How to save £3,000 on your business class flight this summer

On the most popular routes, the best savings are on Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Emirates
On the most popular routes, the best savings are on Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Emirates - Emirates

We all know the old joke about the tourist in Ireland who asks a local for directions to Dublin. “If I were you,” the local replies, “I wouldn’t start from here.” Who knew the same applies to long-haul air travel from Britain in 2024? If you are prepared to start your long-haul journey outside the UK, you can save a small fortune, especially on business-class tickets.

Telegraph Travel chose the cheapest fares on major carriers to popular long-haul destinations starting in London and then compared them with the cheapest fares on the same airlines starting from the Continent and Dublin. We chose flights in economy and business class for travel from June 10-17 and November 4-11. All the analysis was done last month.

The best savings on the most popular routes are to be had on the Gulf carriers – Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Emirates – which offer hub-and-spoke services from their bases in Doha, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Qatar Airways is attractive to many UK-based fliers since it is part of the OneWorld airline alliance, which means you can earn British Airways tier points and earn or spend Avios (BA’s air miles) when you fly. Since all long-haul Qatar flights are two legs via Doha, you can earn more tier points than going direct on BA.

Economy class – save up to £268 in summer

Below are the top 20 deals if you fly from continental Europe or Dublin on Qatar, Etihad and Emirates, instead of from London. You’ll need to factor in the cost of getting to those European cities from the UK, of course (as an example, the cheapest return flight from London to Budapest for June 10-17 is £93, reducing the overall saving to £161). Passengers should also note that of the Etihad services listed, it is only on the Dublin to Bangkok, Vienna to Bangkok and Vienna to Melbourne routes that the airline uses its own aircraft on every leg. For flights from other European cities listed to and from its Abu Dhabi hub, it works with partner airlines.

Business class – save up to £3,392 in summer

Savings increase dramatically when you upgrade to business class. Here are the 20 routes where you can save the most. As before, you’ll need to factor in the cost of reaching each European city, but with low-cost return fares from around £100, the savings are still huge.

Economy class – save up to £331 in autumn

In November, the savings are greater in economy class than business class, compared with June, so if you are looking for the best economy class bargains, book ahead.

Business class – save up to £2,810 in autumn

Again, far bigger savings can be found for those in business class. Here’s the top 20:

The best European airlines for stopover savings

It is not just the Gulf carriers that offer big savings. Aer Lingus, the Dublin-based carrier, and Helsinki-based Finnair (which, like Qatar Airways, is part of the OneWorld alliance) offer better value than flying from London – but they fly to far fewer destinations than the Gulf carriers. Here’s what you will save starting your journey in Dublin with Aer Lingus and on Finnair, starting from Helsinki, compared with going direct on British Airways from London. The biggest savings are on business-class tickets bought two to three months before departure.

10-17 June, Economy

Finnair, Helsinki-Tokyo, -£686

10-17 June, Business

Aer Lingus, Dublin-New York JFK, -£3,433

Finnair, Helsinki-Singapore, -£1,173

4-11 November, Economy

Finnair, Helsinki-Tokyo, -£103

Aer Lingus, Dublin-New York JFK, -£67

4-11 November, Business

Finnair, Helsinki-Singapore, -£950

Finnair, Helsinki-Hong Kong, -£533

Aer Lingus, Dublin-New York JFK, -£496

Finnair, Helsinki-Tokyo, -£195

Explaining the gulf in fares, Jeremy Pollock, Etihad’s General Manager for the UK and Ireland, said: “The price for any route involves multiple factors, including government taxes and fees, dynamic pricing across various points of sale, consumer demand, and the airline’s strategic focus across key routes.” Translation? Taxes and other fees are higher in Britain than on the Continent and in Ireland. Demand for fancy business-class seats is lower in smaller continental cities than in London, so airlines offer cheaper fares to lure customers.

Emirates also highlighted the higher cost of doing business in Britain. “There is high demand to and from London throughout the year, where supply is limited by airport slots constraints, and where operating costs are higher, as are UK government departure taxes borne by travellers. These all contribute to higher fares from the city,” a spokeswoman said.

Thierry Antinori, chief commercial officer at Qatar Airways, said the airline used “one of the youngest fleets in the industry” and “vast global network “to optimise costs” and offer “competitive fares” from many destinations on the Continent and in Ireland.

A spokeswoman for British Airways pointed out that unlike most long-haul services on Finnair and Aer Lingus from London, “all BA flights from London are direct. Customers do not need to take a positioning flight to start their journey from another destination or connect through a hub. Fares also include taxes and charges which are stipulated by the Government and airports and are often higher for journeys beginning in the UK than other areas of Europe.”

Whatever the reasons for the lower prices outside Britain, canny travellers can save thousands of pounds on long-haul flights – and maybe enjoy a weekend city break in Europe at the start or end of their journey.