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Posted on Friday, February 18th, 2005

Dave!Back when I was a casual traveler, I often thought that flying First Class would be a utopia of flowing champagne, in-flight manicures, world-class dining, and non-stop entertainment. But, as is so often the case, such a fantasy was not to be.

This is not to say it's not better at the front of the plane... the additional leg-room and extra space alone is worth flying First Class. And sure, there are other benefits, including better food, never-ending drinks, all-you-can-eat snacks, and more attentive service. But when it comes right down to it, First Class is not all it's cracked up to be. How can that be?

Because there is so little "class" in First Class.

And to explain this, I will have to dispel a common myth... the misconception that people in the First Class cabin pay for their First Class tickets. This is rarely the case. Most people sitting in those big, comfy seats did not pay the ridiculous "F" fare, but were instead upgraded to First Class. There are many, many ways to get upgraded, but the most common is because you are a good customer. You fly lots and lots of miles with an airline, and so they reward you with First Class upgrades and other perks to keep your business and keep you flying.

And because I fly quite a lot I am pretty much assured of getting upgraded on any domestic flight, and have learned some tricks as to which days and what times to fly that will almost guarantee it. For international flights, I can sometimes pick a fare that will allow me to use my "mileage" to upgrade, but usually upgradable fares are far outside of my budget. In any event, I've got a narrow ass that fits just fine in those tiny coach seats and can easily ignore the world around me, so getting upgraded is not something I obsess about. It's nice if it happens, but I'm not devastated when it doesn't.

But my "no-care attitude" is exceedingly rare among the frequent business traveller. I have seen passengers screaming at the gate agent because they can't get an upgrade. I have seen passengers actually re-book their flight if an upgrade didn't come through. In fifteen years of constant travel, I have seen it all: drunks, drugs, sex, fights, fire, yelling, screaming, singing, praying, crying, barfing, bleeding, evacuations, medical crises, emergency landings, prisoner transfers, and even a food fight. But all of that pales in comparison to a frequent flier not getting an upgrade. And the horror doesn't stop once they've gotten it.

Which brings me (finally) to my point. The most disappointing things that occur in-flight, always seem to happen to me while flying First Class, because there are just entirely too many assholes up there. Not everybody, of course, but there always seems to be one or two of them that just make me wish I could run to the back of the plane and hide out amongst the huddled masses in coach.

Today was such a day. This arrogant, obnoxious, disgusting pig of a passenger sat two rows ahead of me and was about as bad as it gets. No rules applied to him. HE got to bring extra luggage onboard (including a huge roller bag, a stuffed garment bag, and an enormous brief case). HE got to take up an ENTIRE OVERHEAD BIN with his shit. HE needed his Jack Daniels and Soda immediately. HE demanded they take his jacket ahead of everybody else. HE wanted to trade meals because the chicken was "unacceptable." HE can talk on his mobile phone during take-off and landing. HE could use his computer when electronic devices were no longer allowed... It was an entire flight of ludicrous demands and abusive demeanor that made me want to get up and stab him in the neck with my fork. If I had to sit next to the insufferable bastard, I'm sure I would have.

And all I can do is think back to those long-ago days where I would sit in my tiny coach seat, dreaming of a life of class and elegance behind that magical curtain at the front of the plane. Too bad reality had to come along and f#@% it all up.

Movie Quotable of the Day: "My friend says if you were any more handsome it would be a crime. It's a shame you're such an asshole."
Yesterday's Answer: Jumping Jack Flash (1986) with Whoopi Goldberg and Stephen Collins.

Categories: Travel 2005Click To It: Permalink


  1. Anonymous says:

    I see that behavior on occasion. I really detest it. I have my own boring theories about why it occurs, but I’ll bet the annoying behavior those individuals display on the plane ceases abruptly once they land and are back in their usual environment of family/friends (if they have any).

    Obviously, that type of behavior wouldn’t be tolerated “on the ground.” I’ve always wondered if there’s some other weird “x” factor involved with air travel that fosters that type of erratic behavior? Curious what anyone else thinks…

    If someone acted that way in my office, he/she would be terminated (by HR or by firing squad).

    Do those idiots suddenly feel empowered because they have us captured in the fuselage with them? Anyway, great post. These are my thoughts on the subject.

  2. Neil T. says:

    I’ve only flown first class and that was on a charter flight, which meant that really first class was just economy with better service (the ‘economy’ had even less legroom). It wasn’t too bad but then it was mostly Brits going on Caribbean holidays.

    I do, however, go first class a lot on trains, thanks to my father’s gazillion years’ service to the rail industry. Apart from people yapping on their mobile phones and the occasional Windows error message it’s pretty quiet, although sometimes when I sit down I get a bit of a dirty look from some people as if to say “I think you’ll find this is ‘First Class’ – your sort go in standard”. Presumably because they assume students can’t afford First Class 🙂 .

  3. kmsqrd says:

    I’ve never flown first class, now I don’t know if i really want to. But, a chair wide and deep enough for me to cross my legs in – that might get me to change my mind.

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