Thursday, April 26, 2007

Flying First Class

Flying frequenty offers fewer perks than one may think. Even those of us who have earned “elite” status (that’s platinum, thank you very much) are still subject to the indignities of air travel. Those TSA varmints still can get their jollies poking through our undergoods, wanding and swabbing as they well please. How ironic - in an attempt to secure our nation we’ve empowered a fleet of otherwise-unemployable civil servants and have entrusted them to determine who may or may not pose a threat. These folks can’t even figure out how to get everything back into the bag they have just unpacked.

No, the frequent flyer isn’t above the mechanical delays, the weather issues, the overbooking, the waits on the runways, or the hurry-up-and-wait nature of air travel. But one perk has become an essential indulgence for me. I simply can’t imagine traveling as much as I do without the first class upgrade.

Yes, it is a different world in front of that curtain that separates us from those wannabees in coach. Our air is recycled separately from yours. The chairs are heated, and the flight attendants double as massage therapists when they have finished the safety announcements and the seat belt demonstrations. The lavatory in the forward cabin has a restroom attendant ready with a warm towel for your hands.

I remember the days in coach, before I earned my elite status, spreading the peanuts across the napkin in an attempt to make them look like more food. One peanut, and then I’d count twenty-mississippis before the next, while waiting for the privilege to spend five bucks for a headset so I could watch a movie that was in theaters a year ago. In first class, our HOT meals come on real plates, and a wine glass is refilled before it can ever become empty. And we don’t have to watch the “everybody” movie. Most planes in the modern air fleet feature multiple movie channels, complimentary in the forward cabin.

Truthfully, the differences are minute, but there are 2 main reasons I value the upgrades: the leg and butt room, and the rarity of bad parenting in the first class cabin.

I don’t know for whom airline seats are designed, but rarely am I in coach without butt-rubbing my neighbor. Of course there was the one flight, aboard a Canadair Regional Jet (AKA little tin can with no first class cabin) from Houston to Bakersfield, CA, when the gentleman beside me had his seat belt extender out to the maximum width. During the entire 3 ½ hour flight I was consumed with the task of trying to think about something other than the fact that his belly was riding to the west coast ON MY LAP. In first class, even we sizeable folk can fit in one seat. Also, with a little more room between the rows, I can actually get a bit of work done. I’m more at ease opening the laptop without the worry that some yutz in front of me will recline right into my screen.

And first class rarely has the bad parenting that has become prevalent in coach cabins on planes. Honestly, haven’t these people ever heard of taking a road trip? Now that airplanes are mass transit for the common folk, everything flies. Apparently everything has kids too. Running up and down the aisles, kicking the back of the chair, repeatedly mashing the flight attendant call button, these kids have the run of the place. The trailer trash parents are oblivious, knocking back a bunch of Bud Lights at forty thousand feet. I can fondly recall another flight aboard a regional jet when I boarded right after a mother and her “lap child.” I guess mom was hoping that the seat beside her would remain vacant, because the little sweetheart was already strapped into my seat, happily pouring apple juice onto my tray table. When we verified that yes, the seat was mine, and no, we couldn’t move because the flight was full, the little darling threw a hissy. All the way to Cincinnati, “ I want my seat back, I want my seat back, I want my seat back..” Evidently mom had enough money to buy a cocktail on board, but not enough to buy a seat for the precious one. We have to stow our cargo for take-off, but it was okay for this kid to kick and flail. First class children are much better behaved.

Maybe it’s snobbery, but I love my upgrades.


MJ said...

But you've failed to mention the delightful coach flight to Louisiana in the last row of the plane with no windows and a screaming engine. You've really stooped low to fly with your coach friends but we're ready to upgrade whenever we get enough miles.
--loved the post.

LJ said...

They should split the plane up top to bottom instead of front to back. That way you can be above the "steerage" both literally and figuratively.

Anonymous said...

Attention all parents: Your child is not cute or loveable. Tell them to turn around in their seat, keep their hands to themselves, stop rocking back and forth... and for God's sake... tell them to SHUT UP!

Again, your child is not cute.
Not at all.

Cora Spondence said...

It's not snobbery, it's self preservation. It's not snobbery, it's comfort and happiness. It's not snobbery, it's the damn truth.