Most frequent travelers know that to find flash sales and other great deals on economy-class air tickets through alerts, you don’t have to look far: Our sister site AirfareWatchdog, for example, is a leader in the field. Lots of online travel agencies and metasearch systems offer up standard airfare alerts—but finding one that will flag premium airfare deals requires a little bit more insider knowledge, and some cash.
If you’re interested only in evading the cattle car—flying in premium economy, business, or first class—you won’t find any deal alert services that don’t charge a fee. A bunch of free information sources can help you hunt down your own deal, but no premium airfare service is as automatic as Airfarewatchdog.
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Where to Find Premium Airfare Deals
Still, premium deals are available. Airlines offer flash sales and special promotions in premium cabins just as they do in economy. Two years ago, I found (and bought) a round-trip business class ticket to Asia for just $1,500—which was less than half the nominal first-class rate.
One reason for the lack of a simple premium airfare system is that, for many travelers, premium flying is inextricably bound to frequent flyer programs. The best way to get into a front cabin is often by using frequent flyer miles. And for some, the game is to apply for a bunch of credit cards that offer huge initial bonuses if you meet an exorbinantly large monthly charge threshold for the first few months. So the problem of finding outright premium airfare deals isn’t easy, but it’s not insurmountable, either.
First Class Flyer is the gold standard for finding deals on premium airfare, for both performance and membership price. The minimum Silver level costs $97 per year, and gets you a daily bulletin that covers special deals for both cash payments and use of miles. Higher levels of membership cost $197 and $297 per year and add on a bunch of additional information that’s useful, but not essential, if you’re just looking for flash sales.
MightyTravels’ premium option is $7.99 per month (about the same as First Class Flyer) and offers daily bulletins on business class, premium economy and first class deals from your home airport, including unpublished and “mistake” fares, plus access to an online dashboard with deals for most major airports.
A handful of free blogs also cover the full gamut of airfare deals with a minor focus on premium cabin options. TravelSkills posts such deals and offers occasional email alerts. Other free blogs don’t send you bulletins about premium airfare; you have to find their alerts on your own.
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All or most of the free blogs often find the same deals—so you’re probably ok finding one you like and sticking with it. Options include AirfareSpot, Godsavethepoints, No Mas Coach, One Mile at a Time, The Points Guy, and View from the Wing. There’s a lot about credit cards, hotels, and other stuff in them, too, but they do dig out some good premium deals.
FlyerTalk also has an online forum on premium flying. It’s not organized for easy search, but it’s especially good for deals that originate outside of the U.S.
So unless you spring for the First Class Flyer or MightyTravels paid services, you’ll have to do your own digging through blogs and websites. But that’s a lot easier than spending hours on a metasearch engine, yourself. The amount of money you’ll save warrants a bit of extra effort, anyways.
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Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuses every day at SmarterTravel.