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What Do You Think of Business Class?

Buzz Poole
05/15/2012 - 06:29
Singapore Airlines business class seats, via Wikipedia

Yes, I love to travel and I've been lucky enough to take some trips, both around the US and abroad, on someone else's dime. But never have I flown anything other than coach. Like anyone who has been shoehorned into an economy seat, I've wondered what luxurious perks make themselves available once that curtain of inequality has been drawn. No, scratch that, I've never really wondered because it is all pretty clear: more legroom and space, free and better food and drink. Seth Kugel, the current New York Times Frugal Traveler, who has traveled much more than me, had never flown anything but coach until recently. His take on business class is a good read and raises the question: Are business class and first class worth it?

Sure, who doesn't want more room on a flight, especially a long one? I certainly prefer the idea of using actual silverware to eat food off real plates as opposed to spooning microwaved glop out of flimsy plastic. But that's where it ends, I think. You're still on an airplane, and apparently, at least on American, the bathrooms aren't even different, according to Kugel: "Though I didn’t need to go to the bathroom, I was still excited to see what might be in store for me in the business class lavatory. Cinnamon-scented potpourri? Antique silver fixtures? Extra-plush Charmin? Alas, it was strikingly similar to the coach class lavatories, with one delightful exception: those in economy class weren’t allowed to use it, making for shorter lines."

These days, in-flight entertainment has gotten pretty good, with plenty of decent movies and television shows available on-demand. Long gone are the days of suffering through a third-rate flick broadcast through the cabin on small screens. And in truth, when flying abroad, especially on foreign airlines, the food is better and, like the booze, free. So, like with so much in life, it really all boils down to a single factor: money. Kugel's foray into business class took place on a flight from Los Angeles to New York, American's Flight 40. After the trip, he kept an eye on the average fares for this route: "The one-way coach price bounced around a bit, averaging $300. Business class was almost always $1,710. Some companies and wealthy people think that extra $1,410 is worth it; I’d guess most of the rest of us think it’s loony."

Kugel is right, most of us cannot fathom being able to justify spending $1,710 on a six-hour flight. In fact, I'd be hard pressed to spend that kind of money on a twenty-hour flight. If you are savvy and flexible enough, you can fly pretty much anywhere in the world for this amount. From North America, a flight to Europe or South America will cost much less than this coast-to-coast business class jaunt. Just think of what you could do with the money you didn't waste on a flight. Of course, if money is no issue, or if you are lucky enough to be spending someone else's money, I suppose there is no reason not to take advantage of the available perks. But if you're going to spend your hard-earned money on a trip, wouldn't you rather spend it on the actual destination and not on some airline that will hold you captive regardless of where in the plane you sit?

What are your thoughts about flying business class or first class as opposed to coach?

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