How to Book Cheap International Flights
Making your way into the business class cabin on an international flight isn’t easy, or cheap. But find your way in, and you’ll be richly rewarded. The international business class experience is unlike anything else. The gap between what’s happening in the front of the plane and in the back has never been larger. You go from having a bare-bones experience in economy to being downright pampered as you jet across an ocean to a far-away continent. In this blog, we will give you tips on how to book cheap international flights.
If you’re unwilling or unable to pony up the typical $4,000–$10,000 a business class ticket across the Atlantic runs you, there are ways to breathe that rarified premium-cabin air for much less. Today, we’re going to show you how to book cheap international flights by buying an air+hotel vacation package directly through an airline.
Saving With Airline Vacation Packages
Several airlines let you buy discounted airfare when you book your flight and hotel through them, but the biggest savings typically come from business class tickets to Europe from American Airlines Vacations. Book with them, and you could save 50% or more in business class.
The flight-hacking geniuses at FlyerTalk figured out how to book cheap international flights originally, and we’ve been big fans ever since. To find an example, we looked at the cost of a week in Paris this summer, starting from Los Angeles.
Searching on Google Flights, we come up with a business class flight that leaves Los Angeles on Friday, August 11, and returns from Paris on Saturday, August 19. Total cost: $4,784.
Next, we went over to the American Airlines Vacations site and put in the same dates. Our total cost, including three nights in a hotel in Paris: $2,997.20
Booking the same hotel independently would run you $352.50, so the actual cost of the flights works out to $2,644.70. That’s 45% off the cost of booking the business class flight alone.
Now, $2,644 is still just a bit over two times the cost of an economy ticket on those same dates. This certainly isn’t the cheapest ticket you can buy, but it is a great deal for business class economy.
We’ve found that the savings can even sometimes be more than 50% off standard rates during peak travel times if you know how to book cheap international flights.
Book Separate Hotel Dates for Bigger Savings
By default, the American Airlines vacation site will book you a hotel for the entire length of your stay, but you don’t have to. You only need to book three nights in a hotel through the site to qualify for the package discount on your airfare.
If you’re booking three consecutive nights, you can do this online by clicking on “More Search Options” on the homepage, then clicking the “Hotel Dates Different From Flight Dates” button on the advanced search page and that’s the trick on how to book cheap international flights.
If you want to split up your hotel dates—say two nights at the beginning of your trip, then a night at the airport before your flight home—you can, but you’ll need to call American Airlines Vacations on the phone to have an agent do this for you.
Earning Miles & Airline Status
One of the big benefits of booking business class tickets this way is that they book just a standard business class ticket. That means you can earn significant mileage bonuses on your trip. If you’re earning on American’s mileage program, you’ll earn two miles for every mile flown, in addition to the 1,000 bonus miles you get for booking through the site. Crediting your trip to a program partner like Alaska Air would earn you a 50% or 100% bonus on your actual miles flown, which is how to book cheap international flights. This is, of course, on top of any bonus you might earn from elite status.
So, as one example, if you had Alaska Air’s lowest-tier MVP status and flew the sample fare above, you’d net yourself 25,120 miles. That’s over 80% of the miles you’d need to renew your MVP status for the following year, worth a round-trip economy class ticket in most of the continental U.S. through Alaska’s mileage award ticketing system. Even without elite status, you’d earn 18,840 miles on Alaska.
It’s also worth noting that, when you book your trip on the American Vacations website, you’ll only be allowed to input an American frequent flyer number. But, after booking your trip, you can change that to any partner airline program number on the American Airlines website.
American also sometimes offers mileage bonuses for specific destinations and trips. Any current offers should be prominently displayed on the American Airlines Vacations website under the “Deals and Offers” heading.
More Questions & Answers
Does This Work on Other Airlines?
Yes, but, so far, we’ve found the best deals on how to book cheap international flights on the American Airlines vacation site. Still, it’s worth taking a few minutes to compare the savings on Delta Vacations, United Vacations and even international airline vacation packages.
Does This Work to Save on Economy Tickets?
Yes, but you won’t save nearly as much. When we price shopped our same sample trip above, we saved about $300, or 20%, on our flight+hotel package flying economy. Since similar deals were available from other travel sites that offer combined flight+hotel savings, we weren’t as impressed.
Can You Fly Somewhere Else Besides Europe?
Yes. Technically, this will work anywhere American and its partner airlines fly. But we’ve generally found the biggest discounts and savings on U.S.–Europe routes using this method.
Share Your Success
If you put this trick to use and manage to score a deeply discounted business class flight, we want to hear about it. Snap a photo of your international business class experience while you’re enjoying your favorite Cabeau pillow or comfort product and tag @CabeauTravel on Twitter or Instagram and show your friends how to book cheap international flights. If your post gets picked up by our social media team, we’ll send some #CabeauClass gear your way.