The fine art of flying First Class
NO matter which of the major airlines you choose to fly with, travelling First Class is always a pleasurable experience... unless you are one of those passengers who spend their business life on aircraft and their free time critisising the aspects of service which went wrong on a flight.
Of course, first class costs a lot more, because you buy more space... the leg and arm room you purchase is the ‘real estate’ of an airline, which decides the fare level. Business Class is pricier than economy class, because you receive 50-60 inches seat pitch compared with 32-34 inches in economy class.
Passengers expect first class to be more than space and most airlines appreciate that their premium class punters desire recognition ... haven’t we all seen the red first class boarding cards protruding from the top pocket of passengers proudly revealing that they are travelling up front? Much the same way as people used to whip out their mobiles before everybody obtained one.
Recognition means that you check-in at the airport at a separate first class desk, wait for the flight in a first class lounge where, according to the airline travelled, you are treated to snacks and beverages or a full-course meal, allowed to board at any time, once the gates are open, and when entering the cabin are continually addressed by your name or at least the one on the passenger list and your coat or jacket is hung in a wardrobe for you.
First Class means entering a private world of slick service and quietness, champagne floats your way, luxury titbits, your favourite newspaper or magazine, an inflight entertainment system with umpteen film and music channels, a telephone and even a fax machine.
The passenger sitting next to you initiates conversion during which you discover he is an ‘upgrade’. “Business class was overbooked,” he explains. “So, I was lucky to be upgraded to first class,” he confides smugly. You sit there simmering at the unfairness of air travel looking at your expensive full-fare paid First Class ticket.
The purser arrives to discuss the meal with you from the menu and the cabin attendant proffers a blanket, an eye shade, slippers and an early look at the tax-free goods “just in case you are asleep, when we come round with the tax-free trolley, Sir/ Madam.”
First class cabins on night flights should be a genuine quiet zone, but sleep is often disturbed by continuous traffic by cabin attendants milling up and down the aisles. Why are they so very busy, when most passengers are asleep?
On arrival, you are back to reality again, as you join the swarm of passengers heading for passport control and baggage collection but wait a minute, at least your bags come off first, for they have been specially labelled – but in most cases, the porters seem to be colour-blind and your bags are not in the first wave of bags. But never mind, outside customs, your chauffeur-drive car is waiting to collect you to take you home or to your hotel.
Travelling First Class is the next best thing to having your own private jet and as the airlines vie for your attention, the first class offerings become more interesting.
Of course, you are already receiving double the miles, if you belong to a frequent flyer programme and the airlines regularly pile on more of these to keep you coming back.
Latest innovations, which some airlines have dreamed up, include massage seats in First Class, mini suites, e-mail facilities and up-to-the-minute BBC news service.