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SINGAPORE: Economy class. It can sometimes feel like Dante’s ninth circle of hell – but with less legroom.
Ascending to the relative heaven of business class may seem out of reach. But there are - in fact - ways to get there without selling your soul, your earthly possessions and the shirt off your jetlagged back.
Just ask Chua Enlai, who hasn’t flown long-haul Economy in 10 years.
“Once you’ve flown business class long-haul, it’s very hard to turn right again when you board the plane,” the 39-year-old said, referring to the boarding directions for economy class on an airplane. “I’m sure everyone feels that way.”
No, it’s not because he’s rolling in dough – actors don’t get CPF, okay? It’s really because Chua is a savvy traveller who knows how to snag the best deals. So of course we had to pick his brain to learn all his tricks.
Granted, in order to take full advantage of these methods, you do need to have a certain amount of time, flexibility and spontaneity. But chances are, if you don’t have those, then you probably have money to fly business without our help.
Keep in mind: Barring any technical glitch or one-off headline-grabbing promotional stunt, flying business class – even with all the tips and schemes in the world – will not be cheaper than most economy class deals. Or flying budget.
So keep those comments for some other message board.
For the rest of you: See you in business class!
1. BE OPEN TO CHOOSING YOUR DESTINATION BASED ON DEALS OFFERED
It’s all about taking advantage of the best deals, so, if you can do this, part of the battle is won. Even if you don’t want to stay in the location on offer, you can use it as a base from which to travel to other destinations.
“You end up adding stops. But I always make use of these stops,” said Chua. “For example, I managed to see Dusseldorf when I stopped there for a few hours on my way to New York City on Etihad and Air Berlin.”
2. GET YOURSELF ON ALL THE MAILING LISTS
The best way to keep abreast of special offers and deals is to make sure you are receiving updates from airlines. “When you book a ticket, you can subscribe to the airline’s emails. I don’t give a fake address. I give my actual email address,” said Chua, who is on at least 10 different mailing lists.
3. DO NOT FLY DIRECTLY OUT OF SINGAPORE
“If you want to get a discounted ticket, it usually means your routing is a little bit complicated. Where you start the ticket is what matters,” said Chua.
“Some routes have really good deals, but never from Singapore. Places like Singapore and London – big financial hubs – usually don’t have to offer discounted tickets because there is so much corporate travel. So, I’ve started my journey in places like Ho Chi Minh and Colombo.”
This means you should be open to extending your journey. An extra night or two in Ho Chi Minh? Sign us up!
What’s more, “If you choose an airline in the same alliance as your long-haul trip, you can probably check your bags through.”
4. PURCHASE MILES ON THE CHEAP AND REDEEM THEM FOR FLIGHTS
This hack is a little sneaky, but perfectly legit. Buying the frequent flier miles needed for a trip can sometimes be cheaper than a regular ticket.
“Many frequent flier programmes allow you to purchase miles, and they have regular offers, such as getting 50 per cent more miles (for a fixed price). For example, United does this quite often,” Chua said. “Columbian airline Avianca has the best deals for buying miles – and you can fly on any of the Star Alliance airlines.”
For example, he purchased US$2,000 (S$2,600) worth of miles via Avianca, which bought him a flight to Buenos Aires on business class. A full-price ticket would have cost S$8,000. “You’re flying 38 hours and 45 minutes. Now, wouldn’t you rather be in business class?” he quipped.
One word of caution: “The disadvantage is that it is based on seat availability.”
5. HIT THE ‘FOLLOW’ BUTTON ON TRAVEL SITES AND FORUMS
Following websites dedicated to travel hacks, aggregator sites and forums is a good way to catch deals. These include sites such as Kayak, Google Flights, Flyer Talk, Loyalty Lobby and One Mile At A Time. “I follow some of them on Twitter,” Chua said.
6. LOOK OUT FOR AIRLINES OPENING NEW ROUTES
There are likely to be special offers for these routes, as airlines are keen to promote them. “It’s quite easy to chance upon a deal,” Chua asserted. “It’s really competitive.”
Chua Enlai can next be seen in the sketch comedy series We The Citizens, premiering May 17 on Toggle.