I Couldn’t Bring Myself To Book This Great Business Class Fare – Here’s Why


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Every now and again I find myself taking a path that I’m not sure too many other people would take given similar circumstances. It’s no secret that I like to travel in premium cabins wherever possible (at least on long-haul routes) but sometimes not even a great price can persuade me to pull the trigger on a fare when something doesn’t feel quite right.

I’m sure a lot of people will think that I’m a little crazy for not booking the fare I’m about to discuss but I’ll explain my reasoning nonetheless – at the very least it will give you a good insight into how I think about my bookings and may even give you pause for thought in the future.

The Trip I Need To Book

I need fly between London and Los Angeles next year and, unusually for me, I have very specific dates on which I can fly.

Normally I would have booked my flights quite some time ago (and on American Airlines) but, as I’ve discussed before, the changes to how upgrades are handled by American Airlines have seen me hold off booking my flights while I wait (and hope) for a great fare to show up.

Recently, a great fare to LA did appear online but rather than originating in London it originated in Dublin. That’s not an issue for me as I’m more than used to positioning to other cities to take advantage of good premium cabin deals – what gave me pause was the airline that was offering the good Business Class fare.

A sub-$1,700 roundtrip Business Class fare between Europe and the West Coast is a very, very good fare indeed and not one I would normally think twice about. Normally I’d book it as quickly as possible (to avoid missing out) and worry about the logistics later….but not this time.

Two things bothered me.

Firstly, I really didn’t enjoy my one and only Virgin Upper Class experience last year (I called the A330 Upper Class cabin “probably the worst modern Business Class product I’ve experienced“) and, while this fare is for travel on a 787 Dreamliner and not an A330, the Upper Class cabins on the two aircraft are not significantly different.

Secondly, I had the option to book an Economy Class fare for a lot less:

Not only did the Economy Class fare cost less but it also allowed me to terminate my journey back in London while the Virgin Atlantic fare required me to head back to Dublin – the combination of cheapness and convenience is always a tempting one.

Here’s The Thing….

I don’t actually need a Business Class cabin on the outbound flight. Yes the flight is long but it’s a daytime flight and I’ll probably want to work for most of it anyway – I’ll survive just fine in cargo class.

Sure, a Business Class seat would be more comfortable than any Economy Class seat I book (even if it’s a Virgin Atlantic Business Class seat) but, as I don’t need to sleep, having a Business Class seat isn’t crucial to my happiness.

On top of that, and thanks to my status with oneworld, I’m able to reserve an exit row seat when booking the Economy Class fare so that will make the whole experience a little less terrible.

Virgin Atlantic A330 Upper Class from December 2016

The return flight is another matter.

On the return I’ll be flying overnight and a Business Class seat makes the world of difference when you need/want to get some sleep…..but then that brings me back to the issue I had with the Virgin Atlantic Business Class seat. I hated it.

I’m not entirely convinced that I’d actually get a restful sleep if I booked the Virgin Atlantic Business Class seat and that then calls into question the sanity of paying $1,642 for the seat in the first place.

On top of that there’s one more thing to factor in.

The Economy Class fare is on offer through American Airlines and I will have 4 American Airlines “Systemwide Upgrades” to use at some point next year. If the upgrade gods look upon me favourably and if American holds off changing its upgrade policy again (admittedly those are two big “ifs” considering the way things have been going) I could end up flying back to London in Business Class anyway….and after only having paid for an Economy Class seat.

The excellent Business Class seats on American’s 777-330ER aircraft

Bottom Line

Like I said at the beginning of this post, this probably sounds a little crazy but I couldn’t bring myself to book the Virgin Atlantic Upper Class fare.

The cash I’d save by booking the Economy Class fare would more than pay for everything else on my trip and probably leave me with money to spare….and I couldn’t pass that up in favor of a seat that I really don’t think I’m going to find comfortable second time around.

Wanting to visit the Virgin Clubhouse at London Heathrow did come into my calculations (I’ve never been inside) and did give me an added incentive to give Virgin’s Upper Class one more go…..but eventually the $1,160+ difference in cost won out.

So, here’s the question – what would you have done and why?

Featured image: Mark Harkin via Flickr

3 COMMENTS

  1. While I most definitely NOT agree with you that VX’s Upper Class “probably the worst modern Business Class product I’ve experienced” — indeed I actually like it — I would say that while one doesn’t necessarily need a Business Class seat on an East-to-West flight, it’s up to you to think about work productivity in Economy versus Business. If you can be productive on a 12:40 hour flight (DUB-LHR-LAX), more power to you! I know I could not.

    PLUS, don’t you have to figure in the cost of the “positioning” flight TO Dublin in your overall cost? Even if it’s a cheap Ryan Air flight, it still represents an expense in your overall cost.

    Finally, it IS one heck of a lot less expensive to book Coach than Business (always). But in particular, this seems to be very inexpensive (relatively), it’s a non-stop on the return, AND with your systemwide upgrades, I agree that AA is the way to go.

    • I definitely won’t be productive on the DUB – LHR route but I’ll be fine on the LHR-LAX sector (as long as I keep my exit row seat and done have someone reclining into my laptop).

      The cost of the LHR-DUB or LHR-DUB-LHR ticket happens to be irrelevant here as I’d need to get to Dublin for both options. As RT fares are cheaper than OW fares (right now on this route) I’d be buying a RT fare regardless of my flight choices.

      The big “IF” here is the upgrade on the return flight: 9.5 – 10.5 hours in AA Economy Class overnight isn’t fun even if you’re in an exit row so I really need the upgrade to come through.

  2. What I would have done to maximize my comfort and minimize the price, was to have purchased that $481 main cabin extra seat on American Airlines and then purchased the seat next to it, giving me plenty of room on the plane. And when you purchase the extra seat next to yours as an empty seat, take off some of the taxes on that fare too. I explain it more fully on my blog post here: http://travelingprofessor.com/TravelBlog/TabId/100/ArtMID/486/ArticleID/543/Perhaps-the-Best-Airline-Booking-Tip-Ever.aspx

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