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Did you know there are times when economy can actually cost more than first class? It happens all the time, actually.

There are even more times where business class is cheaper than premium, or only marginally more expensive for insanely different levels of comfort. Sometimes, those things are only true one way, and sometimes, you might only want; or need more comfort one way.

So why do most travel booking websites lock you into a one size fits all journey, where you specify the cabin you’d like both ways, rather than allowing you to pick how you’d like to fly, in each direction?

Why Don’t More Sites Offer Mixed Cabin Tickets?

Kayak, you’re safe. Most airlines are too, but they don’t make it easy. Expedia, which is easily the largest travel booking resource on the planet, and Google Flights, which may take the title in the future, are not.

a screenshot of a flight schedule

If you search for flights on either Expedia or Google, or any of the many, many Expedia owned companies like Orbitz, HotWire, Travelocity and others, you must select a cabin and stick with it. You’re a one size fits all customer. Yep, even Google Flights is guilty, despite revolutionizing almost everything else with flight search.

More often than not, airlines penalize people for booking one way fares, particularly on international trips, so it’s not as if people can book each way separately and benefit all the same.

If you are happy to fly economy one way, but would love the added comfort of premium for the other, potentially longer direction, there’s no easy way to do that with most online travel booking websites. These online booking sites actually force you to search with airlines directly, which is counter to their business goals.

Even then, airlines don’t spell out that you “can” do this.

You still must enter your search as one cabin or the other, but during the booking process you then see the prices in other cabins, and select them individually for the outbound and return, as you wish.

a screenshot of a flight schedule

In the past, there was a decent reason for this. People could try to claim better benefits, like extra bags both ways, even though they were only in a higher cabin one way. But in recent years, airlines made that more transparent and easy to understand. You can be entitled to different perks in different directions.

Here’s why multiple cabin itineraries can be a huge win…

Better Prices

I’m typically in the ‘premium economy’ bracket of customer, but when business class is on sale, I can be tempted. On short flights, I care about the joys of business class beds far less than on longer flights, so I love to mix cabins. I’ll book premium in the shorter direction and business for the longer way, or overnight.

The same applies to people whose budget might typically be economy, but can be tempted by a great Premium Economy offer one way, for just a bit more. The airline wins because it makes more money, and you do too.

Tailored Experience

Take someone traveling at the holidays, who might need extra baggage to bring all the presents, but might not need it on the way back.

Multiple cabin bookings allows you to buy up to a cabin with the extras you need when you need them, but not pay for bags you don’t need the other way.

Fitting More Into Budgets

Business travel was once a very frustrating business, but many companies are more nimble now. Corporate travel policies would forbid business class travel, even if it was cheaper to book than economy, or premium.

Now, projects are more often given a budget, which allows businesses to make their employees happier, by allowing them to find as much comfort as they can; within a budget. It might be first class one way and a night in economy the other, but the choice is valuable.

Best Ways To Book Multiple Cabin Itineraries

Right now, the choices are pretty simple if you want to book a multiple cabin itinerary. Either book directly with an airline, or search on Kayak. A few other sites may have this feature, but most of the major online travel agencies which make up the vast majority of all airline tickets sold, do not.

GSTP’s best advice has always been to “window shop” when booking flights, because other cabins aren’t always as expensive as one might expect, and are sometimes even lower, for crazy reasons. You’ll never know if you don’t compare.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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