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Most you've ever spent on airline tickets
Old 08-03-2022, 12:27 PM   #1
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Most you've ever spent on airline tickets

What is the most you've ever spent on first-class, long haul international airline tickets, as a percentage of your annual SWR spend. For example, if your annual SWR spend were $100k and you spent $5k on first-class, roundtrip tickets to Iceland, then your answer is would be 5%.

I ask because I'm contemplating spending somewhere in the 8% range of my SWR on an upcoming trip for me and DW. I feel pretty uncomfortable with that kind of extravagance, but the first-class experience may actually be worth the price for this particular trip. Please feel free to share any thoughts on how you would (or did) decide whether first-class is worth the money for you.

NOTE: If you don't travel very much (or at all) and don't ever fly first-class, no need to respond.
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Old 08-03-2022, 12:42 PM   #2
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I always travel first class on long hauls. In addition to MUCH bigger, more comfortable seats and better food, you get priority check-in lines, sometimes priority immigration lines (a lifesaver at Heathrow) and no checked bag fees. You may also get lounge access on international flights although AA can get stingy- apparently flights between the US and Mexico are not international enough ).

This year I spent about 5% of my total annual spend (so that's withdrawals from investments supplemented by SS and a couple of small pensions) on my flight to Munich in May. Most of my other expenses are pretty modest so I don't agonize over it. I might if I were buying for two and it was 10%!
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Old 08-03-2022, 03:37 PM   #3
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I have never and would never fly first class on any airline--if I was paying.

If I wanted to spend that much money, I'd be sitting in the back and sending the difference to my favorite charity.

After all, the seats in the back take the same time to arrive as the seats in the front.
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Old 08-03-2022, 03:43 PM   #4
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I have flown Business Class & First Class, but that's because my cousin works at an airline and she has some Passes. It's not free. I still pay for the Taxes/Fees even if the fare is free. I would say I've spent a maximum of 5%-6% of my annual income on airfare & hotels and vacation expenses.
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Old 08-03-2022, 04:14 PM   #5
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Personally, I think I only paid once. The first time I flew was from Houston to Dallas on Braniff back in the early 70's.. I think it was $19... I never again flew on my own nickel.... I flew a lot domestically (US) in the 70's, 80's and 90's all at the companies expense... Then in the late 90's until I retired I flew a lot internationally, (all business and first) and all at the company expense... I think the most expensive tickets I recall seeing were around 10k to either Singapore or Hong Kong... I know a couple of my expense reports I turned in were in excess of 25k for a ~10 day trip. (Airfare, hotels, meals, entertainment, cabs/cars, etc.)
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Old 08-03-2022, 04:29 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Sojourner View Post
What is the most you've ever spent on first-class, long haul international airline tickets, as a percentage of your annual SWR spend. For example, if your annual SWR spend were $100k and you spent $5k on first-class, roundtrip tickets to Iceland, then your answer is would be 5%.

I ask because I'm contemplating spending somewhere in the 8% range of my SWR on an upcoming trip for me and DW. I feel pretty uncomfortable with that kind of extravagance, but the first-class experience may actually be worth the price for this particular trip. Please feel free to share any thoughts on how you would (or did) decide whether first-class is worth the money for you.
I think what matters is not how much others spent, because % of budget doesnít really measure affordability. Itís really whether you can afford the expense. If you take this extra expense from your portfolio does it meaningfully impact your future withdrawal rate?

For example, we sponsored a family get together and paid for all the expenses, and that totaled >25% of our yearly budget.

DW and I have opted for business / first class air travel twice. Both long haul international trips. As athena53 mentioned, itís not just the comfortable seat. Airport, security, luggage are all upgraded and make for much more enjoyable and less stressful travel.

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NOTE: If you don't travel very much (or at all) and don't ever fly first-class, no need to respond.
This probably wonít stop folks from responding
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Old 08-03-2022, 05:00 PM   #7
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Depends on the airline and the flight. Last time was on a United flight to Singapore. Made a mistake and booked United economy. Then DW reminded me that United has crap service (they really do) to SE Asia. So we upgraded to lie flat seats.

Passed on business to Lisbon in May. Went with premium economy on TAP. Increase to business was great. Excellent flight.

We do not care about the food or about the priority this or that. We travel carry on only and we check in on line.

Generally, on long hauls we prefer foreign carriers. We find the level of service somewhat better than domestic carriers.
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Old 08-03-2022, 05:34 PM   #8
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I think what matters is not how much others spent, because % of budget doesnít really measure affordability. Itís really whether you can afford the expense. If you take this extra expense from your portfolio does it meaningfully impact your future withdrawal rate?
I think this is a better value calculation. In your example if 4% SWR then you have $2.5M portfolio. If you just lit the $5k on fire then your SWR drops from $100,000 to $99,800. Presumably you have some budget for coach seats and you get a value, so the loss is not 100%.

I look at 2 factors: 1. The spread ie coach $1,000 business $4,000 and first $8,000. That spread can vary a lot due to demand and anytime you can get below the average spread is a potential deal. 2. The distance of course. Chicago to Singapore or LA to Australia worth, DC to London max business unless it is a steal.

I also usually have a few 100k points lying around so that makes it easier to mix and match. If you get points for free/low cost it pushes things in your favor a lot.

I would encourage you to try and use partner airlines if possible. Service on SAS or Singapore Air is just more than US branded carriers. Still remember the SAS Stockholm lounge that had beer on tap and great food

Maybe it helps to think of it from a sinking fund perspective. You know you will need a roof and a new car, etc. and an extra $20k over your retirement to fund a few long haul trips first class is worth building in.

I would say that if you have gotten this far, then you are clearly disciplined so enjoy the extravagance, blow that dough, at least business. If you are funding a 50 year retirement with $750k, then Spirit airlines for you.
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Old 08-03-2022, 06:50 PM   #9
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I think what matters is not how much others spent, because % of budget doesnít really measure affordability. Itís really whether you can afford the expense. If you take this extra expense from your portfolio does it meaningfully impact your future withdrawal rate?
...
We are going to Egypt and Jordan for three weeks in October. We have booked first class tickets for our flights. It's the first time we've ever done that, because, as someone observed earlier, the seats in the back get there at the same time as the seats in the front. But: a) it's a 22 hour trip and we'd like to get some sleep; and b) we can easily afford it.
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Old 08-03-2022, 06:57 PM   #10
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We booked premium economy seats for next Wednesday to London, and spent about 3~4% of our take home on it. It is the most so far for airline tickets and I was quite happy to do so. It has been a while since we traveled.
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Old 08-03-2022, 07:48 PM   #11
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A "four million miler" here, all of it in First with the exception of one (never again) seat in coach from France.

Usually abot 5% to 8%.
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Old 08-03-2022, 07:56 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Sojourner View Post
What is the most you've ever spent on first-class, long haul international airline tickets, as a percentage of your annual SWR spend. For example, if your annual SWR spend were $100k and you spent $5k on first-class, roundtrip tickets to Iceland, then your answer is would be 5%.



I ask because I'm contemplating spending somewhere in the 8% range of my SWR on an upcoming trip for me and DW. I feel pretty uncomfortable with that kind of extravagance, but the first-class experience may actually be worth the price for this particular trip. Please feel free to share any thoughts on how you would (or did) decide whether first-class is worth the money for you.



NOTE: If you don't travel very much (or at all) and don't ever fly first-class, no need to respond.
We just did your hypothetical business class, Icelandair doesn't have first nor will we pay, RT Iceland. DW said we paid $3,800 apiece. So that's 7.6%. Is it worth it for us? Yes! I'll never do coach international again. The airfare was just a portion of the trip and the experience was great. Other than the layover because of a missed connection. Next trip we'll spend more on hotels along the way to enjoy the trip more.. never again will we attempt an international connection and a domestic. Stay in a nice hotel and have a different meal.

Next time we're planning Tahiti on a sailboat. Business there is around 6k apiece. We're just starting to look at the deal. Maybe a budget buster but we're going to blow some dough along the way.
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Old 08-03-2022, 09:41 PM   #13
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We bought lie flat business class tickets for a trip to Antartica for late Jan 2023. 3% of our spend rate. We have always been too cheap to do this in the past. But someone else on a another thread said "fly business / first class or your heirs will!". I can really see that happening in our case, so we decided to try it. Cost was about twice the price of coach. My biggest fear is that we will like it too much.
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Old 08-03-2022, 11:12 PM   #14
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Why not commit to doing it guilt free as an experiment to see if it is worth it
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Old 08-04-2022, 12:03 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by Sojourner View Post
What is the most you've ever spent on first-class, long haul international airline tickets, as a percentage of your annual SWR spend. For example, if your annual SWR spend were $100k and you spent $5k on first-class, roundtrip tickets to Iceland, then your answer is would be 5%.

I ask because I'm contemplating spending somewhere in the 8% range of my SWR on an upcoming trip for me and DW. I feel pretty uncomfortable with that kind of extravagance, but the first-class experience may actually be worth the price for this particular trip. Please feel free to share any thoughts on how you would (or did) decide whether first-class is worth the money for you.

NOTE: If you don't travel very much (or at all) and don't ever fly first-class, no need to respond.
Pre Covid, I think the most I ever spent on a ticket was around $5k for biz class round trip trans-Pacific. I flew biz class if flight time was longer than 6-7 hours; otherwise, I flew premium economy.

Post Covid with higher fuel cost, ticket prices are now though the roof and the same flights are at least 50% more expensive vs. pre-Covid. I am willing to spend up to $10k per ticket for long haul biz class flight, but that's a sort of psychological barrier for me; I just don't want to spend more than that.

I am not sure ticket price as % of SWR is a meaningful yardstick. For me, it's just a set dollar amount of $10k as my limit and again, that's just a psychological barrier and personal preference and has no bearing on my personal finance.

I suggest that you try first class for the upcoming trip and see how you like it. Whether something is "worth it" is highly personal. There's no right or wrong answer. As long as your budget can afford it, I say go for it and give it a try.
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Old 08-04-2022, 01:03 AM   #16
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I think this is a personal choice. Flying first class has very little value to me and I rarely even upgrade for cash or points. I do enjoy complimentary upgrades.

But I do pay up for premium hotels and similar experiences because I do value those.

Rather than ask what others have spent, ask yourself whether you can afford the indulgence. And ignore anyone who judges you.
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Old 08-04-2022, 05:59 AM   #17
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I think what matters is not how much others spent, because % of budget doesn’t really measure affordability. It’s really whether you can afford the expense. If you take this extra expense from your portfolio does it meaningfully impact your future withdrawal rate?
Right...that it won't stop me from responding! But I'll agree with you, and add that it's not all about the $# left in your portfolio after this expense either. My retirement budget plan has the essentials, then added dining out expenses, then another almost 50% for travel, simply because we were already at 150% according to Fido based on the essential needs and wants. So, we could lump 2 or 3 years of our travel budget to make one HUGE expense, or we could overspend a bit early on and decide that our finances and the markets warrant paring back to domestic travel only.

So, to me, the % of annual spend is one factor, but also how much flexibility you have in your budget going forward.

tl;dr version: it depends.

EDIT: Also, the one time we flew business class in 2014, we didn't pay for it. Prior to that, we only flew internationally a couple of times, when we were young, poor, and better able to withstand discomfort in exchange for a few $K, so I've got nothing but theories, as usual.
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Old 08-04-2022, 06:27 AM   #18
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One reason I'll never visit Australia and NZ is that last I checked Business fares (2019 when I was going on a cruise out of Hawaii) it was extortion. I'm thinking it was $8K round trip total for mainland to Hawaii and then Hawaii to Australia. Could I do it and pay the bills? Yes, but it just doesn't seem to be a good use of my travel $$. And I will NOT fly that route in Coach.

I "blame" my late husband for getting me hooked on long-hauls in Business. He was a man of very modest tastes but over 6' tall with a creaky back, and 15 years older. I flew a lot on business and we used points to upgrade once on the way home from Scotland. After that it was hard to go to the back of the bus so we traveled to Europe a bit less often and I was a wizard at accumulating and using airline miles and we flew Business Class.

I made a half-dozen trips to India on business and the first time the Chief Actuary allowed anyone willing to fly Coach to stay overnight at company expense in London, Paris, Frankfort.. your choice. I chose London and it wasn't too bad. Business Class was better. A coworker who later flew a nonstop from Toronto to Delhi in Coach because Business wasn't available said it was "brutal"- and he was short.

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But someone else on a another thread said "fly business / first class or your heirs will!".
Nah, DS and DDIL are VERY frugal. DS says whatever I leave behind will go straight to the 3 kids.

When the youngest (currently 3) is a bit older I want to take the family to Costa Rica. They'll be in Business whether they like it or not.
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Old 08-04-2022, 08:39 AM   #19
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I think this is a personal choice. Flying first class has very little value to me and I rarely even upgrade for cash or points. I do enjoy complimentary upgrades.

But I do pay up for premium hotels and similar experiences because I do value those.

Rather than ask what others have spent, ask yourself whether you can afford the indulgence. And ignore anyone who judges you.
I will pay for more legroom in standard Coach because I am tall and have big feet. But, First Class? No. I would rather spend the extra money on nicer (usually meaning bigger) hotel rooms in well located parts of town. In my mind that is where the value is. As I age I notice I tend to retreat to my room more often for a break from the weather, a quick nap, or to just get organized for the rest of the day. So a better room is nice. Especially if it is in a better hotel in a better place.

Note: one night layover stays are not included in the above. If the room is just a place to sleep before leaving the area the next day, I don't need or will use much.
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Old 08-04-2022, 08:52 AM   #20
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My wife and I are currently discussing Business Class vs Coach for long haul trips. A 10 hour flight in coach is very uncomfortable, but I'm having a hard time justifying $5K for business class vs $1K for coach.
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