Beginner’s Guide to Using Low, EasyUp Business Class Fares to Upgrade to First Class

Beginner’s Guide to Using Low, EasyUp Business Class Fares to Upgrade to First Class


Which airlines are generous when it comes to mileage upgrade awards or system-wide elite upgrades to First from deeply discounted fares? Plus, three other ways to score low First Class fares.

An EasyUp Anomaly Fare is one of the best deals you can get, one we’ve reported on since December 2012 (original report here), and subsequently and frequently on our Daily Alerts page. You can book these fares wickedly-fast. Just follow the instructions in the alert itself to get Business Class deals in the $1,100 to $1,700 range to Europe, typically $3,900 to $5,900; $2,000 to $2,800 range to Asia, typically $3,700 to $6,300; $1,800 to $2,500 range to Southern South American, typically $3,800 to $5,300; and starting at $2,500+ to Southern Africa, typically $6,355+. It can take five minutes or less to book.

(Amazing—considering that IBM surveys suggest that many people spend as much time buying an airline ticket as they do taking the flight.)

Given the flurry of special EasyUp fares last month, it’s a good time to give a fresh look at how to use these fares as a springboard into First Class.

Okay, so booking Business Class fares in minutes for just $1,100 to $1,700 makes most people really, really happy, but what if I told you that with just a little more know-how you might be able to upgrade to First, although it’s going to take another 10 to 20 minutes (if you’re lucky). Is First Class worth that much of your time? If not, stop reading now.

How to Score First Class at a Deep Discount to Europe

First off, many airlines have phased out First Class—and some airlines that still offer First Class are doing so on fewer routes. To Europe, there are presently eight airlines offering a First Class cabin: Air France, American, British Airways, Emirates (only on New York-Milan), Lufthansa, Singapore (only on New York-Frankfurt), SWISS, and United.

Of these, only a few allow upgrades to First with miles on EasyUp Business Class fares. Technically speaking, these are economy class fares, but have a built-in upgrade to Business, which is why the letters “UP” appear in the fare-basis code. It’s also one reason why FCF calls them EasyUp fares.

So, here’s a rundown of the good and the bad (we’ll spare you the ugly) for those who want to upgrade with miles and also those who have elite system-wide upgrades.

Simply put, the key questions are:

– Which airlines allow upgrading from these amazing fares with award miles? 

– Which airlines allow top-tier elites to upgrade these amazing fares using elite upgrades?

The Four Airlines that Offer the Best Opportunities

Using Miles: American, British Airways, SWISS, and United allow mileage award upgrades with EasyUp fares from the U.S. to Europe. If the upgrade is not available at time of booking on American or United, get on the waitlist.

  • American charges 50,000 miles and a $1,100 co-pay round-trip from the U.S. to Europe.
  • British Airways varies from 36,000 to 50,000 miles round-trip, based on season and U.S. departure city. There is no cash co-pay.
  • SWISS charges 40,000 miles round-trip. There is no cash co-pay.
  • United charges 40,000 miles and a $1,100 co-pay round-trip.

Using Elite Upgrades with Domestic Mileage Programs: While Delta can’t be bothered with a First Class cabin long-haul to begin with, and with United roping off its (soon to be phased out) First Class to elites who know how to find its lowest, hidden fares, American is the sole, EasyUp-Elite-Upgrade Friendly (EEUF) airline. Its Executive Platinum elites can use system-wide upgrades (four annually, plus you can earn up to four additional) to upgrade to First Class.

No Miles or Elites Upgrades? No problem, Sometimes.

Some airlines occasionally offer EasyUp First Class fares. Here’s how to find them:

Seasonal Fares

These include holiday fares (Thanksgiving and Christmas). See FCF’s May 11 alert for a good example of travel dates, routes, and airlines.

Business Class ‘UP’ Fares

These are Business Class fares with built-in cash upgrades at time of ticketing (which amounts to the fare difference between Business and First), hence the “UP” in the fare-basis code. The most recent example is United’s First Class fare to London, see June 21 alert, a 150-day advance-purchase fare. The upgrade surcharge in this case starts at $400 one-way, a much better deal than using miles for an upgrade (40,000 miles, plus $1,100 co-pay).

First Class Sale Fares

American, British Airways, Lufthansa, SWISS, and United occasionally offer promotional First Class fares. Recent examples: See FCF’s May 12 alert regarding American, British Airways, and United offering them to many European destinations including Frankfurt, Paris, and Zurich, starting at $2,912 (and $2,512 on BA with the AARP discount), and FCF’s May 11 alert to London.

Two Final Thoughts:

  1. Keep in mind that these fares are 50% to 80% off what you will normally find.
  2. You won’t find these fares very often or for very long, yet that matters little if you are able to snag one or two or however many you need when they do surface.