I know this goes without saying for travel pros, but I was reminded again today that it always pays to check the price of a premium fare.
One of the things we do at Award Expert is ensure that it doesn’t make more sense for a client to buy tickets instead of using miles.
Today a client needed to travel from Orlando to Washington (as part of a multi-city domestic trip) and was perfectly happy with economy class. He wanted to travel in the late morning, nonstop, and into Washington National Airport.
The trip is just around the corner and economy class fares on American, Southwest, and JetBlue (the three nonstop options) were not great. But I noticed that a first class ticket on American Airlines was only $29 more than economy and alerted the client.
He was quite happy to pay the reasonable difference in price…$29 for priority check-in, complimentary checked baggage, priority-boarding, a more comfortable seat, and even lunch onboard just made immense sense.
While American (and United and Delta) make it easy to compare first class versus economy class, if you are using an OTA like Kayak, Orbitz, or Expedia you will not see how cheap an “upgrade” to first class is.
U.S. airlines have strategically (and dramatically) dropped the price of paid first class fares in recent years. Why? I think airlines realize they can give away complimentary upgrades or entice customers to spend just marginally more and book first class outright. The result? More people paying for first class and more money in the pocket of the airline. I can personally attest that this strategy is working, even when the difference is more than $30…
The moral of the story: just check. There are even instances in which it is sometimes cheaper to buy a first class ticket than economy class ticket!