Most airlines have at least two to three levels of ticket: economy, mid-level, and first-class
Some, like Delta, have even more (basic economy, economy, comfort+, and first-class). Discount airlines tend to have one class, with optional upgrades (think Frontier, Spirit, Ryan, and EasyJet). For my entire traveling life, I had always purchased the least expensive ticket (that allowed luggage) on mainstream airlines, after trying some of the low-cost providers and realizing that adding the optional extras I wanted/needed caused the price to be higher than the mainstream price.
When I started Dragon In Your Pocket Travel, it occurred to me that I should try first-class air on both domestic and international flights to understand the difference so I could help my clients select the right ticket categories.
Domestic first-class air travel provides luxuries that I found unnecessary (unless on a 3 hour+ flight)
Boarding first, premium snacks (fresh fruit and quality treats), and free drinks of all sorts, plus a much larger seat and more legroom can be very helpful if you’re time-crunched and need the extra time to work or focus. The price difference can be extreme, however, so carefully balance your needs with the price points.
However, international first-class air travel is a whole other ballgame
First, when you arrive at the airport, you can relax in the first-class (also called upper-class in Europe) lounge after checking in at the dedicated counter, and going through the super-express security line. Food, drink, massage, plush chairs, and fast wifi make this area a fabulous place to revive, relax, and work before boarding. (Note: confirm the amenities in the lounge you’ll be entitled to use if these are crucial to your comfort and decision).
The first-class air section of an international flight includes flatbed seating which, true to name, turns into a flat bed, which really helps with sleep. The meals and snacks are significantly upgraded, so you’ll feel well-fed and rested after your flight. Breakfast is made-to-order, so you order that at the beginning of the flight for the next morning
Virgin Atlantic offers sleeping clothes (called snooze suits) for first-class air customers. Every time I’ve used a snooze suit for sleep, it’s been a black, two-piece lightweight sweatsuit – just the thing to ensure a quiet night’s rest and sleep, so important if you want to hit the ground running on your adventure.
A second opinion: international first-class air is worth it
My friend August, who travels extensively, but like many of us has to budget his money, miles, and points, agrees with my assessment of first class. He says:
“The difference between first class and economy or premium economy in international travel is huge. The ability to lay down and sleep is often essential to making the most of your trip. There are other advantages as well — there is plenty of room in the overhead luggage bins for slightly oversized bags, and the food is excellent. This all means that you can get off the plane well-fed and rested, and therefore can have a full first day at your travel destination. On long-haul travel from the U.S. to Asia and Australia, it’s truly a bonus to be in the front cabin, and the option to lay flat and sleep is life-changing. One of the other nicer features is the optional sleepwear; after 15-20 hours in the air, you can change back into your street clothes feeling somewhat less rumpled.
There is a new class of service appearing on some airlines which I’ll refer to as “ultra-premium economy.” Some carriers are adding a section of seats directly behind the first-class cabin with extra legroom and footrests, plus these seats recline about as far domestic first-class seats. Although I haven’t tried this yet, on an international flight of 6-8 hours I would be very tempted to.”
Even if first-class air isn’t an option for you, try these tips for feeling more comfortable in economy
- Avoid the bulkhead rows (if you’d like your carry-on easily accessible)
- Avoid rows where the seats don’t recline (especially if you want to recline to catch some zzzzs)
- Build your own amenity kit – travel pillow, slipper socks, headphones or earplugs, travel-sized toothbrush, and paste and a comfortable sleeping mask are invaluable for getting some shut-eye
- Consider your health – remember to get up to walk and stretch periodically to avoid blood clots (yes, they can occur at any age), elevate your feet (using an inflatable footrest or foot hammock ).
And lastly, if the only seat you can afford is in the last row, book your flight and go! You don’t want to miss your grand adventure!
Need help booking? Let us do the work for you. Contact Dragon in Your Pocket Travel today!
[Photo of first-class, courtesy of Virgin Airlines]
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