First-Class Seats for Less

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Did you know that every domestic airline offers discounted first class tickets on planes that have a first class cabin? Referred to as “Y-Up” or “Q-Up” fares, they are usually 30 to 75 per cent less expensive than the full price for a first price ticket — and sometimes even cheaper than the full coach price.

These deeply discounted first class airline tickets are available only for travel within/between the United States and Canada. According to, a travel web site that tracks over 100,000 of confirmed discounted first class airfares, the existence of Y-Up airfares is not widely known largely because they are intentionally published to look like a coach ticket for accounting purposes. In other words, the ticket fare code is economy, but the seats are allocated in the first class cabin.

“This sneaky little trick allows corporate travelers to legitimately and inexpensively get around their ‘No First Class Travel’ policy,” the company states on its web site. Y-Ups were originally issued to cater to an airline’s best customers who purchase the most expensive coach tickets. Airlines make more revenue from these fares where first class seats would normally go unused or be filled by less lucrative frequent flier upgrades.

Here are some details:

– Y-Up airfares are almost always available, even on full flights, peak days and times (Mondays, Fridays, Sundays, Holidays) or last-minute trips.

– Most are sold as one-way fares, but to get the cheapest price you sometimes need to book a round-trip. To purchase a ticket, contact the airline directly. And remember to ask for a Y-Up fare as many ticket agents will not offer it unless asked specifically.

– No advance purchase is necessary, although the cheapest fares sometimes have a 7-day advance purchase.

– The fares can be fully refundable and are always exchangeable.

– You can receive a confirmed seat in the first class cabin ahead of frequent flyer upgrades.

– Since Y-Up airfares are booked in the first class cabin, you will get frequent flyer mileage based on buying a first class ticket (this is usually twice the mileage award of a coach ticket).

Who benefits?

Frequent business travellers. For the same or cheaper price than many corporate travellers pay for refundable and last minute coach tickets, they can receive a confirmed first class cabin before frequent fliers are automatically upgraded.

Travellers who miss their flight. If you miss your flight, a Y-Up first class airline ticket could be less expensive than the walk-up coach ticket for the flight replacing the one you missed.

Special occasion travellers. Celebrating a honeymoon or anniversary? In some cases, Y-Up airfares are a better deal than using your frequent flyer miles for a first class seat.

Last minute travellers. In cases where coach walkup prices are expensive, Y-Ups can be a far better deal.

A caveat: Before booking a Y-Up fare, make sure all the planes on your itinerary actually have a first class cabin. You may end up on a regional jet on a segment of your journey that does not have a first class cabin. Also, because the price of a Y-Up airfare is driven by competition within certain markets, keep in mind that you may not always get as much of a discount as you hope.

For more information or to search for discounted first class tickets, visit FareCcompare.

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