A first-class seat set up for a passenger's meal in American Airlines' Boeing 777-300ER airplane.
Mary Altaffer, AP

Spectacular low fares enter the stratosphere at supersonic speed. And just like that they’re gone. In some cases, they represent thousands of dollars in savings for premium- and business-class fares.  

This happens because airlines are constantly adjusting fares in a highly competitive landscape. In fact, staggeringly, there are more than a million fare changes around the world every day.

In their quest to have your derrière in their seat, airlines often offer special business- and first-class discounts to make sure their flights are as full as possible.

The best fares disappear fast

But remarkable usually means ephemeral: Blink and you miss them. Still, most people don’t know that airlines let you hold a great airfare long enough to take advantage of it — anywhere from 24 hours to 14 days.

In some cases it doesn’t cost anything; in others, there’s a nominal fee, but well worth it considering the savings at stake.

Here are examples of 30% to 74% off fares our truffle hounds recently found that won’t be around long:

• Business class fares from Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C., to Europe, starting at $2,055 round trip on American, Air France, British Airways, Delta, KLM, Lot Polish, Lufthansa, SWISS, and United (no advance purchase required)

• New first class fares discounted 52% from Miami, New York and Washington, D.C., to Europe on American, Lufthansa and United on LATAM

• New business-class fares to Buenos Aires starting at $1,690 round-trip

• Business-class fares from the East and West Coast to Europe, up to 74% off on American, Alitalia and Iberia (no advance purchase required)

• New business-class fares to Asia discounted 39% on Delta

• New business-class fares to Lima, Peru, starting at $1,097 on American and Delta

(Note that these fares change constantly and could increase or decrease by the time you see them.)

Plan your trip around special fares

Most folks see a great premium fare and shrug their shoulders because they figure it doesn’t fit in with their schedule. Instead, consider holding it long enough to plan your trip around it. In addition to the savings, you can reduce the dreaded economy-class jet lag, so it’s well worth it.

Thirteen major airlines allow you to lock and hold a fare. British Airways, for example, has a “Hold Your Flight Price” option that comes up after the price summary, when offered. The cost is $10 per ticket for a 72-hour hold. If you buy the ticket, you get the $10 refunded. The option also applies to partner flights on Iberia and in first class on British Airways. KLM often offers the hold for up to 14 days for a $20 non-refundable fee. On United, the lock costs as little as $6.99 per reservation for three days. American and Cathay Pacific offer the hold for free for up to 24 hours.

Most airlines, in fact, allow you to cancel your ticket without penalty and receive a full refund within 24 hours after you purchase it, as required by law. (The Department of Transportation mandates that “U.S. and foreign air carriers allow a reservation to be cancelled within 24 hours without penalty.”) 

However, some airlines do have advance-reservation requirements (such as Alitalia, which requires at least a week prior to the scheduled flight departure), so check with your airline for any restrictions on the 24-hour rule.

View the lock options as a hedge against hesitating — the reason most of us lose out on a great fare — and never miss out again.

See you up front.

First Class Flyer publisher Matthew Bennett, aka Mr. Upgrade, has specialized in research, insights, and unusual opportunities for premium air travelers since 1996.