It’s not too good to be true: First Class is now affordable

Photo: Pyonko Omeyama

For many fliers, the front of the plane is a fairytale land of complimentary meals and always-full glasses wistfully imagined from the back of the plane. These days, first class fares are cheaper than they’ve been in a long time. We recently picked up on this airfare trend and culled some ofthe best business and first class ticket finds, many of which were shockingly low (New York City (JFK) to Dubai (DXB) for $715 on Alitalia in Business, anyone?).

Well, last week, The Wall Street Journal’s Middle Seat column did some reporting on the trend of airlines slashing prices on their top-tier seats to lure more people to purchase premium. The article cites data from Airlines Reporting Corp that analyzed 200 million tickets sold from the start of 2012 through to the end of April 2015 and a Harrell Associates consultant who tracks airfares to back up its claims.

The difference between the average coach and average first class tickets is narrower than it’s been in years, the article reports. This past April the difference between those averages for domestic travel was $577, while in April 2012 it was $805. Airlines also are offering frequent fliers upgrades on domestic trips for as little as $100-$200.

First class seems to be some sort of zero-sum game, though, and some party has to lose out. In this case the downside is that airlines aren’t giving frequent fliers as many free upgrades. They’d rather sell those seats — even at cheaper prices — and make money. So, the seats are no longer prohibitively expensive, but there’s not as good of a chance that you’ll be hearing your name called to let you know that you’re getting bumped up to the front of the plane just for being you, a loyal customer.

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