The reason it’s so expensive to fly first class is because airlines put a premium on the experience, so people will think, What I’m getting is so much better than what someone else is getting. [Ed. note: Another travel expert, pilot Patrick Smith of askthepilot.com, says first-class tickets are how airlines make a profit. “Airlines can fly planes that are full in economy and still lose money,” he says.] An economy ticket might be $1,000 and a first-class ticket might be $25,000. Is flying first class 25 times better? Probably not.
The main way people can fly first class—and the only way I’ve been able to do it—is by earning frequent flyer miles. Ninety-five percent of the miles I earn come from opening a credit card. Especially for American Airlines flights, you’ll open one credit card and get 50,000 frequent flyer miles. That’s almost enough to go round-trip to Europe. You’d probably have to book ten to 15 paid international flights before you could get a first-class ticket for free. On my credit cards, I also get miles for every dollar I spend. That’s going to add up over time.