a row of black and white seats in an airplane

That’ll be $130 in additional fees, please…

Things are all calm at the airline desk, until that magic moment: the college kids arrive. As they approach the desk, excitement reaches new peaks as agents prepare to charge them for every excess item they’re inevitably packing. What I’m getting at here is simple: though it doesn’t sound right in the slightest, first class often makes more economical sense for short haul flight, and people miss out on it every day. Here’s why this isn’t as crazy as you may think…

an airplane seats with a tv and a monitorIt’s Less Than You Think

One of the greatest mistakes travelers frequently make is not glancing at the first or business class column. Sure, for international tickets it can be shocking – but for domestic or short haul, it’s not uncommon to find price differentials under $100 round trip. And when you’re looking for one way or last minute tickets, the value can be even more compelling. When you consider the elements we’ll discuss below, like $50-130 round trip checked bag fees, paying extra to avoid basic economy and time savings at the airport, buying the more expensive ticket can actually save a fortune. See, this article already isn’t quite as crazy as you thought.

All About Baggage Allowance

Got bags? Thought so! It only makes perfect sense, for a student to be lugging at least one or two checked bags with them, as they prepare to transition from life in one exciting place to home with their parents. Whereas economy tickets come with zero bags, and sometimes even zero carry on bags, first class offers two free bags or more, with additional weight limits. For an economy passenger, a checked bag costs $25 on average for the first bag and $35 or more for the second. And that’s each way! Two bags would run a total additional expense of $130 on top of whatever was paid for the ticket. The only two ways to dodge at least one checked baggage fee in economy would be holding airline elite status, or holding the specific airline’s credit card. Oh, and here are some packing tips.

a close-up of a couple of suitcasesFree Seating Assignment

Most airlines allow free seating assignments to first or business class passengers, whereas economy passengers must shell out a little something for a decent window seat, extra legroom seat, or a seat towards the front of the cabin. Rather than shelling out addition money to select a seat, in first class you’re guaranteed a great seat near the front of the plane, allowing for a quick getaway to waiting family – or history class. Anyone who would’ve booked a seating assignment on an economy ticket needs to factor this additional savings in, next time they wisely glance into the first class column.

Hassle Free

Students aren’t known for being the timeliest of people, and that’s when things like priority security fast track access, boarding and a little nourishment on board can go a very long way. Economy check in lanes can be painful, economy boarding is inevitably painful and domestic or short haul first class boarding is generally the opposite of painful. In Europe, these tickets even include lounge access, which can provide a comfortable space to study, or just binge watch the new hit show du jour.

Real Life First Class Example

Yesterday I purchased an economy airline ticket for $120. I’m traveling without bags and have elite status anyway, so first class isn’t necessary for me. But if I were a college student, who’s not a frequent flyer with extreme perks, and was traveling with two bags, a carry on and a backpack, I would’ve saved a ton of money buying the $200 first class option. In fact, by my calculation, it would’ve saved me over $70 by the time all fees were told. Yep, flying first class saves money – sometimes.

Do you at least glance at the first class column?

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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  1. I am booked on a flight to mauritius next week (in economy) which cost a little more than £1,000 including 10 nights in a hotel. I had the option to upgrade to first class for an extra £9,000. (I decided to rough it)

  2. Lucky enough to travel to the Caribbean for work a few times (after hurricanes assisting with damage so not living it up and relaxing). Company policy is Premium Economy and that’s what the company travel agent will book you. I look at alternatives and have normally managed to fly Business for less by using a different routing, say via Orlando as opposed to Miami or separate tickets via New York (with a bonuses of overnights in Manhattan). Another benefit is the company trips elevate my frequent flyer status!

  3. Hmmm. My university and most I know of don’t cover airfare for classes/trips abroad. Only the “course” is covered (the tour guides, museums) and lodging. But airfare and food (besides it being a few selective meals) you are on your own. Yes, you may get some student aid, but the booking you are still on your own.

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