These are the prices for flying in luxury — Photo courtesy of iStock / LightFieldStudios
First class passengers may be a dying breed – earlier this year, American Airlines joined Delta and United in doing away with first class on international flights – but as long as there are travelers willing to pay for a premium experience, it will exist in one form or another.
What you can expect to pay
You can pay as little as $300 to fly first class round trip from New York to Chicago or Washington, D.C. If you’re looking at flying a longer route, such as New York to Los Angeles or Seattle to Atlanta, you’re looking at spending at least $1,100.
Flying first class to Hawaii is slightly pricier. Round-trip tickets to Honolulu International Airport, Hawaii’s busiest airport, average about $1,200 from Los Angeles, $1,900 from Atlanta and $2,800 from New York. First class flights to other islands average $100-$200 more. And first class flights to Alaska? You’re going to have to shell out at least $1,000 (unless you’re flying from Seattle where first class round-trip tickets to Anchorage start at just $650).
Where flying first class really starts to get expensive is when you involve a passport stamp. The following are the average prices of round-trip international first class tickets from the U.S.:
South America: $11,000
What you get for your money
Most first class passengers enjoy priority service at check-in, TSA screening and boarding. Some airlines, including Delta and United, even offer priority baggage handling, so your luggage comes out first. Most first class tickets also include complimentary checked bags, wider seats with more legroom and complimentary food and beverages (including alcohol). Lounge access typically depends on the route, but it never hurts to ask. Here’s what you can expect to get with a first class ticket on popular U.S. airlines:
Alaska Airlines: First class passengers get to check two bags for free and earn 75% more Mileage Plan™ bonus miles for their trip.
American Airlines: First class passengers get two free checked bags (three for Flagship® First), free in-flight entertainment and premium dining. They also have access to Flagship Lounges and, in some cases, the Admirals Club.
Delta Airlines: Check up to two bags for free and indulge in fresher food options. First class seats, some of which offer up to 8 extra inches of legroom, all feature outlets and passengers receive complimentary earphones.
Hawaiian Airlines: Hawaiian Airlines’ first class is called premium. Premium passengers are treated to seats that lie completely flat, in-seat power, signature cocktails and fresh cuisine prepared by Hawaiian chefs.
JetBlue: JetBlue calls its first class service Mint. All Mint seats boast aisle access and lie flat. Book a seat in the front row Mint Studio and enjoy free entertainment on your private 22-inch screen (the largest TV on any U.S. airline). Mint passengers also get to borrow noise-isolating headphones, and they get to keep a wellness kit, snooze kit and “touchdown treats.”
Southwest Airlines: Southwest’s most premium class is Business Select, but it’s a far cry from first class, so don’t bother if you’re looking for luxury.
United Airlines: United First passengers receive two free checked bags and enjoy premium leather seats with a center console. When it comes to entertainment, they have complimentary access to United Private Screening and DIRECTV (more than 100 channels).
Virgin Atlantic: First class on Virgin Atlantic is called Upper Class. Upper Class passengers enjoy seats that convert into beds and have access to the airline’s exclusive social spaces like The Loft and The Booth (available on select Airbus A350s).
How to fly first class for less
Scott Keyes, founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights, gave USA TODAY 10Best his top three tips for flying first class without paying top dollar. They include:
Fly in February: It’s the least popular month for global travel, so you won’t have to compete with as many travelers for limited first class seats.
Go where the deals are: You may want to go to Japan, but if the airlines are offering major discounts on flights to Hong Kong, consider traveling there instead.
Fly to Portugal: Portugal’s flagship airline, TAP, offers some of the best sales on transatlantic first class flights. Compared to other airlines traveling to Europe, save an average of $1,000-$1,500 per ticket.