Getting into business or first class means more comfortable seats, more legroom, better service, complimentary food and drinks, and much more. But how do you get there without mortgaging the house? A number of ways:

Pay For Upgrades

Sometimes you can buy your way into business or first class, with a confirmed seat, for much less than the posted are difference. Some ideas:

— Buy international business class at 50% of the full fare price. Some discount agencies regularly sell those tickets. Large transatlantic airlines occasionally offer business class sales.

— The American Express Platinum card offers twofers in business class on numerous international flights. Diner’s Club Carte Blanche offers twofers on British Airways on premium economy and business class tickets. Even at half price, this can still be several times the Thailand privileges card price of a coach seat.

— Some small domestic airlines, like Spirit and Sun Country, sell business or first class for less than the legacy lines. Again, those fares are higher than the lowest coach fare.

— Some domestic airlines offer a special coach fare that provides an immediate, confirmed upgrade. Referred to as “Y-up” fares (Another article will explain these). A good deal only if circumstances force you into an expensive coach ticket.

— Air Transat’s business class upgrades range from $40-$80. US Air upgrades start at $50 for short-haul domestic flights, up to $500 for European flights.

— Spirit Air offers day-of-travel upgrades based on availability at the departure gate.

— Delta offers same-day standby upgrades for $50-$200.

— Northwest and United offer upgrades for travelers using self-service check-in kiosks for domestic flights.

— Keep your eyes peeled during check-in, or ask at the desk if they are offering any specials.

Frequent Flier Mile Upgrades

This is the way most travelers get from coach to first class. How much you pay depends on how high you are in the program and how much you pay for the ticket you are trying to upgrade.

Each airline has its own upgrade levels, starting at 5,000 earned miles on up.

One way you can assure yourself a confirmed seat in first class is to use your miles, either for a free seat, or to upgrade from coach. Going for the free seat is the better use of your miles.

— Many airlines sell upgrade coupons, denominated in multiples of 500 miles, for domestic trips. You simply give the airlines as many as required for your trip. Generally, you must be at least one elite level up the scale. If not, you can only use this for the most expensive coach seats.

— Mileage upgrades are usually for one-way travel. Thus you can upgrade your red-eye outbound flight, then save miles on your return day flight. If you want to upgrade round trip, you need to use twice the number of miles.

— Some airlines require you to book upgrade over the phone. Others on line.

— Low-ranking frequent fliers for cheap tickets take their chances at the departure gate.

— Some airlines allow you to search for flights eligible for mileage upgrades.

— Super-elite passengers find upgrades easier than lower level passengers.

Free Upgrades

On domestic flights, only 20% of travelers buy first class tickets. Airlines fill the first class cabins by upgrading passengers from coach for free.

Free standby upgrades depend on your frequent flier status and the price of your coach ticket. Super- elite frequent fliers almost always get upgraded. Ordinary frequent fliers almost never.