The True Cost of Flying First Class: Data Analyzes First Class Ticket Premiums Across Airlines and the Busiest Flight Routes

AUSTIN, Texas, Aug. 14, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — A new data analysis from the travel experts at Upgraded Points gives travelers an insightful look into the price variations in first-class tickets across four major U.S. airlines and twelve of the busiest domestic flight routes. The study analyzed data from Google Flights, considering one-way ticket costs for economy and first-class seats across Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines.

“While some may view flying first-class as a financial stretch, the undeniable benefits of extra legroom, preflight service, and complimentary beverages make it a tempting choice,” said Alex Miller, founder of Upgraded Points. “With an average premium of just $262.97 per one-way flight, this luxury may be more affordable than travelers think.”

Study Methodology

The study gathered ticket price data from Google Flights, focusing on the 12 busiest domestic flight routes within the U.S. For each of the 12 routes, the study collected data on the cheapest available one-way ticket for both economy and first-class seating across four U.S. airlines for seven days.

The data considered both peak and non-peak departure dates, ensuring a full representation of pricing trends. The costs were then averaged to get a one-way ticket price for both economy and first-class seating. The study excluded U.S. airlines that do not offer first-class or did not have sufficient data on the analyzed routes.

Major Study Takeaways

  • Delta Air Lines leads the pack with the highest premiums, charging $284.55 more for a one-way, first class ticket compared to economy.
  • Alaska Airlines boasts high first-class ticket price differences among those studied ($281.25) but makes up for it with unique amenities like serving food for flights as short as 550 miles.
  • United Airlines travelers can upgrade to first-class without breaking the bank at a price difference of around $250.23 between economy and first-class.
  • American Airlines stands out as the most affordable deal, with a much smaller difference between first-class and economy tickets ($235.85).

“According to our data, American Airlines is the most cost-effective choice for travelers looking to upgrade their flight experience. In addition to typical first-class benefits, American Airlines travelers may get to experience a refreshed Admirals Club lounge, as the airline started upgrading their lounges to feel more modern and homey in select airports in 2022,” said Alex Miller.

Below is a look into the price differences by specific route:

  • New York (JFK) to Los Angeles (LAX): A one-way economy ticket is $188.29, while the first-class ticket averaged $846.00, resulting in a difference of $657.71.
  • Los Angeles (LAX) to Maui (OGG): A one-way economy ticket costs $194.29, while the equivalent first-class ticket is $745.29 – a difference of $551.
  • Los Angeles (LAX) to San Francisco (SFO): A one-way economy ticket costs $94.73 and a first-class ticket at $187.45 – a comparatively smaller difference of $92.71.
  • Las Vegas (LAS) to Los Angeles (LAX): A one-way economy ticket is $74.48 compared to a first-class ticket at $197.04, for a narrow difference of $122.55.

For exact pricing breakdowns and helpful graphics, along with explorations of other popular routes like Denver to Phoenix or LaGuardia to O’Hare, please visit the study online.

About Upgraded Points LLC

Headquartered in Austin, Texas, Upgraded Points is a travel company that helps to demystify the complex world of travel and credit cards. Launched in 2016 by Alex Miller, Upgraded Points uses targeted research efforts and in-depth studies to help travelers maximize their travel, points, and experiences. Learn more at:

Media Contact:

Alex Miller, Founder

SOURCE Upgraded Points