Want to fly like royalty on a pauper’s budget? Business class is beyond most of our budgets, but there are some costeffective ways to fly like business travellers down the back of the plane.
1) Don’t forget to check for low-cost airlines’ offers
Low-cost airlines often offer business class services and comfort for the price of economy class on full service airlines. Sometimes these airlines don’t turn up on price comparison websites, so my advice is to check the website of your departure airport for new flights, and have a quick look at its Wikipedia page under “airlines and destinations”.
Long-haul low-cost carriers from airlines like Scoot, AirAsia X, Jetstar, LEVEL and Norwegian can be great value, with well-priced upgrades to bigger and wider recliner seats. Around Europe, LCCs like Vueling and Eurowings offer fares (Excellence and Best, respectively) that give you the extra elbow-room of an empty middle seat, free rein of the onboard catering trolley, two-bag luggage allowance, airport priority, lounges and more.
2) Buy your way into the lounge
Talking of lounges, a growing number of them want to take your money in exchange for providing a spot to relax and unwind, often with food, drink, Wi-Fi and showers included. This can be really reasonably priced, especially compared with dining at the airport. If you or one of your loved ones happens to have a flashy credit card, see whether it comes with benefits like a lounge network, such as Priority Pass. You can often be added as a subsidiary cardholder, which can be surprisingly worthwhile if you’re planning an extended trip like a backpacking holiday or gap year.
3) Pack your PJs and make your own amenity kit.
Many airlines pass out business class pyjamas and amenity kits so their big spenders can get on the plane in their suit, sleep in something fresh and clean, freshen up and land without having spent the last 24 hours in the same clothes. Packing a change of clothes is a great idea for every traveller on a long flight, and you can decide whether you like a warm, fleecy pair of PJs or prefer a lighter t-shirt and cotton shorts combo.
An amenity kit with a dry shampoo, your favourite skincare products and a travel toothbrush, too, can make a real difference to whether you bounce or stumble your way off the plane. Whether you prefer to pick up special travel-sized versions or decant your face wash and moisturiser into sub-100-millilitre pots, it’s well worth taking a few minutes before leaving home to take care of your skin.
4) Pack your own meal to make sure you get something good
Your chance of getting an edible meal in continues to decline on many airlines who provide complimentary food, while those serving buy-on-board options can be good but may also run out of what you like. Airport sandwiches can be grim, so make yourself one before you leave home. For brekkie, good options to replace the airline’s weaponised croissant and weirdly crunchy fruit are your favourite cereal bars, some fruit or plastic-wrapped muffins. I’ll pop these in a reusable plastic box that I then use to organise bits and bobs in my luggage between flights.
5) Snag yourself a shower on arrival
A good hot shower is an amazing way to arrive. Buy-your-way-in arrivals lounges are the new black, and quite a few airports (especially in the Asia-Pacific region) have showers for passengers to use. Airport hotels, too, get in on the act by offering day room rates for an hour or two so you can freshen up. Search for “arrivals lounge”, “arrivals showers”, or “day room” plus your destination airport’s name to see whether there’s one available where you’re going.
John Walton is an international aviation journalist, follow him @thatjohn.