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As the U.S. economy gets better and the airline industry has started to prosper, it’s no secret that miles and points availability is lackluster at best, with devaluations in full gear, and airlines particularly stingy about releasing award seats.
At the same time, we’re finding that while premium fares abroad are still generally quite expensive, there are a handful of unadvertised fare sales every few months that make purchasing a business class ticket outright a tempting proposition. Indeed, Ben has noted that if anything is devaluing the miles-and-points game in the near future, it’s the decent availability of reasonable business class airfares: rather than hunting and pecking for available dates, and struggling to find award space for more than one person, travelers can now opt to shell out cash for the exact dates they need.
We haven’t seen anything quite on the level of a gangbusters fare sale (say, West Coast to Europe for $1,500 in business class) in quite a while, but it’s worth noting — especially if you have summer travel on the horizon — that there are some relative deals out there. I figure it’s worth posting a quick roundup of deals available now — these aren’t red-alert, drop-everything-and-buy-now deals, but at the same time these deals represent substantial discounts off the “normal” price of airfare.
I’ll start with the fare I just booked this week:
Los Angeles / San Francisco to Athens, through May (Virgin Atlantic)
Google Flights is showing airfare on Virgin Atlantic via Heathrow (connecting to either Aegean or British Airways, neither of which are codeshares or partners) from the two major California gateways to Athens for ~$2,250. You may be able to book them online via Expedia, JustFly or Vayama (I’ve had mixed results), but they should be bookable by phone.
Because Virgin Atlantic doesn’t actually fly to Athens itself, you can’t book these fares on Virgin Atlantic’s website, but you can call the airline itself and they’ll book it for you for the price quoted on Google Flights; you can also call American Express or any other travel agency. Online availability on the travel agencies noted above is spotty at best, and oddly, each agency appears to have access to different inventory, but you’ll be able to save a couple of hundred dollars off the fare if you do snag them off those sites.
These don’t compare to the sub-$1,700 fares we’d been seeing this fall on SkyTeam, but, frankly, you’re not going to find a better paid airfare to Europe from California right now. Moreover, once you’re in Athens, you can pretty much get to anywhere else in Europe relatively inexpensively.
For me, though, this is an excellent way to rack up MQMs, since Virgin Atlantic is a Delta SkyMiles partner.
Chicago to Europe, through end of schedule (Star Alliance; SkyTeam)
If you live in Chicago or can get yourself to O’Hare, you can take advantage of some pretty decent business class airfares — mostly, fully bookable online — to major European gateways, with the lowest fares typically found on Wednesdays through Sundays. These fares are showing up through the end of schedule — which is to say, these fares are good for summer travel to Europe, not to mention fall/winter travel later this year.
You can fly to pretty much anywhere in Europe for under $2,500, with some highlights including:
- Dublin, from $2,180 roundtrip (via Virgin Atlantic and either Aer Lingus or BA; must be booked via a travel agency or by phone)
- Athens, from $2,200 roundtrip (United, Swiss, Lufthansa, Austrian, Turkish and Air Canada with Star Alliance; KLM and Delta with SkyTeam; it’s worth pointing out fares to Athens on oneworld carries are around ~$2,700, but if you have an AARP membership and the British Airways Visa Signature® Card you can bring the fares down to a competitive basis)
- Frankfurt, Hamburg and Berlin from $2,430 roundtrip (Aer Lingus)
- Madrid and Barcelona from $2,430 (Virgin Atlantic; online only)
Los Angeles to Cairo, through end of schedule (SkyTeam; Star Alliance)
There are some remarkable fares to Cairo available from Los Angeles in business class, starting as low as $2,200 and clustering around the $2,400 mark. If you’re brave enough to fly Saudia, there’s a lot of availability starting at $2,202 roundtrip. Otherwise, at just a bit over $2,400 roundtrip, you can fly to Cairo on Delta, KLM, Air France or Alitalia on the SkyTeam side or Lufthansa, United, Swiss or Air Canada on the Star Alliance side. This is not a bad deal if you have upcoming travel in the Middle East or Africa.
At above the $2,500 price point I’d hesitate to call it a “deal,” but there is a good deal of business class availability to Tel Aviv on KLM, Delta and Air France for a little over $2,700 roundtrip. Star Alliance carriers are a bit more, hovering around $3,000 roundtrip.
Los Angeles to Singapore and Tokyo in Singapore Airlines Business Class
A bargain, it may not be, but if you have $3,000 to throw around, you can find some itineraries from Los Angeles to Singapore on Singapore Airlines’ A380 (via Narita) in its extra-fancy business class for around $3,000. You’ll have to scour Google Flights’ calendar function, and there’s a bit of a catch: the flights will actually be marketed as JetBlue codeshares (though you can’t purchase these flights on the JetBlue site). A good travel agency should be able to book you this fare — and folks on FlyerTalk have reported decent success.
While it’s not quite as “good of a deal” (and I do hesitate to use “deal” when we’re talking about three grand and up here), you can also find tons of availability on Singapore Airlines for flights from LAX to and from Tokyo at the $3,300 mark in business class, and these are bookable online.
There are also quite a few fares from Los Angeles and San Francisco to Asian gateway cities (Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai) via Hainan Airlines for around the $2,400 mark, although those flights involve connecting in Seattle; sadly, the fares are far more expensive ex-Seattle.
We haven’t seen those crazy-good ~$1,500 business class airfares to Europe in quite some time, but the fact is that if you play around with Google Flights and FlyerTalk you can find some business class airfares that may suit you well.
Is $2,200 or so a bargain? No. But consider that economy fares to Europe from the United States can hit $1,500 and up at peak times in the summer, and you’re rarely going to find an airfare under $1,000. Accordingly, you may find that it’s worth an extra $800 or so to have a flat bed on a longhaul flight, access to world-class lounges and all of the goodies that OMAAT readers have come to crave and cherish.
Good luck and safe travels, everyone!