First Class is now un-American

On our return flight from Denver last Saturday, the woman across the aisle coughed so many times I lost count before I had a sip of my complimentary beverage. Another woman ten rows back had a speaking voice so loud you wondered how she could hear herself think. And then there were the backpacks, so… many… backpacks. Nothing wrong with carrying your stuff on your shoulders, except when walking down the aisle and the slightest turn of the hips gives me a not-so-gentle whack as I sit in my aisle seat. Which pretty much confirmed what I already knew.  I should’ve flown First Class.

Heads up, weary travelers.  If your brand of travel abroad is a first-class seat, you’d better book one while you can.  American Airlines (AA) just announced they’re removing those premium seats in favor of several more in Business Class. Why? Because nobody wants them.  It’s not rocket science.  Airplanes need to be full (like, 97% full) or airlines don’t make money.  If a class of seat doesn’t interest a passenger the airline will find one that does.  Put the champagne on ice, flight attendants.

Even if dropping the very best seats makes good business sense, it doesn’t mean I’m happy about it.  I’ve never deliberately flown First Class but I still get to walk down their aisle on the way to the cozier confines of Cattle Economy.  As I do, I steal a glance to the left and to the right.  What are they wearing?  What are they drinking?  Most importantly, what are they talking about?  After all, these are America’s movers and shakers.

Except they’re not anymore, now are they?  Tell me who (or “what”) you see the next time you pass through First Class.  The domain of the rich and famous is now diluted with passengers who simply rack up enough frequent flyer miles.  Thus, next to the woman in the stylish suit with the glass of Pinot Noir, wrapping her important business call, you have the young tattooed character in tank top, shorts, and sandals, slurping a Rockstar energy drink while obliterating his latest Call of Duty foe.  No wonder these seats aren’t selling anymore.

My kids don’t believe me but there was an era when people dressed up to travel.  When I was young I wore a suit and tie on airplanes, as spiffy as a Sunday morning in church (although church attire has changed too, sigh…).  Instead of a palm-sized bag of peanuts in Economy, you still got something of a meal.  Flying was, back then, a classy step above other forms of travel.

Just because I can – and knowing American’s about to crash the party (poor choice of words) – I decided to book a first-class ticket to London for Thanksgiving.  Get me to jolly ol’ England the day before (so I can overcome jet lag before the big meal) and have me back in my own bed by Sunday night.  I know, I know, it’s practically Halloween already but guess what?  There are still plenty of first-class seats for my un-American Thanksgiving. They’re just a little – ahem – pricey.

My least expensive option on AA is $6,054, which includes two stops, choice of seat (but isn’t every first-class seat equally wonderful?), free baggage, and a full refund if I have second thoughts (which I will).  My most expensive option is $12,966, with identical terms as the first option except this ticket is nonrefundable.  Huh?  Whatever.  Even the least expensive option is more than my annual grocery bill.  Let’s not book this trip after all.  Let’s have turkey at home instead.

You can see where this is headed.  Next thing you know AA will get rid of First Class on all of its flights.  Then passengers will lose interest in Business Class so that’ll have to go too.  Premium Economy will be the last to fold, until all we’re left with is a planeful of Cattle Economy, every row and every seat.  But given the attire and attitudes of passengers these days, isn’t Economy a perfectly-fitting shoe?  As a friend described it, air travel these days is effectively a Greyhound bus with a couple of wings.

I just ran another itinerary on the AA website.  I can visit my son in Dallas over Thanksgiving, flying First Class, for just over $1,000 roundtrip.  That’s a bargain compared to London and I can get my turkey from a smoker (delicious!)  Maybe I’ll splurge.  After all, there may come a day when my grandchildren ask me, “What’s ‘First Class’?”

Some content sourced from the Fox Business article, “American Airlines ditching first class…“.

21 thoughts on “First Class is now un-American

  1. When we lived overseas, we booked BA Premium Economy for all our flights, which ranged from 8 to 14 hours total flying time depending on which country we were living in. The seats were wider and had adjustable foot rests. Well worth the cost!

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    1. On international flights, Premium Economy is a huge step up from Economy (on domestic flights not so much). That adjustable footrest makes all the difference in catching a little shuteye!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I just saw an article about AA getting rid of First Class, they didn’t have enough booking and felt Business Class was good enough. It will be interesting to see how ALL airlines start to change. I hope the seats don’t become even narrower, etc.

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  3. I’ve only ever flown charter packages or economy, other than my first flight on Wardair. I may be stupid, but what is the difference between First Class and Business Class? Are they different sections of the plane? Different perks? My brother used to work for US Air and he got free standby flights and occasionally he would get upgraded to first class if he knew someone on the desk. I remember him talking about salmon on Royal Doulton china and a seat that folded into a bed which was useful for a long flight to Asia. (My first flight was on Wardair back in the early 80’s and the whole plane was first class as Mr. Wardair felt half the fun of a vacation was getting there. We went to Hawaii – I was very impressed by flying….it was all downhill after that, although I remember you used to be able to get some decent meals on planes.)

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    1. HA at the greyhound bus with wings comment….agree…..there is no glamour in travel anymore. I can picture someone on The Orient Express in those holey jeans and a backpack.

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    2. Business Class (and Premium Economy) is more comfortable than Economy but still not everything you get in First Class. More leg room. Wider seats. Free drinks. Whatever gets passengers to pay a little more, right?

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  4. We flew in business class on the way home from London and it ruined us. We felt like we were treated like people instead of cattle. Usually the return flight from Europe if you’re not sleeping isn’t so outrageously expensive so we do comfort+ on the way there, and business back.

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    1. Same! We flew to Europe several years ago on an upgrade and vowed we’d never fly across the pond in Economy ever again. If we can’t afford Business Class, we simply won’t go 🙂

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  5. I haven’t flown anywhere in three years now. I liked First Class, but rarely ever flew it. Not that I want it to go away, mind you. I want it to be available if I choose to fly again. As for flying in an era when people dressed up to travel, I did that, too. Sunday best clothes, a porter to take care of your luggage from the curb to check-in, and real silverware when real food was served on the flight. THAT was travel done right.

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  6. Good points here, Dave. For me, it doesn’t matter which class it is, I don’t like it! Can’t get comfortable, can’t sleep, don’t like all those people around me, and why in the world don’t they dress like they give a d***! The whole experience is distasteful, to say the least – BUT, I usually love where I’m going so it’s worth the unpleasantness.

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    1. I’m sure there was a time when I didn’t worry about who would be sitting next to me or even nearby on a flight. Now it’s absolutely true. The loud woman I referred to initially sat in the row behind us and I thought, “Oh no, this will not do for the next three hours.”. She ended up choosing to move further back, but I was prepared to move if I had to. Frankly if passengers simply showed basic respect for those around them, I wouldn’t even care how they dressed.

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  7. The good ol’ days of air travel and a trip was an event, from the moment you locked the house up and headed to the airport until you reached your destination. And properly dressed no matter the length of the flight with some time to freshen up a little in the plane’s restroom before you met fellow passengers (if meeting up with a tour group) or leaving the plane. Though I never flew first class, it was still classy … back then anyway. It was a whole different era. But the sloppy attitude/dress is true of everything now – going to church, out to dinner in a nice restaurant, going to the doctor, even paying your respects at a funeral home or the actual funeral … we are becoming a nation of slobs. Sadly I have to include include myself in that statement because there was a time I was so vain that I would not go out out of the house unless I was wearing makeup, hair fixed just so, clothes immaculate. Since working from home, it’s been downhill … glasses instead of contact lenses, pfft to spending lots of time on my hair and makeup – natural is better (albeit lazier), but for sure going on a trip, to a nice restaurant, or on an overseas vacation sure warrants getting spiffed up! We are in the minority Dave.

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  8. In fairness, we have to remember that before airline fare deregulation in the late 70s, flying was an expensive proposition so there was a kind of class divide between those who flew and those who didn’t. But you are right that behavior standards have really dropped in all income classes since then too.

    I have never flown first class, whether by buying the ticket or getting an upgrade. Maybe that’s the secret – you don’t miss what you never experienced.

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