4 Airlines With the Cheapest First Class Seats

By Jason Steele on 29 September 2017 0 comments

All travelers know the feeling. You're boarding a long flight, and you have to walk past the first class cabin in order to get to your cramped, economy class seats. Everyone wants to fly in first class, but most of the time it's way out of your budget.

But what if you could find flights with affordable first class domestic seats, or business class international cabins? Thankfully, there are a few airlines that have gone out of their way to offer larger seats up front, without the astronomical airfare.

Here are four airlines that offer the cheapest first and business class seats.

Spirit

This is an airline that everyone loves to hate due to its numerous fees and often questionable customer service, but bear with me. Technically, Spirit doesn't offer a first class, but it does give you the option of what it calls the "Big Front Seat." For an additional charge of $12–$175 per flight, you can select a seat that is equivalent to other airlines' domestic first class.

These are seats that are 20 inches wide and have a 36-inch pitch (pitch is the distance from the back of one seat to the back of the next). In contrast, Spirit's standard seat has just 17.75 inches of width, and a knee crunching 28 inches of pitch.

Just note that this charge is per flight, meaning that you'll have to pay it twice for a round-trip, and four times if you have to change planes in each direction. However, the prices are lower ($12–$150) if you book the larger seat in advance. Finally, you should note that the Big Front Seat option offers just that and nothing more. Unlike other airlines' first class, you'll still have to pay for both carry on and checked bags, as well as all food and beverages on board.

La Compagnie

Going to Paris, but not looking to be squeezed into economy class during your transatlantic flight? Consider La Compagnie, an airline so small that it only flies from Newark to Paris using a total of two planes. Both of its planes have 74 business class seats, and no economy section.

To be fair, the airline's business class seats are the 175-degree angled recliners that most other carriers have already replaced with full lie-flat seats. But these seats are still light years ahead of any economy class seats. Best of all, flights on La Compagnie start at a mere $1,300 round-trip. Seats are more expensive than a discounted flight in economy class, but they're far less than most competitors' business class fares.

Norwegian Air

This carrier has been rapidly expanding to a variety of international routes. While its name might suggest that it primarily transports people to Norway, most of its routes from the United States are to London, Paris, and other major European destinations. From these international gateways, you can connect to short-haul flights to secondary destinations if you want.

Norwegian offers a premium section with wider, reclining seats than you'll find in economy class. Premium passengers get two free checked bags, a three-course dinner, and breakfast. As with La Compagnie, Norwegian's premium product is more expensive than discounted economy, but less than the business class service offered by its competitors.

JetBlue

Like the other airlines here, JetBlue doesn't call it's premium product "first class." However, its Mint seats and service are some of the most luxurious offered by any airline. Mint class, which is only offered on select Caribbean and coast-to-coast domestic routes, offers a full lie-flat seat and premium dining options. It also comes with priority check-in, security, boarding, and baggage claim. And all JetBlue flights come with free, high-speed internet service. Mint flights start at $599 each way, which is a bargain for a six-hour flight in this kind of comfort.

Other tips for getting cheap first class

Even if you're not flying one of the airlines listed above, there are ways to save on a premium class experience.

1. Use miles

I've analyzed dozens of airline award charts and in my experience, business and first class seats often cost three to five times as much as a nonrefundable economy class ticket. Compared to that, you can get a relative bargain by redeeming your miles for them. A domestic first class seat usually requires about twice as many miles as economy, while I've seen business class international tickets that require just 60–100 percent more than economy. You also have to consider the price of meals and baggage fees that you can avoid by traveling in business or first class. (See also: 5 Airline Miles Secrets Only Frequent Flyers Know)

2. Consider paying for upgrades after your purchase

After you've already booked your seat, many airlines will offer you a paid upgrade. Check the online forums for frequent travelers and you'll see lots of discussions about how good these offers can be. In short, the cost of a discounted seat with a paid upgrade is often less than the original price of a business class seat. Paid upgrade offers may also be available at check-in.

3. Double check the price at the time of purchase

After years of seeing outrageous prices for first class seats, many travelers have simply given up looking. However, some of the major airlines occasionally discount their first class seats. At the same time, you might be paying a premium for economy class. As a result, it's not uncommon to see first class selling for just a little bit above economy class. And when you factor in luggage charges and the cost of onboard food purchases, you could have a very good deal.

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4 Airlines With the Cheapest First Class Seats

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