Summer Business Class Sale To Europe

Jun 25, 2012

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Business class airfare to Europe are generally outrageously priced, so I rarely even search for them – for me it’s either paid coach (and hopefully upgraded) or business/first class redemptions using my miles and points. However, summer (as well as Thanksgiving) is usually a good time to buy business class seats since there are fewer business travelers and a lot more economy class leisure travelers. That means coach fares are pushed up and often business class fares discounted- making it easier to justify the difference to just buy business class outright.

Last week Alitalia announced a summer business class fare sale from several East Coast gateways in North America to its hubs in Italy and I noticed that some of Alitalia’s competitors had started matching the lower fares. I decided to check out a couple of other routes to see if the sale was having an effect and the good news is: it was!

Methodology
I compared business class airfares from New York, Boston, Washington DC and Miami from July 18-25 and then from September 19-26 going to various European destinations for non-stop flights.

The business class fares I found were up to 50% lower in July than they are in September. Even better – many of them aren’t that much more than just flying coach this summer (airfares to Europe from the East Coast seem to be hovering around the $1,100 mark). Even better, you earn class-of-service (50%) and elite mileage (varies) bonuses on most business fares. Plus, if you use a credit card like the American Express Premier Rewards Gold, you can earn 3 points per dollar spent on airfare, plus extra point for booking through a shopping portal or American Express travel.

For your own searches, I’d also suggest going through Orbitz since going through airlines’ individual sites can be hit-or-miss and Orbitz lets you search flexible dates and compares all the competitors on a route. Then once you find your flight, you can go to the individual airline’s site and book it from there.

Note: It may still be cheaper to buy US Airways miles at 1.9 cents a piece through their current 100% bonus promotion and then redeem for awards. A 100,000 mile saver award would cost roughly $1,900, though you’ll need to work your schedule around saver availability and you don’t earn miles on award redemptions.

Sample Fares

This was the fare that got it all started – JFK to Rome for just $3,213 (I found it for as low as $2,599 in August). Then I noticed American and British Airways were matching it! The war was on.

That same ticket is normally $5,022, so the summer fare is a 36% discount.

I decided to check fares to other European destinations as well, and found this fare from JFK-Paris on Air France for $2,936, which British Airways (well, American, really) was matching, and in August, I actually found a fare as low as $1,914. Incredible for this route.

That same ticket would cost $5,333 this fall, so a summer trip would basically be getting a 45% discount. I also  found tickets from Boston to Paris as well for $3,256 this summer, which jumped to $4,952 in September.

The true test, however, would come when looking at fares to the capital of high airport taxes: London.

I decided to try a little variety and search for fares to London from Washington Dulles (IAD) and found this business class fare on British Airways for $2,621 that Virgin Atlantic was matching. I’d be happy flying either airline.

The best non-stop I could find on the same route in September was for $4,556…nearly 74% more!

Boston to London Heathrow was also looking tantalizingly low at $2,093. Especially considering even coach is $869 on this route this summer.

Of course, Miami is my hub, so I had to look up London flights from there, and both Virgin Atlantic and British Airways are low-balling the route with BA coming in at $3,061 (I found one during another week in July for $2,863 – though that was the lowest I could find anywhere at any time).

Compared with $4,347 in September. Even more interesting, though…

You can still get from New York to London for as low as $2,571 (non-stop, and even lower if you want to take Icelandair!) right smack dab in the middle of the Olympics this summer.

Though fares from the West Coast weren’t as exciting, I did find flights on British Airways and Virgin Atlantic from LAX and SFO to London for $3,343 in July versus over $5,000 in September (though Air New Zealand also offers a direct flight from LAX that was going for $4,867 in September).

I did a quick check from Chicago, and fares over the summer were running just under $2,800 on BA, American and Virgin, the jumped up to $4,640 in September, so that’s over $1,800 savings, but I couldn’t find anything similar on other routes out of there.

Caveats
There are a couple of things to keep in mind, though. First, these fares are still expensive and not for everyone. But I thought discounts up to almost 50% were definitely worth reporting on, and worth taking advantage of if you have upcoming travel.

Second, if you’re a Star Alliance member, you might just be out of luck…though I did find one US Airways fare from Philadelphia to London for $2,666 compared to $5,079 in September. Another way to potentially work something out of this though, is if you have high elite status and want to take advantage of these fares, consider asking a Delta or American for a status match before you purchase your ticket, and you could be earning huge mileage bonuses on these premium fares.

I only searched about a dozen different routes and fares to get a feeling for what was on sale, but if you scored an amazing deal, or find out new information on any of these or other destinations you can get at huge savings, please share it with the rest of us in the comments below.

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