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These countries are your 'best bet for cheap first-class tickets,' says travel expert

"You have huge opportunities to fly to South America for cheap right now."

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One in five Americans are comfortable flying internationally, according to recent data from Morning Consult. And President Joe Biden's announcement that the United States would have enough vaccine supply for every adult by the end of May might well raise that comfort level even higher.

Due to lack of demand, flights, including first-class tickets, are less expensive than they have been in previous years. Possible destinations are limited, though, says Adit Damodaran, economist at Hopper. "There are a number of round-trip flights to international destinations with first-class tickets under $500, and a couple under $400," he says. "Most of the international flights in this range are short-to-medium haul hops over the border to Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean."

This is because there are still many restrictions on American travelers, says Mathew Ma, co-founder of The Flight Deal. "The rest of the world is not really open," he says. "Even if it's cheap, it's very hard for Americans to get there."

Most inexpensive, first-class fares are for routes that originate in large cities, Ma adds: "Usually the best deals are going to be from New York, San Francisco, or L.A."

Here are four countries Americans can fly to where first-class, round-trip fare is under $500, including two that Damodaran calls "travelers' best bets."

Mexico

"Travelers' best bet for cheap first-class tickets is to Mexico and Canada," Damodaran says. "Due to Canada's Covid-19 related travel restrictions, the availability of tickets [to Canada] tends to be slated for later summer and fall departures."

So, if you're looking to fly soon, Mexico might be a better option. This spring, first-class, round-trip tickets from Los Angeles to Guadalajara are $399, according to data from Hopper. Fare for tickets from Los Angeles to San José del Cabo and Puerto Vallarta is $437 and $464, respectively.

From spring through fall, fare from Los Angeles to Cancun will be $489.

Brazil

Perks like meals before your flight and a dedicated check-in counter might not be offered by airlines right now, says Ma of The Flight Deal. However, you can fly in relative luxury in business class, which includes "lie-flat" seats, for affordable rates.

There are a number of round-trip flights to international destinations with first-class tickets under $500, and a couple under $400.
Adit Damodaran
economist at Hopper

Business-class tickets from Orlando to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, are $446 if you fly American Airlines, according to The Flight Deal. Orlando to Sao Paulo tickets are $429 on American.

From New York City to Rio de Janeiro, business-class fares on American Airlines are $503. From Boston to Sao Paulo Brazil, fares are $509.

Canada

"The Seattle to Calgary, Canada, route tops our chart as the cheapest round-trip, international, first-class flight, at $335," says Damodaran of Hopper. Note though that right now U.S. citizens are only allowed to visit Canada under certain circumstances, such as if they are an immediate or extended family member of a Canadian citizen, or a person who is authorized by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

This spring, you can find a first-class, round-trip ticket from New York City to Montreal for $470, according to data from Hopper. And this summer, you can find first-class, round-trip tickets from Portland to Vancouver for $474.

Colombia

"You have huge opportunities to fly to South America for cheap right now," Ma says. From New York City to Bogota, American Airlines is offering business-class seats for $419.

These deals won't last for long, though, Ma says. He estimates that now through fall will be the most affordable times to travel.

"Once the airlines see more people get back to flying then it'll become more expensive again," he says. "As long as they are running the schedule like they are right now and the demand is not that great, we're going to see a discount."

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