It got a brief mention in Footnotes to November, but as I looked through my notes I found I probably had enough for a full post about the first (and likely only) time I got to fly first class.
As a bit of background, I wasn’t actually meant to be flying first class. The flight wasn’t intentionally booked like that, it just so happened that at the time I was flying for work there were two fortuitous situations:
- It was likely that I was going to have to get off the plane after an 11 hour flight and start working immediately
- BA were running a promotion that meant lots of flights being booked were automatically being upgrade one class
So because of that I got to fly business class and it was upgraded for free.
So, what happened on my trip? In the end nothing all that special. I got comfortable seats, and I felt happier to ask for drinks (even though I could have been doing that in economy). Let's just go with some bullet points (you know, my standard form of writing):
- To start with, I noticed one thing very clearly from the start of the journey - the people I have written about previously, the ones who are really bad at being on an airplane, almost didn’t exist in first class.
Now I am not saying that people in first/business class are better because they are richer, but, it seemed to me that they were all better at knowing how you are meant to act on a plane journey - probably because people who fly in those classes fly more often. This actually caused a slight problem for me, which I think is described nicely in the opening of Rounders, I couldn’t spot the people who sucked at flying in first class, which meant I was the person who sucked. I was too excited about everything, I was a kid in a flying liquor store (how does that saying go?).
- There is a good chance that lounge access is overrated. Depending on the airport you are probably going to be somewhere busier and harder to find a seat than the rest of the airport. The only bonus is the free drinks.
- I missed out on the second benefit of flying first class (skipping the line when boarding). See, I was late to the gate. I was so late that there weren’t any other people around. I then had my bag searched at the door of the plane (they clearly knew it was strange for me to be flying first class).
It was great, my first class journey almost began by me missing my flight.
On the other hand, being the last person to board a plane makes you feel powerful, all those people waiting for you. It also made me feel like an asshole.
Let’s move on.
- What is the first thing you get given in first class? A glass of champagne, and a wine list. I think the theory is that if you are flying a long way, you should get a bit drunk and fall asleep - which is pretty solid advice.
- Because it was my first time, someone came and introduced themselves to me. They then pointed out where my light was, and where the buttons to adjust my seat were. These things didn’t need to be shown to me as they were clearly labeled, but since it was my first time they wanted to be sure.
- I got asked to put my shoes back on.
It was just at takeoff, and was probably to stop my shoes flying around (they wouldn’t have, but rules are rules, even in first class). To make up for it, later in the flight I was walking around bare foot.
Also, while trying to sleep I undid my belt and fly (because pants are restricting, and it was super hot on the flight). I forgot about doing this, so every time I stood up it ended with my pants around my thighs.
- They give you a bunch of things in first class:
- As I mentioned, I think they want you to be drunk. After finishing one drink I was asked if I wanted another. I said no (honestly), and then went to the bathroom. When I came back I had another drink waiting for me. Sure, I drank it, but I… I can’t remember my point.
- One thing I noticed about business class (I flew one way business, the other first) that felt very strange was there was a person facing directly towards me (well, slightly offset). We had a barrier we could put up (and God did I), but every time she got served food/drinks they would lower the barrier and forget to put it back up. It was awkward.
- The more I think about it, the more I am sure they really want you to be drunk. On my return journey I had a few scotches, these were basically poured as full tumblers. That was fine to me, but later in the flight when I decided to watch a season of Veep (watch it, it's good) I found that I was laughing out loud quite a bit.
- I got up to use the bathoom and when I came back someone had “made my bed”. Fine, except that I wasn’t trying to sleep.
- Also, how could I sleep - planes are so damn hot. That is one downside to First class, there was no vent, I couldn’t get cool air if I wanted. I assume this is why the guy to my left had a USB fan with him. He was clearly a pro
- Let’s talk about the bathroom. On one flight, my bathroom was just the normal plane bathroom - you know, tiny and unpleasant. But on another flight I was near the front on the second floor and the bathroom was a big open room, with a nice seat, and lots of space. It was really quite nice. If it had a shower it would have been bigger than the bathroom in my flat.
- There was one confusing thing in the bathroom - next to the sink there was a small dispenser of cups. There was then a sign saying don’t use the cups to drink the water. I couldn’t see any other use for the cups, so I was confused.
So, after all of the fun and free drinks, is first/business class worth it?
No, not at all.
Sure, it was comfortable and a good experience, but after arriving home from this trip I was booking flights to New Zealand, I looked at the price difference from economy to business and... yeah, avoiding discomfort for a few hours is not worth three or four times a normal ticket.