Is flying first class worth it? Maybe not.

Flying First Class is a privilege. It is a right of passage for frequent fliers who either rack up enough miles to gain elite status and get on the upgrade list or use those frequent flier miles to book themselves a first class ticket. It’s a luxury. I’ve only done it a handful of times domestically here in the U.S.A. Even my oldest son got to fly First Class once. I’m still not sure why that happened, but I’m sure it had to do with the number of miles I was piling up from trips to Asia for work back when I was in publishing.

Now, flying First Class does have its perks. You get those warm cookies, free booze and extra leg room, but unless you have a stellar crew, your experience might not be that much more elite than the rest of the passengers in the back of the plane on your domestic flight and here is why.

Impossible to get out of your seat with ease

While working on your laptop back in coach, you can simply slide out of your seat to go to the restroom, whether you are on the aisle or not. In first class you are boxed in. You have to pack up your tray table, put your laptop away, unplug your laptop if there is an outlet and heave yourself up. It’s kind of annoying when you just have to use the restroom quickly.

Constant questions

No matter who your flight attendants are or what their demeanor is you are going to get asked a lot of questions. It is protocol? “Do you want a drink?” when you get on board. “Do you want more drinks?” as passengers are trying to file by and find their seats so you can all get out of there on time. “We have two entrees, which do you want?” as soon as you are in the air. “More water or anything else?” before your food even arrives. Then your food arrives and there are more questions. Then they have to pick everything up (“are you done with that?”) and offer you more drinks. The cookies come out next, “would you like one?” It’s endless. I just want to watch my movie. If I need something I’ll ask you. I get that this is protocol and some people love it, but if I have a quiet seat with lots of room to spread out I’m going to work or relax.

No sleeping horizontally

While you do get the legroom in First Class, you miss out on the chance to lay down across an entire row of seats in economy. It is rare to find a flight with enough empty seats to do this these days, but when it does happen it is golden. Even having that middle seat open gives you and your row partner more room to spread out and get comfy without armrests getting in the way.

Food isn’t worth it

If you are booking a domestic First Class ticket just because you want a meal included in the price, you are in for a big disappointment. I have never had a decent meal on a plane. Ever. First Class, Economy or economy international, it doesn’t matter. You will not get a meal that is worth that extra expense. Bring food with you or buy something at the airport. You will save money and have a better meal no matter where your seat is on the plane.

OK, now that you all hate me for even complaining about First Class, understand that I still won’t say no to an upgrade. I’ll still get a little giddy about those priority-boarding rights and priority check in that has me cruising through security in record time. There are worse things in life for sure. But before you contemplate spending four times the cost of an economy ticket just so you can be in First Class for a few hours or you give wistful looks at the people up front in rows 1-5 while you trudge back to row 33 next to the bathrooms, just remember, it’s not all it is cracked up to be. Unless you fly internationally on Emirates or something. They have showers on board and lay flat beds! That might be worth it to me. Maybe.

4 thoughts on “Is flying first class worth it? Maybe not.”

  1. I think the only reason I’d ever go for First Class would be if I got a free upgrade somehow or if I was splurging on a really long flight. I could maybe justify it for a more comfy flight overseas, but I couldn’t just to fly for under 6 hours. And I can totally see where the staff’s endless hovering could be annoying to some!

  2. Well, we’d still take First or Business Class if it was offered to us :-). But you’re right, a whole row of empty Economy seats is a treat. (Even an empty middle seat between two companions makes a big difference.)

  3. I’ve flown first domestically on American once and it was nothing special. So have to agree with you. I flew internationally on BA first class and it was a bit better. Still not worth the cost if you actually have to pay the fare (we had enough miles that we needed to blow before they expired). The solicitousness kills me, I agree. Maybe I’m just a grump.

  4. JFKelley

    Nowadays, YES, flying first class is generally worth it. Coach seats are awful, and flights are generally packed. The only time I’d hesitate flying first class is when it’s a short flight (less than three hours) and even more importantly – it’s a 2-2 seat configuration. If it’s 3-3, forget it. I’ll splurge and sit up front. Makes the entire trip start off pleasantly, and when you come home, you’re not ready to strangle someone.

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