Fly First Class at Walk-Up Coach Prices

Fly First Class at Walk-Up Coach Prices

Don’t you hate this? Trudging past all those smiling faces in First Class, every one of them radiating comfort and good cheer – and dare I say it – smugness? While you head to the back – to Steerage Class – and that middle seat, jammed between two sumo wrestlers.

There has got to be a better way. And there is.

Forget upgrading: even if you’re an “elite” flyer, there always seems to be 50 other “elite” passengers ahead of you on the upgrade list. You’d have a better chance of winning the lottery.

Of course, you could always pay for First Class.

Or you could let me tell you about a little known airfare called, the “Y-Up”.

What is a Y-UP?

Y-Up (pronounced “why up”) is airline insider-speak for a “discounted First Class airline ticket” – the airlines’ best kept secret.

A little background: the First Class cabin isn’t always sold out. In fact, it is rarely sold out – after all, First Class prices are really steep, and a lot of wealthy people dislike paying those incredible prices as much as you do. So what does the airline do? They change these First Class tickets to the Y-Up code – or sometimes, a Q-Up code, and there are other designations – and then the airline discounts the price of these tickets. Sometimes the price is discounted a lot, sometimes a little. The airlines don’t make a whole lot of money off these discounted fares, but they make something – and that’s better than making nothing on an empty seat – or a seat filled by an “upgraded” passenger.

Maybe you’re wondering how airlines managed to keep Y-Up’s a secret for so long: that’s because very few of us bother to request a First Class cabin ticket when we shop online, so, we never see the price of Y-Up’s — a price that often less than the price of a full-fare Coach ticket – full-fare being the price of Coach purchased at the last minute.

This is good news for business travelers, who are notorious last-minute shoppers. And here’s another bonus for these travelers: Y-Up’s literally “look” like Coach seats, because the code is similar (Y-Up’s and Coach fares often begin with the letter “Y”). And the ticket itself does not say “First Class” anywhere on it. What this means is, if you work for a company that bans First Class travel, no problem: a Y-Up looks like Coach and is priced like Coach, but it’s First Class all the way. So everybody wins.

Y-Up’s are not necessarily “bargain airfares”

Let’s make this very clear: Y-Up’s are rarely “cheap” compared to a really good sale on Coach seats – diligent airfare shoppers with an eye out for bargains would never consider a Y-Up a “steal”. You must compare Y-Up’s to the price of full-fare Coach – the Coach tickets you buy with just a few days notice or at the very last minute – and most of us don’t want to pay those prices unless we absolutely have to (such as an illness or death in the family). But Y-Up’s – and full-fare Coach prices – are considered a steal, compared to the price of First Class.

Things to keep in mind before purchasing a Y-Up:

  • Y-Up’s are normally one-way airfares (and many times Coach one-way fares are more expensive)
  • Y-Up’s are often refundable and are always exchangeable
  • Y-Up’s are often available at peak times and days, even when Coach is sold out
  • Y-Up’s accumulate bonus Frequent Flier miles (sometimes twice as many as Coach airfare)
  • Most Y-Up’s don’t have advance purchase requirements
How do I Find a Y-UP?

Since most online airfare shoppers don’t normally look for First Class travel, most airline ticket websites are going to make you dig to find a Y-Up. If you use a travel agent, ask the agent to specifically search for “Y-Up” or “discounted First Class” airfare. Or do it yourself on has a tool that tracks over 100,000 of these airfares from your favorite departure city.
Click here to quickly search for thousands of Y-up fares from your departure city.

Things You Should Keep In Mind About Y-Ups
  • Y-Up’s are not “upgrades” or “add ons” for a Coach ticket
  • If you miss a flight, ask the ticket agent at the airport to see if a Y-Up is available; it can be cheaper than the walk-up Coach price
  • Last minute and emergency travelers should always check for Y-Up’s
  • Although Y-Ups are mostly business traveler-oriented, leisure travelers should check them for special occasions (honeymoons, anniversary trips)
  • Caution: an airline may sell you a Y-Up even if a flight doesn’t have a First Class cabin; check before you book

So, now you know what used to be the airlines’ best kept secret. What are you waiting for? Go join those smiling faces – in the front of the plane.


Updated: January 23, 2015