Wednesday, February 27, 2013

How the Other Half Flies

Let me start by stating something obvious: Flying sucks less when you're in First Class.

Is the captain pouring coffee?

I never fly First Class so I had forgotten that it was any different. I am pretty ambivalent about flying in general -- don't hate it, not scared of it, but certainly don't love it. Sometimes flights can be excellent for being productive/getting work done or catching up on reading. But sometimes you end up next to a crying baby or a chatty weirdo who wants to play 20 Questions.

When I was kid, I flew First Class a handful of times with my parents on long flights. The first plane ride I recall was when I was 6 and traveling to Switzerland. I sat next to my mom in the roomy leather TWA (R.I.P.) seats. I don't remember much about the flight, but I do remember receiving a chocolate-covered Oreo before take-off (presumably a bribe to keep me on my best behavior during the 7-hour flight) and thinking that the tray tables that came out of the arm rest were funny-looking.

Ever since I've been buying my own airfare, I have always opted for the cheapest seats available. I don't have long legs, so I don't even splurge for the EconomyPlus extra legroom seats. Just good ol' coach. With the rest of the non-rich plebes. I have to admit, I didn't get the allure of First Class -- we all arrive at the same destination at the same time. Okay, the First Class people get to get off first (and get on first, but I don't see the advantage of that. I want to minimize my time breathing recycled air in a confined space). And I suppose the ratio of lavatories to people is better, since they have their own bathroom that's off-limits to the masses.  

However, due to the generosity of a friend, I was able to experience First Class as an adult. And while I still don't think the extra expense is worth it/necessary, I have to admit, it made flying enjoyable as opposed to just a way to get from A to B. 

First of all, the getting-on-early has the perk of a free pre-flight drink. That's pretty nifty. Though if you get something alcoholic, you have to down it pretty quickly, which may lead to regret. Also, in First Class, the flight attendants make a point of knowing your name. It's like Cheers, at 35,000 feet. Pretty much everything in First Class is free. Oh, and blankets and pillows are still available, like in the old days. 

Speaking of the old days, apparently First Class used to be much more glamorous. A friend recalls on a flight to Hawaii watching a stewardess (they weren't called Flight Attendants back then) carve a prime rib roast right in the aisle mid-flight. That was sometime in the late 80s. Hot food is pretty much non-existent on most flights nowadays. And if there is food, it's not gratis.

My conclusion is that I think my money is better spent on things other than first class airfare. Traveling is already mighty expensive (remember when it was free to check a bag?) and for a little more comfort for a few hours, it doesn't seem justified unless you have truly disposable income. Still, it was a fun glimpse of the other side of the blue curtain. Which, for what it's worth, I agree with Kristin Wiig that it should be kept open "because of Civil Rights."    

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