As you know, business class is far pricier than an economy ticket. But, wait, hang on! It doesn't have to be.
The Caribbean islands are a go-to holiday destination for many poor unfortunate souls who live in the northern parts of North America, especially during wintertime. It makes sense: as you sit in your cubicle and look at snow outside the window, the tropical islands beckon with sandy beaches and colorful cocktails. How can you not go home, drop your briefcase on the floor and say to your significant other, “Honey, we’re going on vacation!”
The Caribbean is geographically close to United States, and it’s not difficult to reach the region without having to fly long haul (unless you’re on the West Coast). For this reason, most airlines do not operate aircraft with true business-class seats—ones that recline to a completely flat position—to the islands. If you find one of these carriers, consider yourself lucky, and I’m here to demonstrate that it’s possible to score one of these comfy seats without selling and arm and a leg on the black market. (we’re going to help find you some)
Fly to the San Juan From the West Coast
If you’re looking for a great, cheap lie-flat business class trip to the Caribbean, I recommend flying from Los Angeles to San Juan, Puerto Rico on American Airlines’ premium First cabin which you can do for as little as $800 round-trip. Both options require flying two legs: Los Angeles to Miami followed by Miami to San Juan.
One way to enjoy lie-flat First Class on the cheap is to book it on one leg of the flight—ideally the long, 5-hour leg between Los Angeles and Miami—and then fly economy for the short 2-hr+ leg to San Juan. At the time of writing, I was able to find some of these flight combinations between Los Angeles and San Juan, Puerto Rico, for under $800. If you want to fly both legs of the journey lying flat in first class, it will cost you about $1700.
INSIDER TIPWhen booking your flights, pay attention to the aircraft operating your flight and look for Boeing 767 or Boeing 777 for the best experience.
Fly to Aruba From the Midwest
We talked about Copa Airlines, the flag carrier of Panama, in our South America installment of this series. It’s also a great airline to fly to Aruba, a Dutch territory off the coast of Venezuela. Surprisingly, I’ve been able to find many Copa-operated flights from Chicago to Aruba and back in peak season for about $1,100.
As with its South American service, Copa does not offer fully lie-flat seats in its business class, but the five-hour journey from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport to Tocumen International Airport in Panama City, the airline’s hub, won’t be uncomfortable, either.
Copa flies a Boeing 737 on most routes between the U.S. and Panama City, and the aircraft comes with standard recliner seats that recline about 7.5 inches and include a footrest. The rest of your journey will be in a regional jet, but you’ll be able to enjoy a whopping 40 inches of legroom (you only get 33 inches on domestic airlines in the best-case scenarios).
As a premium Copa passenger, you’ll have access to the SAS Lounge at O’Hara International Airport and then again at the Copa Club in Panama City. Nothing beats being able to relax in a quiet lounge and having some pre-departure snacks and drinks away from the airport noise. Between an open bar and a terminal, the bar always wins.
Fly to the Caribbean From the East Coast
If you live in Boston or New York City, lucky you—you can escape the cold weather in style on a direct flight. JetBlue, a New York-based low-cost carrier, offers Mint class service on some transcontinental routes but also to a number of Caribbean islands, including Aruba, Barbados, Grenada and Saint Lucia. Although most round-trip Mint fares from the East Cost to the Caribbean islands will set you back about $1,100 to $1,600, I’ve managed to find a sub-$800 flight from New York City to Saint Lucia in January.
As a Mint customer, you’ll be able to save time in a dedicated check-in line and even breeze though security on the way to your gate, board first and collect your bag sooner upon arrival.
The Mint premium experience offers passengers fully lie-flat seats, a tapas-style menu paired with signature cocktails, artisanal ice cream desserts and even Hayward & Hopper amenity kits. You can choose to sleep or, because the flight time doesn’t exceed even five hours, pass the time by watching TV on your personal 10-inch screen.
INSIDER TIPDepending on the island and the departure point, JetBlue planes with a Mint cabin fly just once or twice per week, so make sure to time your Caribbean stay so as to catch the comfy ride in both directions.
How Else Can I Save on Business-Class Flights to the Caribbean?
Monitor airfare deals! In the previous posts in this series, I’ve mentioned Secret Flying, a website that posts flight deals all over the world. Recently, I came across a deal from New York City to Cancun and back in business class on Delta Air Lines for less than $600.
Discounts like this do not last long and in many cases expire the next day or within hours, so you have to decide quickly whether you’re going to Cancun or not. Still, it’s worth checking the site for everyday deals. Remember that you can book now and cancel within 24 hours if you’re not able to go.
Another option is to look for seasonal flights to the region. In the past, Delta Air Lines has operated an Airbus 330 with lie-flat business-class cabin from Minneapolis to Cancun and Boeing 767 from Atlanta to Aruba in peak season. American Airlines has operated similar planes from Charlotte, N.C., to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, so make sure you know which aircraft offer lie-flat seating when booking your flights. If you’re not sure, check with the airline itself or SeatGuru, a website that features seat maps. Bon Voyage!