The crazy cost of long haul business class flights

By | 15th May 2017

The crazy cost of long haul business class flights

Perhaps there is somewhere that interests you, somewhere that you may have thought about visiting someday?

If it is a long distance away from your home country then there are several decisions to be made regarding travel, that will help you narrow down the choices and then come to a conclusion regarding the cost and whether it is worth it.

For the purposes of this post, I will consider a flight from London to Tokyo – but the principles can be applied wherever you are and whatever your intended destination.

Economy or business class for long haul?
When we are looking at spending a long time aboard an aircraft there really isn’t any choice. For your own health and relaxation the only option is business class.

With a business class ticket you will get more leg room and likely a seat that folds flat for sleeping on the overnight flights.

The other benefits aren’t actually all that worth it – a chauffeur may only be included on first class and is just a taxi. With food your sense of taste is reduced at altitude. The business lounge access can be bought for £20 or so independently, as there are many private operators.

In-flight entertainment is of limited use as many people will be bringing their own devices onboard(cellphone/tablet/laptop) loaded with content they have chosen in advance.

So it really comes down to having a reasonable amount of space and comfort on a long trip.

Direct or with stops for long haul?
When you are travelling a long distance, you will likely want to reduce your travel time to a minimum.

Direct flights make a big difference to the overall amount of time spent travelling, and reduce the stress of having to change planes perhaps several times.

Another point to consider is how the travel time eats into your holiday. You may save money by adding stops to the journey, but if you lose 1 or 2 days of your total trip time travelling then the cost in lost holiday time may not be worth it.

Time Zone changes and arrival for long haul?
This can catch people out, you need to consider both the flight(s) to your destination and what time it will be locally when you arrive.

For example, you can save money by taking the day flight from London to Tokyo, but after perhaps 18-20 hours door-to-door you would arrive in Tokyo… at 7am and have to try to stay awake for another day.

Not going directly and adding stops would only add to the journey time, and if you have lost days travelling and on top it takes you several days to adjust to the time zone change as well then you won’t be having the best experience on holiday.

Arrival location for long haul?
As with choosing direct or indirect flights and times, you may also have a choice of arrival airport.

For Tokyo, the choices are Haneda right in the city centre or Narita which is some way outside.

Flights to a non-centrally located airport will be cheaper but add to the journey time getting there and coming back.

Making a choice
Using the above choices, we are likely to come up with a requirement for an overnight direct flight in business class from London Heathrow to Tokyo Haneda.

Booking almost a year in advance, the cost of this flight would be…


Not a misprint! – Five THOUSAND one hundred and twenty pounds for a return ticket.

Alternatives for your money
To put things in perspective, you could have the below alternatives instead of spending your cash on just one return plane ticket:

– A reasonable second-hand car, perhaps even something sporty like a Mazda MX5 or a VW Golf GTI that should last for at least 5-10 years.

– A suite at the Ritz hotel in London for a week, with £1,000 left over to spend on lunch and dinner.

– 52 economy class return flights within Europe – or in other words, instead of just one long haul holiday you can instead go on holiday every single week for a whole year.

Mileage/credit card points?
Something I covered in another post was how loyalty points can be built up through spending on a credit card.

However, when I ran the numbers I estimated that it would take me 80 years to build up enough points to pay for a cheap flight to Tokyo!

Since then the points credited per pound spent have reduced, so it would take even longer.

If you did manage to amass enough points, the choice of reward flights is very limited – even if there are spare seats on the plane, only a few on each aircraft are allocated to reward seats.

You get the situation where people rush online a year in advance to try to secure reward flights as soon as they are released. Looking closer than that means that there are hardly any seats available…

So, at over five thousand pounds it is most unlikely that many people will make a business class flight from London to Tokyo unless it is for business purposes.

Should you however manage to make it to Tokyo Haneda airport though, you will find it is somewhat different to the traditional airport:

James McBrearty started his own business from scratch in 2006, to help the self-employed.

He helps people to escape from the corporate world and shares his thoughts here on the changing world of work, technology and personal finances; as well as the occasional travel post.

Over the next 10 years things are going to change significantly. James is a follower of frugality and minimalism; and an advocate of F.I.R.E. to minimise the coming disruption.

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