Thursday, September 24, 2009

First Class

I've flown First Class exactly four times in my life. It's amazing how after flying First Class, you actually feel entitled to it. You realize how inhumane flying coach is and somehow you justify that you deserve better.

The first time was on my honeymoon. My wife and I naively got to the airport only a few minutes before boarding. Frontier Airlines had gone out of business the day before and our airline, Continental, was trying to accommodate all of the Frontier customers. The man in front of us was quite belligerent to the person boarding passengers. He was irate that his party couldn't sit together. I feared that my new bride and I would be split up (we couldn't stand being apart). Our turn came and we meekly approached the desk. We were shocked when we were told "We have two seats in First Class. Will that be okay?" Of Course!!! As poor college students, we felt very pampered. I remember having the best airplane food I've ever had!

The next three trips were business trips. The second trip I was delivering a proposal and our company had a policy that if you flew round trip coast-to-coast, the return trip was First Class. I think I slept the whole trip (which was more comfortable since it was First Class).

The third trip was a fluke. Somehow the secretary booking my flight got a free upgrade. I was flying to a conference with coworkers. I was a little embarrassed as the more senior coworkers walked pass me on their way to coach.

The fourth trip was the most amazing. I had three trips to Europe planned. Our company had a policy of flying us Business class overseas. On the second trip, I started worrying when my traveling companion didn't show up at the terminal. I asked the boarding agent if he had checked in. It turns out that he had checked in and because he flew so often, he was a platinum/gold/diamond or whatever flier. This gives you the special privilege of waiting in the executive lounge (I never knew these lounges existed before this, though I was able to use them in Germany since the lowly Business Class fliers got to use them). The agent then mentioned that my friend was flying First Class and he noticed I was flying Business Class. He asked me if I would like to sit with my friend. I think I asked how much it would cost. Flying First Class from Los Angeles direct to Europe is wonderful! There was a fresh rose at every seat, the flight attendant was gracious, the food gourmet, the refreshments continuous (swiss chocolates). We each had our own entertainment unit (you pick the movie). They had a choice of light sweater, light blanket or heavy blanket. The seat converted to a bed - completely flat! Everyone deserves First Class like that!

I think that Congress should pass a law that ALL airlines must provide First Class seating for everyone. Everyone should be able to visit relatives, historical sites, etc. and not feel like cattle. We can call it Universal First Class -the Public Option.

By the way, my last trip to Europe I was able to bring my wife. I had a choice: pay about $3500 to fly her Business Class with me or pay $600 to fly her Coach. We chose the $600 Coach ticket. It didn't seem right to fly Business Class with her back in Coach so I downgraded to Coach (it was terrible). I pointed out to our travel department that I saved the company $2900 and was wondering if they would be willing to pay for my wife's ticket. They said no. I think most smarter companies would have.

Moral of the story: Everyone has a right to First Class as long as someone else is paying for it.

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1 comment:

Kevin said...

I've been making short trips recently (Las Vegas) and have started paying Cattle Car Air (aka Southwest) an extra $15 so that I am guaranteed one of the first 15 boarding spots. And the one time recently that I flew US Air (because SW was full), I spent the extra $50 to upgrade to first class. I don't get reimbursed for these expenses, but air travel is such a dehumanizing experience nowadays that it's worth my own money to freshen it up a bit.