When did you last fly first class? Do you remember when flying was fun? Today, we live in a time of enhanced security which translates to longer lines, restrictions on carry-on items, and even the occasional pat-down at the airport. Seriously folks, who wants to take their shoes off in public?
While nothing can be done about the reality of measures necessary to protect us, the extra time and inconveniences we face lead to contemplating how to make the actual “travel” portion of our trip a bit more enjoyable. Like flying first class.
Admittedly, I like to feel special sometimes. Boarding the plane early, sinking into an extra-large seat and being able to fully extend your legs. Complimentary cocktails and upgraded meals are also perks. So, you find yourself wondering, “Is it worth it?” Several factors are at play in this determination. Primarily “How much does it cost?” Sometimes, first-class fares are surprisingly reasonable…other times they can be astronomical! The purpose of your travel – pleasure or business – and the timing of your flight can affect your decision. If you are going on vacation, you may want to make the outbound trip as relaxing as possible, so you arrive at your destination rested and ready to party. Same applies to business trips. Making the killer presentation and closing the deal may make this an easy choice (especially if your employer or client is footing the bill!).
Recently I flew to the northeast with my son to visit the college he plans to attend in the Fall. It was a mid-week trip and we scheduled our flights to minimize time away from school. High school senior year is crazy busy! We flew up the night before and had a full day of campus tours and activities the next day. Looking at return flights, on a whim I checked the first-class fares and was surprised to learn that for just a few hundred dollars more we could fly home first class. Thinking my son could get some much-needed sleep on the three-hour flight home, I hit “buy”.
I must admit, I was really looking forward to the flight. The campus visit was a success, but it was a long day. Once we arrived at the airport everything started out positively…we boarded early, settled into our seats and planned to rest a bit until the meal service. Then enter the loud talker across the aisle. Apparently, this fellow passenger had a somewhat successful career as a major league baseball player, and he decided to make it his mission in life to regale his seatmate with ALL of his exploits – on and off the field. As the beverage service ensued, the tales grew taller. And louder. This was an evening flight, departing at 9 PM and arriving just before midnight.
“Surely”, I thought, “he will quiet down after dinner, right”? No. Not even a little. He yapped all the way from Boston to Tampa. The poor guy sitting next to him couldn’t get a word in edgewise. To make matters worse, the vegetation meals I pre-ordered were served cold. Intentionally cold and not very tasty. When I asked the flight attendant for a substitute, she apologetically told me they didn’t have any extra meals. Not even a roll. And we couldn’t get any rest. Even with ear plugs I wisely packed, I could hear the former ball player word-for-word. For three hours.
Now, I must say that I have experienced many fabulous first-class and business class trips. Last summer my younger son and I traveled to Ireland and we flew business class on Aer Lingus. It was AWESOME! The service was fantastic. The seats were like individual cocoons with all the comforts of home. Both of our meals were hot and delicious, we watched a movie, and we slept well. Upon arrival in Dublin, we emerged rested and ready to enjoy our trip.
So here is the verdict. For international travel YES, first-class or business class travel is definitely worth it. For domestic travel, it depends. Weigh the purpose and timing of your trip, the reputation of the airline, and the added cost and choose what works best for you. Just realize that despite paying extra for superior treatment, there are no guarantees!