fees on every flight. Amounts also vary based on the flight, but these are typically low ($50 at the most).
The exception here is the UK. There are extra taxes and fees on award tickets to — and sometimes through — the UK that can get downright excessive ($700 or more per ticket). If you’re trying to get to the UK using miles, consider flying into a European city and then traveling to your destination. Travel within Europe is very affordable.
Business class travel can absolutely be worth the upgrade, especially when it helps you avoid losing a vacation day to jet lag. But you don’t need to fork over the thousands for a seat when you can use credit card rewards instead. Sleeping in luxury at 50,000 feet is well worth 60,000 miles and a few dollars in taxes.
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