This is what happens when you end up without Wi-Fi on a two-hour flight. With nothing firmly on my plate to write, I chose the path traveled frequently by my friend Gilbert, of God Save The Points. Pick a controversial (but true) position, write intelligently and with purpose. Sit back with a beer (or orange juice, if you’re still on antibiotics like me) and watch people try to burn you to the ground.
Here’s Why They’re Wrong
First of all, I hope each and everyone gets to fly in business class and first class every time a seat is available up front. A friend of mine named Jen says “turn left or turn around” as do a number of folks. It’s an idiom for saying if you enter a big, wide-body on a long flight overseas from that mid-cabin door, the business class cabins are usually to the left. If you’re turning right, you’re in coach. And, she’d rather just go home. I can’t say I disagree, but we’re going deeper than that.
Let’s be honest. Most of us won’t fly all of our flights in business class or first class. Heck, I’m sitting in coach as I write this, and I fly up front plenty. So, what are you missing? My fellow bloggers, I love them all. Well, most of them. They tell you how great business class is. And, they also tell you how horrible some business class products are. That’s where I get off the hype bus. Let’s break it down.
Domestic First Class
In the United States, those seats near the front of most flights on American, Delta and United Airlines are called first class. This isn’t to be confused with international first class. Not even close. It’s also not even close to business class. So, what is domestic first class?
If we’re being completely honest with ourselves, Spirit Airlines wins the day here. Yes, that airline everyone loves to hate, but who also lowered bag fees recently. Spirit Airlines has a few rows of bigger seats in the front of their planes. They call them…….Big Front Seats.
Want to know what you get with a Big Front Seat on Spirit? You’re catching on quick. You get……a Big Front Seat. You don’t get an extra baggage allowance or free drinks. It’s a slightly bigger seat. And, it reclines a bit more. Let’s compare that to United for a moment.
In United first class, you get a bigger seat that reclines a bit more. The Wi-Fi is just as likely to be broken in first class as it is in coach, which is to say on most flights. On many flights, you’ll get some type of food and free drinks. But, on some flights over 2 hours, you don’t even get a meal anymore. The food quality in domestic first class has gone downhill like a snowball down Everest. It didn’t used to be that way. But, it is. On this matter, most bloggers agree.
Free drinks? Considering that you’re likely paying $150 to $500 more for your seat in first class, you better get drinking. You’ve got a long way to go to pay for that upcharge.
You get more miles with your paid first class ticket, but the airlines make sure those miles are worth less than they were years ago.
So, what you’re really paying for is to avoid coach. And, I totally get it. I’m flying on Southwest Airlines right now. It’s a 737 MAX and I have plenty of room for my MacBook Pro. If I were on American Airlines’ version of the same plane, it just wouldn’t happen. Those seats are a lot closer together. So, on a long American Airlines flight, I’d consider forking over some cash so I could work while I flew. But, I’m not making any part of that decision because of the great food, drinks, service I’m receiving at the front of the plane.
What About International Flights?
Now, lie-flat business class seats are a huge improvement over economy class. They really are. Some folks may not see the value in paying for the upgrade. I completely respect that. I’m also supportive of folks that feel comfortable springing for the extra cash to sit up front. That’s not in my budget, but it’s why I collect miles and points.
So, what’s my beef with international business and first class? Nothing. I love them all. Pretty much every darn one. I just don’t agree with the people who tell you why you shouldn’t fly a particular business class product. People love to rip British Airways for their inferior layout and poor service. First, there’s nothing wrong with the seat. If you’re exceptionally tall or wide, you might have some trouble with it. News flash, if you’re either of those things you won’t fit comfortably into many business class seats.
Contract kitchens that prepare airline food don’t win Michelin Stars. They also don’t win James Beard awards, regardless of how nice their cookbook looks. Some airline food is good, some is very good. Seldom is it great, especially because of how different food tastes in the air. No business class product in the world has ever been inferior because it didn’t serve $400 bottles of champagne.
If you’re convincing yourself that the reason to pay more money or miles is because of the food, booze or service, you better use a pretty friendly calculator. That math is fuzzy, awful fuzzy. You are paying for space, the ability to sleep and maybe even a nice blanket. United has really nice gel pillows and I appreciate having one when I fly. But, that’s no what I’m paying extra for.
Here’s What Does Matter
What does matter when you fly is that you’re comfortable with the product you’re paying for, whether that’s using cash or miles. Just don’t convince yourself that the extra money is “worth it”. Given the perks you receive today besides the seat, it rarely is. We all like to treat ourselves, we just don’t want to delude ourselves. When my fellow bloggers tell you why they just can’t stand a particular airline’s business class, be smart and make your own mind up. For a long trip overseas, do you want the ability to sleep, relax and work? Or, would you rather save your money or miles so you can fly more often. Both are fine, and I love every last one of my fellow bloggers.
I just don’t love someone else telling you why you shouldn’t like a certain airline’s business class product, or why you have to fly first class overseas because business class just isn’t good enough. Splurge if you want, because you want. Don’t worry about how the other half (2%?) live.
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