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Professional 'flight hacker' reveals how to fly first class for less than you'd pay in economy

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I quite like going on holiday, but I don’t really do it that much because, you know, you’ve got to pay for it, and I hate paying for things. If I’ve got to pay £400 for a flight and £200 for a hotel to go abroad, but I could stay in my room and eat yoghurt for a quid – hmmmmm, I wonder which one I’ll go for. Oh, and I only have to pay an extra 60p to get a Snickers to dip in it? LET ME THINK, I WONDER.

So yeah, I don’t do it that often, but maybe now I will, because a canny man called Gilbert Ott – who runs the blog God Save The Points – has a pretty extensive range of tips for going on your hols on the cheap. So now, you too can become a smug show-off, traversing the seas from above, whilst sipping on champagne and wiping your bum with slabs of Comté wrapped in gold leaf (I’ve never been in first class before).

He recently spoke to The Mail and imparted his skin-flint wisdom. Here are his top tips:

Buy your points, don’t earn them

“Paying for tickets in loyalty points is often cheaper than with actual money, and there are two ways to amass points: by spending money on credit cards, or flying with a certain airline.

“But there's a third way – and that's to just buy them directly from the carrier. Every few months, airlines sell off their points in promotional sales which means you can purchase air miles without actually flying anywhere. You can then use them to book trips in upper class for significantly less.”

So basically, if you want to zip off to Hong Kong from Sydney, with the gold-plated Comté and everything, there’s a deal with United Airlines that means you can use just 40,000 miles, which you can cop for £839. However, if you were to go the “normal” route, it’d cost you a socking £4,689.

Set yourself some price trackers

“Many flash sales or crazy promotional fares like this expire within hours, but you can set alerts for them for free using Google Flights or Kayak, so if there's a sudden drop on a route you're interested in, you'll be the first to know about it.

“And don't be afraid to set trackers for premium or business class too, since sometimes premium or business class seats will randomly be cheaper than economy ones, especially over peak summer travel periods.

“Our site, and others like Secret Flying, highlight deals you won't find unless you're looking hard. For example, we recently found a round-trip business class deal from Amsterdam to Tokyo on Qatar Airways for for £560.

“That deal lasted three hours.”

Download loadsa airline apps

“Airlines offer flash upgrades all the time now. Even with dirt-cheap economy tickets, many carriers now offer them to passengers who use their website or mobile app to check on their booking.

“Upgrades are first come first serve though, so don't miss out by rocking up to the airport, when they're likely already gone.”

fs

You won't have to deal with this dude in first class

“Miss” your last flight on purpose 

“Hidden city ticketing is an opportunity to save money on flight prices by booking travel via a city you don't want to visit – which for whatever reason is pricing out cheaper than the place you do really want to visit.”

What this involves is picking a city that you want to stay in, but making sure it’s the layover stop. So, if you go from London to LA with Air New Zealand like a normo, then it’ll cost you £539 in economy. However, if you go from Sweden to LA with British Airways, it’ll cost you £486. All you need to do is find a cheap one-way flight to Sweden from London – which you can get for about £29 – and you’ve saved money overall. The return flight uses London as a layover, so obviously you’d just get off there and “miss” your flight to Sweden.

Make sure you only bring carry-on luggage otherwise your suitcase is gonna end up in the tulips.

Take advantage of “status challenges”

“Gaining this status usually requires a lot of year-round travel, but many airlines will offer people limited time ‘status challenges’, where they can complete only a fraction of the usually required flying time, to earn the same status.

“For example, American Airlines normally requires you to accrue 100,000 miles before granting you top-tier elite status. But if you take their status challenge, flying 25,000 miles in three months, it's yours. For someone with a big trip coming up, this is totally doable.”

Use referral programs

If you have lots of mates (or followers – the 2017 version of mates), then sites like RocketMiles and Kaligo will chuck you 1,000 air miles if you send people in their direction. The more friends you throw their way, the more air miles you get – if you’ve got enough, then you could easily bag a free flight out of it.

Increase your chances of an upgrade

Essentially, what Gilbert is saying here is that you can genuinely book yourself onto oversold flights and then hope you get an upgrade once you get there.

“This has worked for me quite a few times, on quite a few different airlines around the world, and for the traveller without miles or status, it really is one of their only hopes.

“The good thing with oversold flights is that at the very least, you’re owed compensation, which can make for a free future trip.”

He suggests hitting sites like ExpertFlyer.com, which shows you how many seats have already been bought on whatever flight you want. It’s risky, but it works now and again, and you could save a pretty packet if it does.

So yeah, enjoy your next trip to Vegas for a quid, basically. You’ll have saved enough money that you can probably buy a Snickers and some yoghurt for the flight, too. Look at you, Mr. Hoity Toity Loity Woity.

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