Consumerist Poll: Is First-Class Travel Really Necessary?

Faced with a 20% drop in ‘premium’ travel as compared to a year ago, some airlines (Qantas, BA) have started cutting back on their first-class fanciness. Some (Emirates, Air France, Lufthansa) find the idea “unthinkable”. Yet those airlines who continue to invest in first-class travel might be making the smarter move: they’re hoping these passengers will stay loyal when the economy bounces back. Which is not such a bad idea, considering the fact that first-class passengers are the ones keeping the airlines afloat. (Uh, aloft?)

British Airways shocked the world recently when it announced plans to cut back on the number of seats in some first-class cabins, and even *aargh!* introduce some planes with no first-class cabin at all. Which means no more Egyptian cotton pillows or lobster Thermidor. Similarly, Qantas announced it will no longer offer sheepskin and truffles on certain flights until further notice.

But Lufthansa and Air France/KLM are having none of it. They’re going right ahead, building massive, expensive, ego-flattering airport lounges for their very favorite people — expense accounters and heiresses who didn’t invest with Madoff. Lufthansa even created its own terminal for these people (you get chauffeured to your plane in a Porsche Cayenne!!).

Which brings us to our poll:

For Some Airlines, Recession Doubts Are Taking a Back Seat [New York Times]
(Photo: thepatrick)


Edit Your Comment

  1. William Brinkman says:

    Have you seen the layout for the Dubai flights? YOU GET TO LAY DOWN AND SLEEP. When I think of that city, I like to forget all the slavery and remember the seats that convert into a bed. A BED, I TELL YOU!

    I also think First Class rules for people who travel and “don’t belong” in First Class. Back when my boss had the equivalent to my job, he told me about how people would gasp at him as the flight attendant hung up his shabby flannel jacket. I’m sure his Bad Religion tees sat well with the older business crowd as well. =D

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      @William Brinkman: I’m pretty sure some of that is relaxed now but I know biz and first class has pretty stringent dress codes. You can’t show up in Bermuda shorts and expect to be let into first class without grumbles. You were (I flew biz class in the 90s when I was a kid) expected to wear pants other than jeans and no shorts. Skirts were fine but who wants to wear a skirt whilst traveling? I remember my mom telling me what I needed to go pick out for the trip.

      • William Brinkman says:

        @pecan 3.14159265: It all depends if you’re rev or non-rev. Things may have been different in the 90s, but I don’t think Delta/NW or United (the only two programs which which I am familiar) have had a dress code for rev customers for the last few years. Plus, being tier 2 and pushing tier 3 status gets you a lot of leeway.

        Anyway, part of the fun is sticking it to the man. ;)

      • NeverLetMeDown says:

        @pecan 3.14159265:

        While that may be true if you’re trying to finagle a gate upgrade, if you have a paid biz or first class ticket, you can wear pretty much whatever you darn well please. I showed up for a flight to Asia in a violent femmes t-shirt, ratty jeans, and a backward baseball hat – after the initial double-take on looking at my first class boarding pass, they didn’t bat an eye the rest of the flight.

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          @NeverLetMeDown: I think my Mom just wanted me to dress up a little in case I thought about using the extra seats as a playground. When you’re 8 everything looks like it needs investigating. I guess she thought if I was dressed “like a grownup” I be quieter.

      • philipbarrett says:

        @pecan 3.14159265: Totally not true – I travel in 1st all the time (thanks to FF miles not $), my shorts & Vans never raised a complaint yet.

        • BEERxTaco says:

          @philipbarrett: Back in 1999 my wife and I got bumped up to First Class for an overnight flight to Rome from NY, due to a “change in equipment” as they called it (a different plane). We waited and waited as everyone else was getting called to get their new seats, afraid we were going to bumped off the flight, and right at the end they hand us our seats in Row 2.

          I must say, it was the most enjoyable flight I ever had.

      • StutiSpurius says:

        @pecan 3.14159265: “who wants to wear a skirt whilst traveling?”

        I actually prefer to travel in a skirt (knee-length or longer.. not a mini!), because it’s much more comfortable. The downside is that packing the jeans takes up more space in luggage than the skirt would, but it’s worth it :)

    • ipodrulz says:

      @William Brinkman: I don’t know what plane it was but I remember sitting (sleeping?) on those 2 years ago with Air Canada. They’re much more comfortable, and the service was great.

    • RandomZero says:

      @William Brinkman: Dubai flights? Yeah, the lap of luxury all the way. They also include free limo service to the airport. (I work for the ground transportation company that does that. Be wary, though: Emirates agents are notoriously sloppy in booking wrong date/stimes if they book it at all.)

  2. Hands says:

    First or business class for long flights, especially redeyes, is great. For a two hour flight — waste o’ money.

    • ipodrulz says:

      @Hands: Agree anything below 6 hours shouldn’t really need first class. At the same time when I was flying from Toronto to Mexico with my school we got on a plane that was “all first class” which didn’t really make sense to me .

    • bilge says:

      @Hands: It’s more than just in-flight comfort. If you have a first class ticket, you have a much better chance of getting on a flight no matter how badly it’s overbooked or of getting a prompt rebooking when your flight is cancelled. My father was on the road a lot–he flew enough that the ticket agents at several airports knew him by name and would bump folks out of first class so he could get a seat–and he always valued flying first class because he had enough room to get work done.

    • ARP says:

      @Hands: That’s my view as well. For red-eyes or trans-oceanic flights, I always try to get Biz class.

      I really don’t see the need for first class if biz class is an option. What’s the incremental difference?

    • RandomHookup says:

      @Hands: I got an automatic upgrade to first class for a 30 minute trip first thing one morning. I’m not sure I even got more than a Diet Coke out of the deal.

    • Czum says:

      @Hands: For the 11+ hour flights to Beijing, the lie-flats are awesome. Plus you get to spend your time at the terminal in the first-class lounges – this can be a real plus for a long layover.

      On my next trip to Europe I’m in economy, but have free lounge passes for my wife and I when we land in London at 6am for a 3 hour stop – hello hot breakfast (maybe even a shower).

      But to put all this in perspective: one first class ticket to Beijing is typically MORE than 3 economy tickets.

  3. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    I’ve only made it as far up as business class and wow, what a difference. I imagine first class makes business class look like a holding pen. I relish the day I may be able to afford first class because the comfort on a super long flight is probably worth it. I spent a 9 hour flight to Europe next to a large person and in front of people who talked extremely loudly for a really long time.

    • animatedantmo says:

      @pecan 3.14159265: Your username caused me much geek joy.

      More on subject. I have never flown anything but coach :|

    • HogwartsAlum says:

      @pecan 3.14159265:

      I’ve never flown first class, but it’s on my bucket list. Just once. With all the trimmings!

    • jamar0303 says:

      @pecan 3.14159265: I’ve only flown Biz 4 years in my life (annual trips to China to see family- now I live here). Night and day. It made being on United bearable. Unfortunately, I’ve depleted my FF account by doing so, so it’ll have to wait until I build up a suitable balance- on another airline’s card.

    • mizike says:

      @pecan 3.14159265: I actually just got back from Europe and one thing I noticed on the plane was that first class had the exact same amount of leg room as coach. As someone who is 6’1″, leg room is my only concern, as such I couldn’t believe that the first class seats were spaced the same distance apart as coach. Sure, the seats were in groups of two in first as opposed to groups of three in coach so they were still quite a bit bigger and more comfortable looking, but I would have been seriously pissed if I had paid twice as much for my ticket to still have my knees rammed into the back of the seat in front of me for the entire flight. Although maybe Air Transat just sucks, part of the vegetarian meal was obviously made with meat products and when my girlfriend complained the flight attendant basically said “Meh, no one’s making you eat it”, as if she had other options. She could have at least apologized. They also played advertising over the cabin speakers at the end of the flight. Sorry, this is turning into a rant, I’ll stop now.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        @mizike: I’ve never heard of Air Transat (just googled it. Canada, which is why I’ve never heard of it) but I last flew Lufthansa, and the coach seats were pretty roomy, much more so than other carriers. I went to the bathroom near the first class seats and I can tell you for sure that they have much, much more leg room and their seats were bigger.

      • huadpe says:

        @mizike: Air Transat sucks.

      • Anonymous says:

        @mizike: Air Transat is a discount airline so their ‘first class’ isn’t really first class. Their prices use to be cheap enough to make up for the discomfort/basic amenities but for the past two years I’ve noticed I can fly economy in Air Canada for less (Toronto – London… um where I got to school so fly back/forth a few times per year). God, I think even AC economy is nicer than Air Transat first.

  4. donovanr says:

    I want to see a study(not paid for by an airline) of the performance of people who travel first class or business class vs. those who traveled cattle class. I suspect that the thin dry air will have far more impact than having a nice seat and warm towel.
    I keep hearing government people justify the expense saying that their “performance” will be affected if they don’t spend triple the money.

    • Rachacha says:

      @donovanr: Well technically, Federal Government employees are not supposed to fly anything except coach unless the flight is over 12 hours (or 13, I can never remember, and I am too lazy to look it up). Travelers can use their own frequent flier miles (or their own money)to upgrade. If however they fly business or 1st class on these long flights, they are NOT supposed to get a “day of rest” at the destination to acclimate to the local time zone.

      Mind you this is all in THEORY. Abuse happens, and some agencies are more strict on this rule than others.

    • huadpe says:

      @donovanr: I think it depends. If the difference is enabling you to sleep or not, that could make a big difference in ability to work effectively. That’s probably the only major difference though.

  5. atarisuicide says:

    I hate to be “that guy”, but are the 42% of you that believe first class is for jerks only just bitter that you aren’t flying first class?

    There are some people (thank god I’m not one of them) that fly 2, 3, 4 times per week. Why would I begrudge these people their first class seats? They have earned them. Same goes for people that have the $ (expense account or otherwise) to get a better seat.

    I have never flown first class, even for my company, which sets the rule that we are always to take the lowest airfare. Doesn’t mean I should be bitter to those that get the cushy seats.

    • balthisar says:

      @atarisuicide: I see people in first class, and ask myself about some of them, how can that slob afford first class?

      We must all remember that it’s the price of the first class tickets that subsidize low airfare for the rest of us.

    • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

      @atarisuicide: Not exactly. It’s more like we’re pissed off that the airlines are so committed to making first class passengers feel all special that they make the conditions in coach miserable. Expense accounts be damned, we need vice presidential level signoff on ticket upgrades, and we also care about the bottom line… really.

      • B1663R says:

        @speedwell, avatar of snark: hey, i pay a pretty penny for that pampering. its not like i was the airlines 100th customer or something.

        i paid MONEY that i earned for my upgrade

        • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

          @B1663R: Yeah, and we paid earned money for our ticket. So what? We both get there in the end, only the airlines deliberately make some of their paying customers miserable just so their overpaying customers can feel like they aren’t the cattle back there.

    • hankrearden says:


      I NEVER took 1st Class…then I finally started making a little money after 14 years of education.

      So I tried it out a couple of times when they offered it at the last minute for a cheap upgrade fee. It was stellar!

      It’s worth the pampering every once in a while.

      • esrever says:

        @hankrearden: Yeah, American sometimes offers “terminal upgrades” at the electronic check-in terminals, where you can upgrade yourself to first class for $45/500 miles of flying. It means I can fly PHL-ORD, for example, in first class for an extra $90. Sometimes, that’s worth it to me.

    • burnedout says:

      @atarisuicide: I agree, it’s not that the people who fly it are jerks. I the the business model that says that anyone who didn’t pay for an insanely expensive ticket deserves crippling seats and downright rude service was created by a bunch of jerks. I like the post above about a plane that is all first class. If long distance (6 hours or more) flights were better for everyone maybe they’d sell more tickets.

    • LegoMan322 says:

      @atarisuicide: Any reason why ALL the seats cannot be nice and comfortable?

    • NoWireHangers says:

      @atarisuicide: The disdain is there because in America we like to pretend that “class” doesn’t exist. No where is class more apparent than on an airplane. Flying is already a miserable experience for various reasons. Thus, it’s easy to hate on those that can afford to fly first class when you’re stuck in coach with screaming babies.

  6. krunk4ever says:

    Remember those stories about how you can frame a question and the choices to get users to choose what you want them to choose? This is exactly one of those polls.

    Necessary?!?! Many things aren’t necessary (i.e. cable TV, eating out, nice cars, nice clothing, movies, etc.), but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth it or something you’d like to do only every once in awhile.

    First class air travel is expensive, but so is eating at a 5-star restaurant or staying at a 5-star hotel. Not necessary, but if I have the cash, I wouldn’t mind pampering myself every once in awhile.

    I’m not even sure what the purpose of this poll is for…

  7. ipodrulz says:

    I fly dozens of planes every year (my family has a thing for vacations) and though I’m not a high maintenance kid I would not be able to sit straight up for 14 hours. I enjoy lying down and getting a great sleep, and then eat food that doesn’t taste like it’s been dropped on the floor several times.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      @ipodrulz: I have to say though, that the coach food on a lufthansa flight is extremely yummy. Little sandwich, cheese wedge, fruit, a little candy bar and a roll.

      • Donathius says:

        @pecan 3.14159265: That’s pretty much what I got flying first class on American…I feel gypped now. Those “fresh roasted” nuts were sooooo not worth it.

        • esrever says:

          @Donathius: Yeah, but those chocolate chip cookies they bake in first class are laced with crack or something. They are so, so good.

      • ARP says:

        @pecan 3.14159265: I think you’ll find that the “coach” food on most European airlines is often competitive with the Biz class food on US based airlines.

        PS- I would pay to have Turkish Airlines food in a restaurant.

  8. Preyfar says:

    I travel first class at times. Not every time, no… but I always check the cost difference. I’ve seen the difference in coach and first class be as little as $100, which to me, is worth upgrading. Oh, and that $100 included the return trip as well.

    Flying is a nightmare nowadays, with fees out the !@#$ and horrible, inconvenient trips and annoyances thanks mostly due to “security” and the TSA. Sometimes the extra money and perks make up for it (e.g. luggage fees included with first class, the lounge). I used to love flying, but dread it nowadays. First class (or business class) is the only thing that can make it palatable at times.

    Still, it all comes down to costs. If I’m going to be stuck in a tiny seat in a giant flying can with no mobility I can at least try to do it comfortably.

    • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

      @Preyfar: 100 dollar difference? I wish. I ask every time I book a long-haul flight, and the company’s travel agent checks, and the difference is frequently more than 1000 dollars. I could actually request an upgrade for flights over ten hours, but it’s not worth getting the mandatory VP’s signature. These days, who wants to call management’s attention to themselves for being a big corporate spender?

    • Powerlurker says:


      I once took a flight where it was actually cheaper to fly first class for one of the legs than coach. Sometimes discount first class fares can be cheaper than the higher priced coach fares. Also, if you travel overseas at off-peak times it’s not uncommon for airlines to have special promotional fares on first class tickets which can really narrow the fare delta.

  9. s35flyer says:

    Anything to stay away from crying babies, overweight people who spill over into my 10″ seat and obnoxious families with the everything and the kitchen sink as carry-on going to disneyland. And with a seat that small, it doesn’t take to much to be overweight.

    • bohemian says:

      @s35flyer: Every last bit of what you said. I flew coach cross country a few times and it is hellishly miserable.
      I have not flown first class since I was a kid but I always look at it as an option if I can get an upgrade or somehow have the dough to pay for it.
      I can imagine doing a transatlantic flight in the crammed coach seats like Delta has.

  10. kc2idf says:

    I haven’t flown in at least five years, nor have I flown first class in at least ten. That said . . .

    When travelling internationally, as a former job of mine required, first class, or at least business class, was a big improvement over coach. It is bad enough that you would land in Europe or Asia worn out from the trip, but if you had to sit in the requisite hard-upright cramped position of coach class for eight to twenty-four hours, it turned an annoyance into sheer hell.

    . . . and yes, I did travel both classes while on that job.

    That said, for short flights, it makes no sense.

    I wanted also to add that if you are travelling by train, it can make sense, even for shorter trips. Leaving from Schenectady or Rensselaer, NY (near Albany) for New York City, the trip is about 2-3 hours by AmTrak. While the extra legroom is not so important (there is plenty in coach), it is kind of nice to have a place to plug in your laptop, especially since a cellular aircard will give you good Internet service for most of the trip (with a couple of dead spots near Newburgh). Coach class on the train is also very quiet, which is helpful before finding yourself deposited in the busiest rail station in North America (Penn Station in NYC).

    • floraposte says:

      @kc2idf: I paid for first-class upgrade for a day-long train trip in Britain once (northern Scotland to London). The line was struck by a tornado (so they claimed) and, since it was Sunday, nobody knew what to do with the backed-up trains. I got in something like 10 hours late after an insane amount of screwing around and spending the last four hours sitting on a train floor.

      But I suspect first class isn’t always like that.

  11. AldisCabango says:

    If I had the money I would fly first class everytime I flew even for short domestic flights. Nothing better than when they close the curtains separating you from the riff-raff in the back.

    I dont get free upgrades to first class anymore and I”m not rich so its Southwest Airlines for me most of the time.

  12. Mr_Human says:

    I flew first class on a long-haul flight once. It was fantastic. And ridiculous. Fantastic were the giant seats. Ridiculous was the unending pampering. Following dinner (some delectable shrimp thing), they went down the aisle custom-making sundaes for everybody.

  13. B1663R says:

    i seldom travel, like once a year at tops. but when i do its first class all they way baby!!

    same goes for vacations, oceanview suits! an example would be my recent trip to Cuba. it cost me $80 bucks per person per flight to upgrade to first class

    well worth every penny!

  14. CarlIguana says:

    It is strange that the airlines are reducing their FC seats at the same time that so many people have to fly commercial again after having to give up their PJs. It is especially frustrating for loyal customers like me who can’t use their free upgrades because the remaining FC seats are filled with paying customers. Favorite FC experience: Singapore Airlines flatbeds with silk sheets! (EWR-AMS, paid with FF miles).

  15. ninja_in_a_tree says:

    I’ve only say in business class. It’s fine and worth every penny. Anytime you can get a little extra service with a smile and a little more legroom is fine with me. If I could ever afford first class (never), I’d take that too, at least once in my life time. The rest will be sitting in business class or something in between business and coach class (such as Eva’s Deluxe Class).

  16. Robobot says:

    Growing up, I spent what feels like entire summers in first/business class and United Red Carpet Clubs between jetsetting adventures with a wealthy aunt. It was pretty damn sweet, especially since we were going to be spending a lot of time in the air and in airport lounges no matter how classy or classless they were. But to be honest, I could NEVER justify that lifestyle now that I’m (mostly) grown up unless it was a flight halfway around the world or a 23 hour layover in an extremely sketchy airport… and even then I’d have some major reservations over shelling out so much dough for airline travel.

    (Do they even have Red Carpet Clubs anymore?)

    • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

      @Robobot: Yes, they do, and you pay out the nose for them if you don’t qualify on miles, and they aren’t in every airport, even major ones, and it’s not worth it for a couple free drinks, a newspaper, and the use of an overstuffed chair.

  17. techstar25 says:

    First class seats and the accompanying treatment is how ALL seats should be on a plane.
    Why is it that just because we sit in “coach class” that it’s okay to be treated like a refugee from a third-world country (even though we’ve paid $500 for our ticket)? Coach class is a joke.
    I’m not saying that First Class is a good value, because it isn’t. I’m just saying that air travel is an industry that has basically imploded on itself, and is now simply unable to provide basic customer service.

    • techstar25 says:

      @techstar25: Why is it that on an airplane people have to pay a premium First Class price to get the same level of service that would be considered sub-standard at a damn Applebees?

      • esrever says:

        @techstar25: Because when you go to Applebee’s, the restaurant doesn’t lift up into the air, burn gallons and gallons of Jet A, and then set you down in another town hundreds–if not thousands–of miles away.

    • Powerlurker says:

      Because people have voted with their wallets and said that they’ll put up with a lot to save $10 on a two hour flight. The airline doesn’t really care what you think because you aren’t making them much money anyway and they know you’d probably jump ship to a competitor if it would save you a few bucks. Hence, they direct their customer service efforts to the loyal and profitable passengers (I believe that an article in the NYT a year or two ago mentioned that about 38% of airline revenue comes from the passengers who actually pay for business/first class).

  18. negitoro says:

    I’ve only ever flown First Class once years and years ago. It was on an international flight for a family vacation. Flight was overbooked and my dad happened to be in the elite frequent flier plan. So our entire family got the upgrade to First.

    Maybe it was just that I was used to the coach treatment but I felt a little ridiculous. I mean, being greeted by name (instead of your seat number) and offered champagne just felt totally alien. The seats were so far apart I couldn’t even touch the seat in front with the tip of my toes and so wide I could barely hold a conversation with my brother in the next seat. Heck, they even laid a tablecloth on my tray table and served me food on real dishes. I just couldn’t believe it was the same plane.

    Having experienced it once, while it was really nice, I really couldn’t imagine actually paying for a ticket at those prices.

    For those long haul international flights, I definitely think business is the way to go though. The difference between business and first… I’d rather pocket the difference and spend it on a couple of nights at a really nice hotel and eat at some really nice restaurants at my destination.

    • Powerlurker says:


      Also, some airlines don’t even offer a separate first class, like Continental with its “BusinessFirst” class.

  19. Hank Scorpio says:

    I’m going to re-iterate what many people have already said : there’s really nothing wrong with first class if you can afford it. I’ve never flown first class, but I wish I could have afforded it when we went to France. Those are some long flights, and nice, big first class seats would have made them more bearable.

    Having said that, we opted for the first class train tickets when we traveled on the high speed rail. It’s not the same as first class airfare, you get bigger seats, but there’s no “pampering” that comes along with it. But, it was definitely worth the extra expense (which really wasn’t all that much).

  20. Etoiles says:

    I fly JetBlue whenever possible. I get my TV and my leg room and there is no first class. Win all around!

    (Although on international flights I can see wanting it. The six hours between US coasts is juuuuuuust about my tolerance for a standard airplane… I’ve been to Europe from Boston in coach and it was barely tolerable. If I were flying as far as Australia or China?)

    • veronykah says:

      @Etoiles: I just flew back from Thailand, and it was atrocious. Tiny cramped economy seat for 11 hours on one flight? Never again. I’ll save money to upgrade next time.

  21. Schmack says:

    I’ve had the fortune to be in Continental’s “Business First” on flights between Newark and Mumbai. A haul of that length and duration (~17hrs) makes the extra room absolutely worthwhile. The doting service isn’t bad either. It’s to the point now that I would ask for two adjacent seats if I had to fly coach, just so I could feel like I had enough space to sleep comfortably.

    I’ve also been upgraded on flights from Newark/New York to Cleveland, Chicago or Pittsburgh. You’re barely in the air for an hour, and short of priority boarding and a free cup of booze it’s not worth it.

    I’d say the four-hour mark is a good threshold for me. Anything shorter and you aren’t going to have enough time to make use of the perks. Instead, I’d make sure I have access to the airline’s lounge area. The price of admission is almost always worth it.

    • cromartie says:

      @Schmack: Having also done Newark-Mumbai on Delta and Chicago-Mumbai on Air India, I’m going to second your statement. Someone upthread mentioned it, and I’ll second it, if you’re doing the international hauls, Business Class is a life saver. Sitting upright in the dive position for 17 hours wouldn’t have been very much fun.

      If I were a thinner fellow, I’d probably also agree with the sentiment that short haul first class is a bit of a waste. But I fly Airtran and take the $49 upgrade every time. It’s one of the best kept secrets in air travel, in my opinion.

      Otherwise, when I must coach it, my goal is to fly the largest possible plane from point to point, and that usually ends up being either Southwest or JetBlue.

  22. Cogito Ergo Bibo says:

    I’ve flown first class internationally a couple of times and flown internationally without first class. I don’t make a lot of money, but it was worth saving my pennies and planning ahead to be able to fly first class. I might consider it domestically for flying coast to coast, but it’s hard to justify the cost unless you’re really getting your money’s worth.

    BTW, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find out that the percentage of jerks in coach is roughly the same as in first class. The conditions in coach seem to bring it out of people. Conversely, the folks traveling up front seem to be a lot more calm and respectful to each other. Which is obviously easier when you aren’t folded up into a pretzel and shoved into a center seat. Coach should definitely be more comfortable. Heck, it’s what I fly 99% of the time. But that doesn’t mean that people trying to avoid coach are all jerks.

  23. William Brinkman says:

    @LegoMan322: People can not afford to fly like that and it would temporarily cripple our economy. That’s why. Hurrrrrrrrrrrrr.

  24. David in Brasil says:

    I occasionally fly first/business class on long haul flights. Yes, the bigger seats and more room is really nice. But the thing that chaps my ass is the different attitude that one encounters. Case in point: When the plane is landing and you haven’t yet pulled your seat into the “upright and locked” position, the attendants up front will stop by your seat, smile and say “Sir, would you please pull you’re seat up, we’re about to land”. Back in cattle-car class, they walk by and smack your seat on the back and bark at you. I’m sure that they’re under orders to talk extra-nicely to the people up front, but a nicer attitude and a little politeness in the back doesn’t cost them a cent. Pay attention next time you fly and see if you don’t notice a complete difference in attitude and friendliness between the cabins.

  25. P.T.Wheatstraw says:

    I live in Europe and I fly various family members over to visit a few times a year. I always try to get them business if not first.

    But I never fly first or business myself. I can sleep in any position and I’m usually unconscious five minutes after wheels-up.

  26. Donathius says:

    My wife and I flew first class for our honeymoon a year ago (1st anniversary is this Sunday!) but we didn’t pay for it. My father travels constantly for work and donated enough frequent flier miles for us to go to Disney World first class.

    That being said, I really don’t think it’s worth it unless you’re on one long flight. The special treatment was kinda nice, and the food was almost as good as a cheap restaurant. The extra seat space was pretty nice as well.

    All of this I could’ve put up with for the round trip from SLC to ORL, but I could definitely see first class being worth it for long hauls. My dad flies to Asia (Japan and China) a lot and work always pays for Business class when he goes. He refuses to fly any other way if his flight is more than a few hours. Especially since he’s got enough miles to fly for free for the rest of his life.

  27. Smailtronic says:

    I’ve never paid for business or first, but I can usually plan my flights so that I get upgraded at least 50% of the time. Oh the joys of low-level elite status. The other big perk is advance access to exit rows/bulkheads. That way, even if I don’t get upgraded, I still have a seat with tons of legroom. Which, for 6’3″ me is a big deal.

  28. Employees Must Wash Hands says:


    As someone who DID have to fly 4x a week, I have to say that those earned upgrades are like gold.

  29. Scuba Steve says:

    @atarisuicide: Its a poll. I doubt most people really think all first class passengers are jerks.

    The true jerks are the airline companies who thought it was a good idea to make half the airline really nice, and then half the airline utterly horrible, and use rich people to cover the cost/profit margin of the trip that the other people apparently weren’t covering.

    Then again, it’s been like this since the invention of boats.

  30. Anonymous says:

    I think its worth every penny of my own money. Business class has its own screening line at the security counter as well as its own checkin line at the baggage counter. Business class customers are very rarely first time flyers so even if there is a line at the security checkpoint it goes quickly. Business class is not often filled with screaming children and the seats are bigger. There’s even actually space where you can get a laptop out and stick it on the tray table and get actual work done.

    My small 13 inch Macbook does not fit on coach tray tables very well. Especially when the idiot in front of me is reclined with his seat back inches from my face.

    Air travel really sucks. From the invasion of privacy to he run around from the lying airlines to the horde of people you have to deal with to the nazi cops outside yelling at motorists because of the bad design of the airport. First Class makes air travel suck less. If airlines start dropping first class I will just stop flying all together. You can get from one part of the country to the next in about 3-4 days by car and its an Adventure. Not to mention you don’t have to deal with the hassle.

  31. pb5000 says:

    As a dork who can actually ride a unicycle, I had to chose that one.

  32. WeAre138 says:

    Flights lasting more than 3 hours is where I draw the line and upgrade to first class.

    It’s nice to have more comfy seats, more room, and I’ve never heard a crying baby or one of those loud obnoxious people who have to tell their life story to the person next to them while flying 1st class :)

  33. veg-o-matic says:

    The handful of times that I’ve flown first class have all made me uncomfortable in one way or another. Even if cost were no issue (and ohh but it is), I just can’t see myself ever willingly flying first class again.

    I’ve never requested first class seats, but they have been thrust upon me under some unusual circumstances and with some surprisingly helpful airline employees (LAX – MEX and DFW – MTY for the curious). I actually didn’t even realize the agent had put me in first to Mexico City until I was on the plane in LA. Apparently, being in first was going to be the edge I needed to make that 10 minute connection in Mexico City. Ha, Ha, right.

    The seats are physically more comfortable, the service is more attentive, and the food is “better” (although it still does no good for a vegan or usually even a vegetarian), but even on long flights, these extras still feel totally superfluous.

    Beyond that, though, I could never get over the fact that there was a whole plane full of perfectly nice people right behind me who probably could have used the extra space and attentive service more than I did, as a young single person with no children in tow.

    Nothing makes you feel like a first class ass more than having a big family complete with elderly grandparents right behind you in coach. I don’t necessarily think all first class travelers are jerks, but I certainly felt like one.

    Coach or Amtrak for me, thanks.

  34. Sanshie says:

    Forget the Egyptian cotton and lobsters, it’s all about the leg room! My frequent flier brother-in-law is 6’4″, and that extra leg room in first class is as vital on a 2 hour flight as it is on an overseas flight. There’s really something to be said about not feeling like a veal being penned up getting ready for the final solution.

  35. pot_roast says:

    It’s great – as long as it gets you away from crying babies and obnoxious children. Nothing sucks worse than paying for a business or first class ticket only to find that somebody brought a lap baby that cries for the whole flight.

  36. gglockner says:

    In my last job, I traveled about 80K-120K miles per year, in a mix of domestic and international. I did some traveling in economy, domestic first, international business, and once in a while in international first.

    The question is: what do you get for your money? The chance to work and rest is valuable – especially when you need to get back to work right after you land. The better food and service is a nice perk. Unfortunately, at times you might not get your money’s worth. Like when the union employees are waging war with management, and the customers (remember the customers?) are caught in the crossfire. Or when management decides to cut out something important like noise-canceling headphones, or your convenient nonstop flight. Or when seats are broken, laptop power outlets are out-of-service, or whatever else you need is simply not working.

    If I had (have?) the money, I’d fly private jet. But that’s not an option.

  37. sponica says:

    I’ve never really flown on an airplane that had a first class…bc I’m a short hop flyer. I remember the looks of disappointment on everyone’s face when the jetblue flight we took from logan to dulles wasn’t a jetblue airplane. So no inflight movie or the other fancy schmancy things that JetBlue is known for…but really when you’re in the air for all of 90 minutes (if that) there’s no need for first class.
    The longest domestic flight I remember being on was Manchester, Nh to FL..and we flew Southwest. Greyhound with wings, maybe. But also the most entertaining flight crew in my years of flying.

  38. Sinflux says:

    I’d never pay for first class, I just stay up all night, take some sleeping pills and pass out for most of the flight, the longest one I’ve been on was 12 hours and I was still able to sleep through most of it.

  39. veronykah says:

    I just returned from Thailand, 15.5 hour flight.
    First class would have been worth every penny, if I had enough of those pennies to have purchased the seat.
    If I was flying on a corporate dime, absolutely.
    When I got free upgrades and flights from a bf that was a pilot, first class was the best.
    Why would you think its for jerks?

  40. Geekybiker says:

    I just like that they treat you like you are actually human instead of inconvenient cargo that happens to breathe.

    First class is pretty insanely priced, but I might consider a setup where you had 6 wide jet converted to 5 wide instead of the 4 wide of first class.

  41. SlappyFrog says:

    Just flew Singapore Airlines from India to California, a total of 23 hours flight time, I do not think there are limits to what I would’ve done to be in business class: Lay-down beds, separate cubicle, etc…I just couldn’t swing the $4,000 each way upgrade fee.

    With Singapore being known for its leg room and service, I can only imagine how miserable a United, for example, flight would’ve been.

  42. geeniusatwrok says:

    I flew to Sydney on United in big-girl first class, with the sleeper suites. It was the only way I’d take such a long flight again after the horror of a 14-hour ORD-NRT nightmare in coach a few years before. I saved my miles and eventually had the 120,000 required for a free ticket to Oz in first. Granted, United’s service even up front is pretty bad, but the food was excellent, the liquor plentiful, and I even managed to sleep a few hours. Coming into SYD in the first row of a 747, where the fuselage is curved so you can look forward somewhat instead of just left/right, in the early morning was a gorgeous sight.

    That said, anyone who actually paid the $13,000 or so that United wants to charge for that seat is an idiot. Even if you have the money to spare, there’s much better choices than United’s first class. I doubt anyone else in the front of that plane paid anything either.

  43. RickScarf says:

    When I was a kid flying with my frequent flyer dad we often had free upgrades to first class, which was nice. I wouldn’t pay for it myself however. What I do sometimes pay for (when I rarely fly) is when I have a multi-hour layover that has a Crown Room / Admirals Club /etc. I had a 7 hour layover in Puerto Rico and paid like $45 for a one-day Admirals Club pass and it was worth every penny to relax in nice leather chairs in a secure environment with handy food and drinks.

  44. Bryan Price says:

    I’ve managed to get 1st class/business class on all three international flights I’ve done. I’ve never had to pay for it, my wife, who was traveling on a regular basis, was able to get me upgraded with certificates or miles. There were all 8+ hour flights. Having traveled 5 hours to Alaska from SLC in coach, that was barely tolerable (especially when I was on the extremely cold exit window seat!). At least they gave everybody blankets. I don’t understand why the plane arriving is half full, but the plane leaving is always full.

    My wife works at home now (she probably doesn’t want the Kazakhstan gig right now), and she gets to sleep with her husband (and her husband gets to sleep with her!). But when the economy starts turning around, I’m sure she’ll be jetting off again.

  45. KMan13 still wants a Pontiac G8 says:

    I actually own a unicycle…

  46. berribrand says:

    I don’t know that it’s necessary, but it sure is nice. I have upgraded a few times at check-in for $100-$125 for a cross-nation trip and I loved it… I just keep the drinks coming during pre-boarding to landing LOL. The seats are really comfy as well.

  47. Bruce Bayliss says:

    British Airways ran an ad in the 1970s that went “If you want him to do a First Class job, buy him a First Class ticket”.
    From my experience, the passenger mix in First Class is about 10% Rich/20% Showbiz/70% Business.

    If you belong to the latter segment, you’ll be severely time-constrained and you’ll spend virtually every working minute of your life….working.

    First Class lounges/terminals/cabins let you do that efficiently and get you to your next meeting or conference in a condition that lets you perform well. And that’s what you’re being paid for

  48. Boston Joe says:

    I would like a lawyer to explain the legal definition of First Class (or Business Class). I recently flew my family of five on Air France Business Premium from LAX to the Middle East. We paid extra money for 21 Bags, and Voila! Upon delayed arrival, they lost 21 Bags. That’s 100% customer dissatisfaction. To make my premium service even more worth while, they made me come to the Airport every other day to pick up one or two bags at a time per the available flights. They were kind enough to offer a taxi refund ($10). The Saga started Dec 24th 2010, and it’s not January 4th, 2011. 11 bags to go and a ratio of 1.3 bags every two days…My christmas gifts will get here just in time for the Superbowl. Awesome. Enjoy “Premium Service” on Air France…One taxi at a time