The Pleasures of Business Class

business class

I flew business class this trip to get down to Guadalajara. I love flying business class, which may seem obvious, but I think I think I love it an inordinate amount. Sometimes I fall asleep dreaming of armrests the size of football fields. You put your elbow there expecting to run into someone else’s, but all there is are acres of space and comfort. A veritable Ohio cornfield for your arm. In coach I always find myself fighting for armrest space. If I’m in the aisle I generally cede the middle armrest, since I pity he who has a middle seat. But if I’m in the middle seat I’m like a full-grown hippo prowling the edges of a watering hole, protecting what’s mine.

The thing I love most about business class, though, and I’m not exactly proud of this, is the way people look at you when they get on. They’re generally tired, harried, stressed out, and as they walk by business class they look at you like, “What the hell did you do to be able to sit there?” Meanwhile you’re reclined in a seat that’s more La-Z-boy than airplane seat, sipping an orange juice with oranges freshly imported from somewhere outside Jacksonville, wondering what movie you’re going to watch.

(Actually, orange juice on planes, regardless of class, is crap.)

Before this trip I’d flown business class several times. The first was a United/Copa flight to Medellin, Colombia. Then I flew business class back from Santiago, Chile, to the US, significant because it was my first experience with a nearly lie-flat bed. Sleeping on a transcontinental flight? I’d never dreamed of such opulence.

But one thing you don’t want to do is fly business class too much. You don’t want to get used to it. Because then all the sudden it’s not special anymore. This happened to me on probably business class flight #3 or #4. I boarded a domestic flight to somewhere like Sacramento or Houston, and as I usually do stuck out my ring for the flight attendant to kiss and expected her to pick up the bottoms of my robe so they wouldn’t be sullied by the airplane floor. But she didn’t kiss my ring. She said, “Welcome aboard, sir, please take a seat,” as if that would somehow suffice. There and then I learned complacency is the number one enemy of the business class traveler.

My favorite thing about business class is something people wouldn’t expect: the hot nuts. This is because I always forget about them, and suddenly a flight attendant is in front of me, thrusting a tiny tray of heated almonds and cashews into my hands. It’s the simple pleasures, after all. Hot nuts in hand I recline my seat back as far as it will go and usually put on some kind of bad movie, like Pitch Perfect 2. And just as my eyelids start to flutter closed, or comfort turns to boredom, they come by with dinner. Dinner is always served on business class flights, and it’s usually decent. The biggest worry becomes whether or not to sit upright to inhale my cheese enchiladas, or continue reclined at a 45 degree angle, spilling salsa all over my shirt as I groan in ecstasy.

One thing I still haven’t done is fly first class to Europe or Asia. This is the big leagues. In fact, this is in a different league altogether. Etihad first class is actually little compartments with bench seats where you can sit across from a friend and chat, and Emirates first class has showers a and loung/bar on the plane.  Can you imagine showering on a plane? I can.  It would probably be like showering on ground, except this time you’re 35,000 feet high.

In the end, though, I don’t need my own first class compartment to be happy. As they say, “He is richest who wants least,” which is why I like to think that even when I’m able to fly business class all the time, I’ll continue to fly coach just to keep things in perspective. Because let’s face it: when they give you that tray of hot nuts, perspective flies right out the window.


Have you ever flown first class to Europe or Asia? What was it like?

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