How to get a first-class experience on an economy ticket

Airports the world over are transforming to become destinations in their own right, while airlines have dramatically changed to accommodate savvy travellers. This means, with a few simple hacks, it’s never been easier for flyers to get a first-class experience when travelling, without having to fork out thousands of pounds on a premium plane ticket. Here are some great tips and tricks for travellers looking to enhance their trip:

1. Look into premium lounge access: Most airports now have premium lounges available to both leisure and business passengers - offering a quiet, connected space no matter the class of ticket they’re flying with. If you’re a frequent flyer, make the most of annual programmes which can give you free or discounted entry to lounges throughout the year - Priority Pass membership starts from £69, for example. Alternatively, if you want to make just one trip extra special, you can easily buy single visit entry through programmes such as Lounge Pass.

2. Take advantage of the free food and drink: One of the biggest perks of premium airport lounges is the selection of complimentary snacks and tipples available. When you think about the amount of money you usually spend in the departure hall on a bite to eat and a couple of drinks, you can end up saving money by purchasing lounge access – and also relax knowing you’re avoiding the hustle and bustle of the main airport.

3. Plan ahead for a smooth, stress-free experience: While it may sound simple, planning ahead can take the stress out of travelling. Love the bargains of duty free? Avoid scouring the shelves and jump ahead of the queues by calling ahead to reserve the products you want. Concerned about comfort on the plane? Make sure you pack the essentials – neck pillow, eye mask and blanket – and fully charge your phone or tablet so you have your in-flight entertainment sorted.

4. Indulge in some pre-flight relaxation: Sanctuaries for passengers to relax in ahead of their flights are popping up in more and more airports around the world – and they don’t cost the earth to enjoy. At Dubai International Airport, there is an indoor oasis called ‘Zen Gardens’ with Sleep Pods for weary travellers, while Heathrow’s Aspire Lounge has a spa offering all kinds of express treatments for those who fancy some pre-flight pampering. Make sure you investigate what’s on offer at the airport you’re travelling to before arriving - and always check if they tie into any loyalty or lounge programmes you’re a member of too, you might be surprised!

5. Don’t ignore fast-track travel bundles: Queue jumping is no longer reserved for those travelling first-class, business or the loyalty customers who have racked up enough frequent flyer miles. Some airlines now offer fast-track check-ins and speedy boarding as part of a package that includes hold luggage and seat selection options. They also generally cost the same as purchasing standalone luggage check-in, so don’t be so quick to dismiss these extra add-ons if you want to avoid the queues and waiting around.

6. Stay on top of special offers: Many airports today offer their own apps, which not only provide lots of useful info and updates, but also detail a number of great offers available in shops, restaurants and other outlets. And if you’re signed up to a premium lounge access programme, be sure to keep a look out for extra perks that are being introduced outside the lounge - at some airports, you’re able to use your Priority Pass membership card to discount your final bill at top restaurants - for example at Gatwick South terminal’s award-winning restaurant, Grain Store Café and Bar.

7. Get spending those loyalty points: More and more brands are evolving their loyalty programmes so that members can earn and redeem points in smarter ways than ever before – and not just on flights. With so much choice on offer, you can really tailor rewards to suit you and the things you actually want. If you’re buying flights anyway, why not get a little extra bang for your buck?

Justin Banon- Director, Priority Pass