Want To Fly In First Class On Your Next Gig? Here’s How!

…and it is actually CHEAPER than coach!

I just got back from a whirlwind cross-country trip for a freelance gig I’m working on. Between me, my field producer and my audio operator, we managed to boil down our equipment complement to six checked bags and three carry-ons. Now prices vary on different airlines, but the way it worked for me was this:

We flew USAirways from Cleveland to Phoenix, changing planes in Charlotte. When I got online to check us in the night before, I was resigned to paying $60 in checked bag fees for each of us ($25 for the first bag and $35 for the second, all meticulously packed and weighed to be less than 50 pounds.) However, in the middle of the check-in procedure, a pop-up box asked me if I would like to upgrade my entire party to first class – for $50 each. On USAirways, this upgrade includes TWO FREE CHECKED BAGS. (Bonus: They can then weigh up to 70 pounds.) In the time it took me to click the “yes” box, I had saved $30 overall and managed to get prime seating for the crew, and moved to the head of the boarding queue to guarantee overhead-compartment space for the two cameras and backpack-full-of-computers-and-iPad we were carrying onboard. I call that a bargain at twice the price!

Coming home at the end of the shoot from Tucson to Madison, I played the same game on United. Since both of those flights were on regional jets, first class was not offered, but once again the cost of checking two bags and first-call boarding was less than the cost of checking the bags alone. While it is easy to imagine scenarios where this technique may not work (e.g., first class is booked full) it is a trick that I will be trying every time I need to check bags from this day forward.

Got any travel tricks of your own you’d like to share? Let’s hear them!


Bruce A Johnson

A 1981 graduate of the Boston University College of Communication, Bruce A. Johnson got his first job in broadcast television at WFTV, an ABC affiliate in Orlando, FL. While there, he rose through the ranks from teleprompter operator to videographer, editor, producer and director of many different types of programming. It was in the early 1980’s that he bought his first computer – a Timex/Sinclair 1000 – a device he hated so much, he promptly exchanged it for an Atari 400. But the bug had bitten hard. In 1987, Johnson joined Wisconsin Public Television in Madison as a videographer/editor, and still works there to the present day. His responsibilities have grown, however, and now include research and presentations on the issues surrounding the digital television transition, new consumer technology and the use of public television spectrum in homeland security. He freelances through his company Painted Post MultiMedia, and has written extensively for magazines including DV and Studio Monthly.

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