How to Fly First Class for Cheap

Receive a first-class upgrade for a fraction of the price.
Receive a first-class upgrade for a fraction of the price. (Image: grounded planes image by Aditia Patria Warman from

Airfare is notoriously expensive. With the majority of airlines now charging passengers to check their luggage and use pillows or other in-flight amenities, first-class tickets are more expensive than ever before. However, there is a way to fly first class inexpensively. Airlines don’t like to have empty seats before departure because they are losing money on those seats. If they can’t fill their first-class seats for the asking price, they will offer those seats to economy passengers for a small fee. This is the cheapest way to receive an upgrade to first class.

Purchase economy-class seats on your flight. The price for economy class and first class on any given flight can differ by thousands of dollars.

Check in for your flight online. Each airline allows passengers to check in online up to 24 hours prior to departure. Oftentimes, when you check in online your airline will offer inexpensive upgrades to fill empty seats in first class.

Choose to upgrade your seat during online check-in. The price for this is typically $100, though that varies slightly by airline. If there are first-class seats available when you check in at the airport kiosk, the same inexpensive upgrade will also be available for purchase at that time.

Tips & Warnings

  • Become an elite member of your airline. Elite members receive occasional upgrades when flying, but the downfall is that most airlines require you to have a minimum of 25,000 miles to become an elite member.
  • Use your frequent flier miles to obtain an upgrade for free. This only applies to fliers with at least 25,000 miles. You will be asked when booking your ticket if you'd like to be upgraded.

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