How many times have you got that death glare from your co-passengers flocking towards economy while you’re comfortably reclining on your business or first class lie-flat seat? Or how many times have you envied those ‘lucky asses’ travelling in business or first while you’re still stuck in economy? Although the contempt that people show towards upper class travellers might be all too real, there’s no denying that the people who fly upper class do so for a reason, at least most of the time. That reason isn’t usually to feel superior to those flying in cattle-class even though there are a few jerks who do it for the feel-good factor just because, well, they can afford to.
The differences between coach and upper class are aplenty; more than night and day in fact. Most people forget that a huge chunk of travellers who fly business do so for well, business reasons. Plenty of people who fly business class can attest to this. This isn’t really the case with first since first is usually more than double the price of a business class ticket and an average of at least TEN times more expensive than an economy ticket (see images for reference). A lot of people who fly first are privileged executives and filthy rich people rich enough to not care about the money they spend. Also, first class is usually flown for the pure luxury it provides so it usually makes sense only when a person is on an indulgent vacation. Another thing to note is that, most people who fly upper class, especially first, rarely pay full fares for the ticket. Airlines negotiate corporate rates beforehand and a major part of other first class fliers are those redeeming frequent flier miles or taking advantage of heavily discounted ‘last minute deals’. There are countless stories on the internet about people who got upgraded to first or business from coach because of their frequent-flier status with their respective airlines. Airlines do this to encourage loyalty. Even then, first class is ludicrously expensive. The only thing that makes sense is business, or that’s what it seems.
Business class price still doesn’t make sense, financially (an asking rate of 5 times more than economy on an average). Why so then, do people fly business? Let’s get this into perspective. If you’re a couple going on vacation, economy is fine as long as it is less than a 5 hour flight. But it’s only just fine. I mentioned in the beginning that people who fly business do so for a reason and that reason is time. Time is the root reason 85% of people business class. The whys are obvious; lie flat beds, lounge service with Wi-Fi and food (many even have showers these days), the extra legroom, amenity kits, shorter queues and not to mention the great food and beverages served inflight.
Many of these amenities, considered luxurious by a great majority are a bare minimum for business travellers. The lie flat beds which allow you to get a good night’s rest result in having a functioning and a not disoriented body upon arrival for those who want to go directly to a meeting soon after hitting the ground. Any human who has ever flown can give some insight into how horrible jetlag can be. This perk is further enhanced by arrival lounges which contain showers and the opportunity to have a second breakfast so that you leave the airport feeling fresh and rejuvenated. Economy class on the other hand would require the human body at least a day to get over jet lag. Skipping long queues saves time, Wi-Fi and beverages in the lounge allows for work to be done, again saving valuable time. Proper food and a good night’s sleep helps in readying the body for action soon after leaving the airport. So technically, those people sitting in business class, in formal clothing are there either to go into a tiring day or back from a tiring day and honestly, if they travelled economy, it could potentially mean millions of dollars in losses for the companies who send them in the first place.
Another big reason is the sheer amount of opportunity business class gives for networking. Not even first class gives this much opportunity due to the amount of privacy first entails. Just think about it, people who fly business are mostly wealthy business owners travelling for business reasons. Imagine meeting them at the lounge and striking up a conversation which by the end of the journey evolves into a valuable contact. The person in the adjacent seat might just reward you another contract. Countless business deals have been closed in business class cabins. A lot of business travellers travel business solely for this reason. Famous internet marketer and coder Neil Patel emphasises this particularly in an article he wrote for Business Insider. He even mentions a few deals he’s closed in the air and the huge amount of revenue it has bought him. To these people, travelling business is a no-brainer. Especially when they combine the networking opportunities with all the other amenities. Travelling business makes them money. It is an investment for them, albeit a glorious one.
So, the real reason most people fly paying a premium is not to feel better about themselves or to just enjoy the luxuries provided nor is it a reward for their hard-work. They fly upper class because if they didn’t, it could turn out to be a really bad investment. For them it makes sense, a lot of sense from a financial standpoint. Then there isn’t mentioning the time one saves, right from priority check-in to priority baggage which means lower wait times at those dreaded conveyer belts. Not to forget the new trend of arrival lounges popping up at more and more airports where you can shower and have a meal. Of course, once you get used to the lux, there’s no going back, is there?
All this said, don’t splurge on luxury travel unless you are capable of milking the opportunities that it provides. Flying coach is sometimes the smarter decision. Definitely.