Horses for Courses (and Cabins). How Returning in a Different Class Can Make for a Much Better Value

A fresh lockdown look at cabinus interruptus. A worthwhile ploy to save big.

One of the (many) default behaviors that travelers subconsciously engage in is departing and returning in the same class of service. I’d like to let you in on a little-used secret: You can mix up the cabins depending on the circumstances of your trip to save a lot, or upgrade cheaply—either way, it’s about getting the most bang for your buck.

So what are the circumstances where this might apply?

The decision should be based on how you’re going to use your seat each way. If it’s a night flight (and most all flights to Europe depart at night), you’ll want a comfy sleep so you’ll be fresh when you arrive. Hello Business or First Class. If it’s a day flight and you want to do some work, read a book or catch up on Season 1 of “Flight Attendant,” then Premium Economy might suffice — if saving your budget for another part of the trip, say upgrading to a suite — is important.

Why pay for a lie-flat sleeper seat on a day flight if you don’t plan on sleeping in it?

But here’s where it really makes a difference. By not taking the default option of returning in Business Class, you can save $1,135 on a trip from New York to Frankfurt, or save $822 on a trip from Dallas to Paris, as you’re about to discover. Vive la différence!

Smart Comeback Example #1

A New York-Frankfurt round-trip ticket costs $3,649 in Business Class on Delta. But if you fly in Business Class to Frankfurt (as the flight leaves at 7:45 pm), and return in Premium Economy (flight leaves at 10:40 am so seat recline is not as critical), the total cost is $2,514, a savings of $1,135. You can put that towards an out-of-this-world dining or tour experience and not think twice about it.

A Dallas-Paris round-trip ticket costs $3,202 in Business Class on American. But if you fly in Business Class to Paris and return in Premium Economy, the total cost is $2,380, a savings of $822.

Smart Comeback Example #2
Upgrade Your Premium Economy R/T to Business O/W for Just $16/Hour

Let’s look at another way you can use a mixed cabin to your advantage. You can upgrade from a standard Premium Economy flight to Europe (with a lousy night’s sleep) to a mixed-cabin strategy (Business Class to Europe on the sleep leg, Premium Economy on the return) for a mere $16 per flight hour. I mean, sleep is precious, right? And surely that preciousness is worth more than $16 an hour. Sounds like a done deal to me.

As the screenshots below show, a Premium Economy return flight between New York and Rome costs $1,229. However if you depart in Business Class, you arrive fresh as a margherita (believe it or not, that’s Italian for “daisy”) in The Eternal City at 7:15 am, ready to walk off the plane and straight into a day on the town (not a recovery nap in the hotel). You then return to New York in Premium Economy looking at all the photos on your laptop, for just $1,512, or $282 more. Now that’s what I call great value for the money.

Smart Comeback #3
Time to Splurge a Bit, for $57 an Hour

Okay, now let’s dial up the comfort notch using this mixed-cabin strategy. Imagine it’s a special occasion, maybe an anniversary. Or maybe your team just won the World Series. I’d pitch to upgrade that Business Class night flight between Los Angeles and London with a First Class flight on the way there, and Business on the way back. That well-deserved comfort upgrade will only cost an extra $57 per flight hour. Divide and conquer, whether you’re leaving or heading home, a change-up just might win you the game.

How to Search and Book with Kayak

While you can book these flights on the airlines’ websites, the benefit of is that it lets you search for different classes on one round-trip ticket by using the multi-city search option. This way, you can select different classes of service as needed.

To leverage Kayak’s search power, select “Multi-city” from the drop-down instead of “round-trip.”

Enter your departure and destination, and departure and return dates, and class of service for each flight segment, and hit search. Easy.


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