This two-second hack meant Melbourne’s Shona Hendley and her entire family recently got a free upgrade to business class.
As a short person whose legs comfortably fit into the cattle class seats on commercial airlines, and as someone who’d prefer to spend money on the holiday than the flights, flying business class has never been at the top of my agenda.
My husband though — all six feet, four inches of him — is not on the same page and when he flies, he will look out for extra leg room seats in the emergency exit row.
For him, the only time he can usually do this is on work trips because our kids who are under 12 are not legally permitted in these seats.
So, recently while booking our Easter family holiday return Jetstar flights from Melbourne to the Gold Coast, he saw four business class seats available to book with our economy fare and needless to say, he was surprised and suitably excited.
He was also a little wary that it was too good to be true.
“These seats are always grayed out with economy fare, so I thought it was an error,” he said.
Despite the apprehension, he booked four seats — two for us and two for our daughters — while fully anticipating being contacted regarding an error, or simply discover we’d had our seats reallocated once we checked in.
Much to our surprise none of this happened. As we boarded our row two and three business class seats on the 787 Jetstar aircraft, we were ushered behind the curtain, toward the front of the plane and to our booked seats.
We had abundant leg room, windows that can be dimmed and brightened to various levels, foot rests, tray tables that are accessible from the arm rest rather than the seat in front, and perhaps the most significant of all, large, leather seats that recline substantially more than economy.
These features provided all of us with the most comfortable flight of our flying lives.
For my two daughters, aged 7 and 9, they felt like VIPs and were the most well-behaved and self-occupied they’ve ever been in the air.
For my husband and me, it was the extra space that really gave it the edge, allowing us both a full hour’s uninterrupted nap in our actually comfortable and fully reclined seats. The roominess in business class also provided a sense of comfort during these pandemic times, which was a bonus.
Once we landed, feeling rested and unusually fresh, we were still sure we had somehow fluked our tiny dabble in luxury.
After looking into it though, it turns out that we had inadvertently become privy to a Jetstar upgrade hack.
While not available on all flights or aircraft, the ability for customers to purchase business class seats with economy fares is in fact a reality.
So, when and how can you do this?
Unfortunately, it might not be a hack that can be used often because it is specific to one type of aircraft and availability.
Specifically, when Jetstar’s international 787 aircraft are flying domestically, customers are able to purchase business class seats as economy seats.
Which was the case with our very busy Queensland Easter holiday flight.
To book a business class seat on the aircraft, you either need to select a MAX bundle, which includes a seating preference, or purchase one of the seats marked as “Extra Legroom”, during the booking flow.
And the good news is that for the next few months Jetstar plans to continue operating some of its wide body Boeing 787 on two of its most popular routes (Melbourne – Cairns and Melbourne – Gold Coast) so you can still take advantage of this deal.
Like all “free” things, there are some catches. Firstly, using an economy fare to secure a business class seat means you aren’t able to access all the offerings available to paying customers such as meals, drinks or including access to entertainment.
But on the upside, you do get to disembark first, get attentive service and comfort for the duration for your flight — and for those of us who aren’t regular business class passengers, let’s just say it is a memorable experience.
Shona Hendley is a freelance writer.