Is there any data (reports, statistics, etc.) on the percentage of first and business-class airline tickets that are purchased out-of-pocket by the passenger?

Meaning, NOT received due to a loyalty-program upgrade from Economy, NOR purchased by the passenger's employer/business arrangement/etc.

Articles like these make it clear that for medium- to long-haul flights, First and Business class tickets can routinely cost $10,000 or more. I can't imagine many people actually pay the full sticker price out of their own pockets.

  • 1
    Anecdotally: yes, but it's not all too common. I've done it a few times in the past when I've really wanted a good night's sleep (I'm not very good at sleeping in even premium economy). It's also possible to find surprisingly good value fares - I wouldn't pay $10,000 even for a return trip!
    – Muzer
    Jan 2, 2019 at 18:17
  • 1
    Sure, if you rock up to the counter three hours before departure and want a first class ticket, you're going to pay the maximum price. Very few people do this. Jan 2, 2019 at 18:21
  • 1
    There are many international business class fares that do not cost $10,000 even for a round trip, especially if you’re booking in advance and not incredibly picky about the time and airline choice. Jan 2, 2019 at 19:09
  • 1
    Unfortunately, short of meeting someone who works in revenue management and is willing to divulge proprietary information, there is no way to know this. There are many, many factors involved. It will also very significantly by route.
    – DTRT
    Jan 2, 2019 at 20:55
  • 2
    @JonathanReez you mean 11 million millionaires. However, being a millionaire does not necessarily mean being able (and much less willing) to afford those. Anyone who owns a decently sized home in any of the larger (and more expensive) cities is a millionaire, that does not mean they have the required cash flow.
    – jcaron
    Jan 2, 2019 at 23:26

1 Answer 1


There are many ways to get a business class tickets so statistics will be hard to come buy.

  1. Buy economy and buy up with cash
  2. Buy it with miles or points from loyalty or rewards prog
  3. Upgrade with a mixture of miles and cash
  4. Upgrade with instruments
  5. Upgrade with cash through an auction (Swiss, Lufthansa, TAP are doing this now)

You need to specify what exactly you mean by "out of pocket". With option 1,2 & 5, the customer still covers the entire cost of the ticket, just not with a single cash transaction. I've certainly done all of the above at some point.

Even when you buy straight business, you can safe a lot of money buying the right fare class: for example on United a P or Z fare is drastically less expensive than a C or D fare, which is again less than a J fare. $10,000 seems harsh. At the moment you can get transatlantic for less than $3k and Australia (furthest destination) for less than $7k

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .