How to Fly Business Class on a Budget

We have all been there: flying a long flight while seated in economy, feeling cramped and like there must be a better way. Even worse is walking past the business class section of the plane where they have significantly more comfort and space to actually enjoy the flight ahead of time. For the average person, business class seems out of reach due to the cost associated with it. Adding business class seats could easily double the cost of your vacation depending on where you are flying!

Fortunately, there is a better way to travel if you can plan ahead and take the time to understand the nuances of airline rewards programs. Anyone can fly business class if they take the time to learn and apply their knowledge about frequent flyer programs. Business class seats on flights can cost thousands of dollars, but there is a way to book those seats for a minimal cost by using points.

Airline Rewards Programs

Airline rewards programs are a method through which airlines reward their frequent flyers with miles or points currency which can be redeemed for future flights or upgrades on cash bookings. These programs typically award points based on the cash cost of the flight or the miles flown. When you look at the earning rates of these programs, it becomes clear that it is near-impossible to earn enough points for any sort of flight redemption in a reasonable period of time.

When initially looking at these programs, the rewards may seem out of reach for those of us who don’t fly frequently (not everyone has the ability to be a business traveller and be on the road for months out of the year!).

Earning Airline Rewards Points

The reality is, airline rewards program points can be earned without even stepping foot on a plane. Many financial institutions, such as American Express, offer high sign-up point bonuses on their credit products. These points can often be exchanged for frequent flyer rewards program points which can then be redeemed for business class flights. The cost of these redemptions depends on the airline rewards program itself in addition to the destination and class of service you wish to fly; of course, business class seats are going to cost more than economy seats.

When it comes to determining what airline rewards program to use, you need to decide where you want to fly to and what airline you plan on using to get there before accruing points in a program. Certain programs such as Aeroplan are great for travel around the world, whereas programs such as Cathay’s Asia Miles are more focused on destinations in Asia. In-depth information surrounding strategies on how to quickly accrue airline loyalty points in the program of your choice can be found on Frugal Flyer.

Redeeming Airline Rewards Points for Business Class

Once you have the points and know where you want to travel, it is recommended to book at least six months away from when you want to travel. When booking with points, finding reward availability can be a tough proposition depending on where you are flying, the airline you are flying with, and the time of year you are flying. 

Airlines release reward seats bookable with points at different times in the year, so it is important to be on top of your travel plans so you can find availability. On the flip side, if you are fine waiting until the last minute (around 2 weeks before), certain airline rewards programs release unsold seats for points redemptions in order for their inventory to not go to waste.

So remember, when redeeming your airline rewards program points, either plan to book 6 months in advance of your vacation or book last-minute to give yourself the greatest chance of finding award seat availability.


Taking the time to plan out where you want to travel will have you that much better prepared to collect the points you need to make your dream trip a reality. Flying business class and a much more enjoyable flight experience complete with a lie-flat seat, complimentary food and drink, and more space is well within your reach as a budget or frugal traveller.

As someone who has had the opportunity to fly business class multiple times over the past few years, the result is well worth the effort!