How to get a first-class seat on your next flight

So, you want to experience life on the other side of the curtain? Here are a few things to get you flying the high life.

Flying first-class is on many a bucket list. But unless you want to blow the down- payment of a car on a single trip, it’s probably going to remain unticked. You’ll need to do a lot of homework, and put in some strategy, to get those golden tickets:

First, let’s start off with the most obvious: outright buying the tickets

The most straightforward way to get a ticket is, of course, to just buy it. But unless you’re the sort who can gargle with bird’s nest in the morning, this is going to be improbable.

First class tickets to destinations in Asia and Europe tend to start from $10,000; a quick search on comparison sites will reveal this. For flights to the US, prepare to pay between $12,000 to $15,000.

Frankly, for that amount of money, we suggest you buy a bottle of champagne and have a steak dinner at MBS; then get on an economy flight to wherever you’re headed.

The only way to lower the price when buying directly is to buy during off-peak seasons. That is, avoid buying tickets during the November to December holiday season, or in September (but this is really just generic travel advice, for any class of ticket).

Now that that’s out of the way, here are some cheats that can get you a first-class ticket for cheaper:

Get bonus miles from your day to day spending

The idea here is to accumulate bonus miles, on things that you were going to buy anyway.

For example, certain ride-share apps in Singapore allow you to convert reward points to air miles – so if you’re dead set on getting a first-class ticket, you may want to channel all your rewards into bonus miles.

But this method alone isn’t likely to accumulate enough miles.

For example, you’d need 11,000 reward points to get 1,000 bonus miles on a ride share app. For every dollar spent using the app you get 16 points – so you’d need to spend $687.50 just for 1,000 points.

And a first-class ticket from, say, New York to Singapore costs about 135,000 miles from SIA, at the time of writing. You’d have to spend over $90,000 on rides before you accumulate enough points.

So while this method helps to boost your miles, you’ll also need to take more active steps to enhance it. Such as…

Going out of your way to put other people’s spending on your card

This can result in weird behaviour. For example:

Had dinner with friends? Charge the whole amount to your air miles card, then get all your friends to PayLah! you back.

Is your cousin buying a Nintendo Switch? Rush to the counter and insist it be charged to your air miles card (then collect the cash from her).

Going for lunch? Annoy your friends: refuse to eat anywhere that won’t give you the best bonus miles. Why can’t they be more understanding, huh?

You’ll want to do this for as many purchases as possible. The idea is that you’re accumulating bonus miles from multiple people’s purchases, rather than just your own (warning: it will look like you ask people for money. A lot.)

On top of this method, you’ll probably have to…

Buy air miles, to top up the difference

If you’re just short of a first-class ticket (which you often will be), you can still save money by purchasing the remaining miles needed.

For example, you can buy KrisFlyer miles from SIA (subject to conditions*), at around $40 per 1,000 miles – that’s at the time of writing.

You can also look for online mileage brokers*, who sell air miles at different costs. These offer some of the cheapest bonus miles; but you must be willing to follow them, and compare prices manually.

The costs won’t be insignificant, but they’ll still be cheaper overall.

For example, say 1,000 miles costs $25, and you’re 50,000 miles short of a first-class ticket. You can fork out $1,250 to cover the difference.

We know $1,250 isn’t chump change – but it’s still way cheaper than paying for a $10,000 ticket.

*Based on our last enquiry, SIA requires you to have at least half the KrisFlyer miles required, before you can purchase the remaining amount e.g. if you would need 100,000 miles, you can only purchase 50,000 miles this way.

Different airlines will have various requirements; check before buying.

**Please be careful; don’t get ripped off by a scam site. Carefully review and check all brokers before purchasing.

It can also help if you’re okay with a complicated journey

Rather than start all your trips from Singapore, check what happens if you depart from Kuala Lumpur, or Perth, or a nearby city. Sometimes, the air miles required can drop significantly.

You’ll have to pay to travel to the other departure point (use an economy ticket). Check if the cost is worth it, compared to buying the remaining miles needed. It’s inconvenient; but again, it’s cheaper than buying the first-class ticket in hard cash.

Alternatively, you may be the “it’s the journey, not the destination” type. In other words, your priority is to fly first class, and you don’t really care where you end up. You could then source around for the most affordable first-class experience in bonus miles – and then try your best to enjoy the destination.

It can be even more fun, ending up somewhere, that you never thought of visiting before.

There are more extreme ways to get even steeper discounts

But those methods involve some hardcore travel ‘hacks’, and getting to the point where you spend hours working out how to juggle between points obtained at hotels, miles exchange rates between different alliances of airlines, and even down to using different currencies***.

For all intents and purposes, the above methods will work for most trying to get a first-class ticket. The key is to just work in terms of bonus miles and avoid flat out buying the ticket in cash. Good luck.

***Some air miles cards give you bonus miles for spending in a foreign currency, which might make it worth buying something in, say, US dollars instead of Singapore dollars.

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