June 1, 2020
Due to travel restrictions, plans are only available with travel dates on or after
Due to travel restrictions, plans are only available with effective start dates on or after
For some, flying first class is an everyday experience. But for the rest of us, it can be the rare stint in the lap of luxury — that’s not awkwardly squeezed against two strangers’ laps. It’s an occasion during which the journey can trump the destination — and you can barely hide the giddy grin on your face as you take your first mile-high selfie.
Let’s take a closer look at those who may consider first class a “once-in-a-lifetime” experience. Or at least an occasional treat. This group comprises most of us. Take a glance at last year’s travel stats, and you can glean that only about 5% of passengers flew in a premium-class cabin. (Note: That number comprises both first class and business class). The simple math reveals that 95% of us are jockeying for legroom and overhead baggage space in the cheaper seats. 1
But what if you have the itch or the need to fly first class? What if you want to walk past that velvet rope, claim your free eye shade and hope as hard as you can that you sit beside a celebrity — even the likes of Carrot Top? We’ve shared and detailed five times when you could or should consider forgoing seat 43B for something a bit more exclusive. Here they are…
Maybe the year-end financial report is due when you’re flying somewhere over Brisbane. Or your email inbox is so overloaded that you’re debating simply deleting it and starting fresh. Regardless, you need to churn through some work during your 14-hour flight. While the economy seat you usually grab technically has Wi-Fi, tray tables and maybe even power outlets, how productive can you truly be when you’re having to type with alligator arms, freak out each time you think the passenger is front of you is going to recline, and get up every two minutes so your seatmate can use the lav. (He did drink 64 oz. of artisan water the first hour of the flight, but who’s counting?)
Thinking that you can get real work done in the scenario described above is a foolhardy pursuit. You need the extra room, the privacy and amenities that first class provides in order to be at your best. And if your company is fitting the bill, even better, right?
Here are some of the advantages of trying to wheel and deal, or even trim that inbox, from first class:
Also, you don’t need to settle for some burnt fries at the Terminal Café or a 1-oz. bag of snack mix. On Hawaiian Airlines, for example, you can enjoy a comfort food-rich menu highlighted by Beef Kare Kare, an oxtail stew with simmered in a cashew sauce with roasted potatoes, carrots and asparagus. On Virgin America’s first class menu, options include Chicken and Artichokes, Korean Bibimbap and Coq Au Vin with Slow-Braised Short Rib. Now those are some fitting pre-nap meals (Yes, they have salads, too.)4
Don’t forget; this comfort and convenience starts from the get-go, as checking in will be a breeze and you’ll be among the first to board the plane as a first class passenger.5
Maybe you’re battling a lingering sinus infection. Or you have a chronic health condition that just makes flying, and everything that comes with it, more difficult. First class can offer a respite from the typical airline hustle and bustle. Not only will you receive as much privacy or attention as you want from staff, but you’ll also find a much better in-flight lavatory experience if so needed.8
Sometimes you’re simply curious to price your coach seat against a first class fare. And if you time it right, you may find the distance between the two numbers prompts you to ponder some first class treatment. Make no mistake, flying in the front of the cabin is exponentially more expensive that standard seating. Remember that stat we shared earlier about how only 5% of folks recently flew in a premium class cabin? Well, that 5% accounted for more than 25% of airline revenue.1
These prices aren’t met to scare you, but just to show you what you’re up against if you’re seeking out ways to get that first class fare closer to the several hundred dollars you have budgeted for a coach class fare. Here are a few ways to help make that happen:
There may be no greater buzz kill then prepping and packing for a romantic honeymoon or a globetrotting family reunion adventure you saved five years to make happen, and then schlepping to the back of the plane to sit right in front of the lav, while your seatmate sits across the aisle. Sometimes you want the red-carpet treatment from start to finish. You want to start the vacation inside the terminal. And doggone it, you deserve the first class treatment, right? Right. If you need to find the rational argument for booking first class tickets on a trip marking a milestone or truly special moment, just think of the big bill you’re fitting for the entire trip and ask, “What’s a little bit more?”
We haven’t spent enough time talking about the lounge privileges that first class tickets provide passengers. Here, you can enjoy delicious and healthy fare without stacking all your bags on your lap just to fit in the cramped quarters. Sometimes this experience extends to a private check-in area, too; this is what Elite Delta passengers flying Delta One class get to experience at LAX.5 But there is more, too. In Frankfurt, Lufthansa drives first class passengers from the first class terminal to the plane in luxury car.8
Then there is the prompt and personal attention, the free drinks, and did we mention the amenity kits? Yes, these high-end grab bags filled with the finest doo-dads and accessories are part of the first class experience, and include everything from eye masks to tooth brushes and extra comfy slippers. On American Airlines, passengers get freebies from Cole Haan (including PJs) and skincare products from Clark’s Botanicals. Emirates, which many say offers the finest such amenity kit, includes moisturizing loungewear — the first of its kind — and a bevy of other indulgences.10
It’s all there for the taking in first class — for the right price.
First class isn’t for everyone. Many travelers are willing to get there the most cost-effective way possible, even if they have the means to fly in the front of the cabin. But if flying first class is on your travel bucket list, then you might consider making it happen sooner than later. Here is the reason: First class seating is shrinking every year. It’s not because people aren’t interested in the high life; it’s because traditional first class cabins are being replaced by pods and suites. Think more space for fewer people, and much more revenue for airlines. If $5,000 sounds like a lot for a first class round trip flight to Tokyo today — just imagine spending $25,000 for an entire room complete with bed and private wet bar tomorrow.11
It’s easy to get lost in the clouds imagining a lavish first class experience, especially if you’re more accustomed to grinning and bearing long trips squeezed in the middle of the plane (only getting to work on your airline magazine Sudoku when your seatmate gets up.) First class may be a departure from your usual travel routine, but the time may be right to indulge. Plus, who knows, maybe you’ll become a first class regular, stepping off the plane into your subcompact rental car and then your discount motel room. Because you need to figure some way to offset the cost, right?