Open TicketHave You Ever Flown First Class?Stephanie Spitler

I’ve never been lucky enough to get upgraded to first class and, let’s be honest, I’m not in a position to fork over thousands of dollars for a flight. But I’ve heard the fantastic tales of seats that convert to beds, steaks served on fine china and never-ending champagne cocktails. I’ve always had a picture in my mind of first class being like those old airline ads, when people dressed in pillbox hats and furs, and flying on an airplane was a formal, once-in-a-lifetime experience.

So when I saw this NBCNews.com story, I was intrigued. And as interesting as some of the details were, a question nagged at me. Is it right to be making such a distinction between your paying customers?

Don’t get me wrong; I understand the concept of “you get what you pay for.” And if people are willing and able to shell out $15,000 for a plane ticket then they should absolutely enjoy the perks that come with it. And from the article, those perks sound pretty sweet. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be ferried to their plane in a luxury car or be able to spend their time waiting in a private lounge with hors d’oeuvres and a bar? I don’t blame airlines for wanting to cater to every whim of their highest-paying customers. I guess it’s not so much the way the first class passengers are treated as it is about the experience of those of us in coach.

With the exception of a random sale, plane tickets are not cheap. They’re not cheap in first class and they’re not cheap in coach. Now, if I’m paying coach prices I don’t expect to be pampered with caviar and free slippers, but it would be nice not to be crammed into a too-small seat with no leg room (I’m short and I still get cramped legs, so I don’t know how you tall folks do it).

I’m going to date myself here (and sound like a grumpy old person) but I remember when you used to get to watch a movie on a plane for free. That’s right, no swiping a credit card required. And believe me, when you’re on a four-hour (or longer) flight, the magazines you brought get old really quickly.

I understand that airlines aren’t going to restructure the seating arrangement on planes, since more bodies equal more money for them. And like I said before, I don’t expect to get all the extras that come with paying first class fares. I guess I just wish the coach experience was a little more pleasant, a little more comfortable and a lot less stressful. Those relaxing things you put into place for your first class passengers? Well, the folks in coach are stressed, too, so how about a little love this way? I guess I wish airlines would put as much thought and care into the experience of all their passengers, from the front of the plane all the way to the back.

Should First Class passengers be treated differently?

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  1. I’ve flown in First Class once, when I was pretty young. I don’t really remember it but it was very nice!! Now, as a scuba diving instructor who travels relatively frequently, I come no where near being able to afford to fly First Class… But come on..is flying coach really so bad?? Granted the longest flight I’ve been on has been 10 hours.. so of course a longer one would be worse.. But I’ve honestly never really had a problem flying. I know it’s not SUPER comfortable.. but it’s just a means to an end.. Not so bad really- seems silly to me to be complaining about it.. No offence meant, just my opinion. Maybe because I have flown so much since a young age I am just used to it by now..

  2. I got bumped up once on a flight back to the states from Paris and it was the most relaxing flight I have ever experienced: complete with a 3 course meal, never ending wine service and a seat that quite literally turned into a bed. That may have ruined me for all coach (what I can afford) flights forever. The last time I flew coach, the seat was too small (great for one’s self esteem), the service was LOUSY to say the least and I spent the whole flight with someone else’s chair back in my lap. It’s a real bummer that the most expensive part of my vacations is always the most unpleasant part.

  3. I used to frequently when my dad’s company moved us overseas and paid for us to go back and forth once a year…always first class. It really is quite glorious. I was never driven in a luxury car to the plane. I loved sitting in the lounges and often look at them longingly whenever I fly now. On international flights anyway, the coach experience has been dramatically improved in my opinion!!! You used to have to watch whatever movie they happened to be showing, on a tiny screen in the aisle…now having your own screen seems like a treat! All the flights I’ve taken recently have had free movies with a broad selection in coach as well!

  4. You’re absolutely right. On my 14 hour flight to the Middle East, I was cramped into a tiny seat with a tall guy next to me and I felt awful for him. A little more leg room without having to fork over $50 extra bucks would be fantastic.