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Shippy's avatar

Has anyone flown First Class on a long haul?

Asked by Shippy (9857 points ) October 30th, 2012

Was it much better than economy? In which ways? Which airline did you fly?

I also saw there are some “flat beds” on regular class, has anyone tried flat beds?

I am not the “take a sleeping pill” type so would prefer an entertaining flight!!

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20 Answers

Judi's avatar

We don’t fly more than 3 hours in economy anymore. I loved first class on Air Tahiti Nui. The flight attendants even had 3 costume changes.
The most important difference to me is the leg room. My husband just about died going coach from New Jersey to Tel Aviv. He had a knee injury and it was awful.
Often we fly business class instead of coach. It’s a lot cheaper than first but tons better than coach.

Shippy's avatar

@Judi I hear you on the leg room. I am quite tall and I do suffer. I flew some 21 hours on a long haul once and it was really difficult.

JLeslie's avatar

I flew Chicago to Tokyo business class on JAL, and there is a huge difference. The seats lie flat, they are wider, more leg room, you have your own individual TV. I don’t know if the food was different, I am guessing probably not on international flights, but maybe so? I’m thinking maybe while boarding we were served drinks and snack while coach wasn’t. There are more flight attendants per passengers I think in Business and first class, so more attention. We also could use the special waiting area at the airport when we connected in Chicago, but that isn’t really a big deal. They had free drinks and snacks there.

My husband has flown first class many times up and down the Americas and to Europe. On long flights he hates to go coach, on short flights (less than 6 hour leg) no problem.

JLeslie's avatar

@Shippy Some American airlines now have inexpensive upgrades for more legroom. Can be anywhere from $9—$25 US and usually it bumps you up to first to board after first class boarding.

Shippy's avatar

@JLeslie I will ask of course when I book my flight, but just a quick question? business class, first class, both available on long hauls as a possibility? If so price range similar or quite different?

CWOTUS's avatar

Because so many in our company fly so much and so far, as a cost-cutting move the company restricted all company travel (with very few and very tight exceptions) to “coach only” since around 2004.

Before that, I did manage one trans-Atlantic flight (New York to Milan) in Business Class.

There is no comparison with coach. The seats are bigger and much better designed. They recline better and farther (on the 777 we flew, they were “not quite horizontal”), and you have exclusive use to both armrests. You’d never feel like “the monkey in the middle” since there is generally no “middle” seat in the Business and First Class seating – and in any case you’d still own both armrests.

Aside from that, you get a better meal, more snacks and drinks (you actually have to tell them sometimes “Please stop feeding me”) and more attentive service in general.

But the cost differential is hard to justify. It costs thousands of dollars more for that level of comfort and service.

For the really frequent travelers in our outfit, they normally get free upgrades to higher-class seats as a rule, anyway. We used to get a $500 direct payment for accepting the reduced class assignment, but now even that is gone.

If you can find it on some airlines (Singapore Air was one, and Cathay Pacific another that I know of) see if you can get “Economy-Plus” class if the cost is a factor. (And when is it not?) The seating has just enough extra legroom to be well worth the cost differential, but otherwise the service is “same as Coach”.

Shippy's avatar

@CWOTUS Thanks for that tip much appreciated.

JLeslie's avatar

I have to agree with @CWOTUS that the cost differential between coach and business or first is sometimes very difficult to justify. Most people mainly care about the legroom, more room in general, and better seats. Having more food, or slightly more choices in food is not really that big of a deal I would bet to most people, especially on red eye flights. So, it seems like the ticket should be about 50% more in cost (2 seats take up the room of 3 coach seats) maybe double the price, but many times it is 3 to 4 times as expensive, sometimes even more for first class that has privacy for single seats. I think my Tokyo flight was around $1500 round trip for coach, and $5,000 for Business, more for first class. This was a few years ago. I used sky miles to buy the tickets, plus had to pay a little extra being short some miles. I think I wound up spending $1,200 for the two tickets round trip, so I was lucky to have accumulated so many points, I would not have paid full price for business class, too expensive for me.

Lightlyseared's avatar

I flew first class British Airways from London to New York back in the early 90’s. There was no flat beds, the cabin felt much more cramped and you didn’t get that much leg room at all. On the bright side I could leave my flat in central London at 6am and be in a meeting in New York at 9am so that was worth the premium.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

JAL to Tokyo Japan from JFK and back. 6,700 miles one-way. Oh and 14 hours Westbound.

bhec10's avatar

I’ve been lucky enough to have made some very exciting trips around the world, and I’m only 21. My mother works as a stewardess and we have some discounts on flights here and there. My longest flights were to Brazil, USA, South Africa, Mozambique (was the longest – 11 hours), Mexico and Costa Rica, and every time we fly in her airline, which is TAP Portugal, we fly first class, as long as there are seats available. It’s really nice, and the more modern airplanes have very nice and comfy seats, that transform into beds. They also have screens where you can watch movies, listen to music and play games with other passengers across the plane! The meals in TAP are unbelievably good for “airplane food”. We get a proper meal, with proper cutlery and a nice plate.

The only thing I would really like to add to an airplane is WiFi. Always good to check your emails 35000ft up.

By the way, the weirdest experience I had flying to another country was when we flew to Morocco. We had a stopover and the first half of the flight was 3 hours long in a really small and noisy propeller aircraft. The second part of the trip only took us half an hour but we travelled in what was at the time the biggest airplane in the world, if I’m correct, the Boeing 737!

Shippy's avatar

@bvdshec17 sounds divine.

Judi's avatar

Most of the time when we fly we buy a coach ticket and use miles for the upgrade. It makes it a little more affordable. We happen to own a business so we get lots of miles from business purchases.
@bvdshec17 , What country are you from? I haven’t heard anyone affiliated with the business call it ‘stewardess” in 30 years!

CWOTUS's avatar

In your lifetime, @bvdshec17, the Boeing 737 has not been the largest aircraft or even the largest passenger aircraft in the world (if it ever was, which I doubt). It’s actually fairly small, which is why it’s one of the most popular commercial planes in the world, especially for short haul and other “shuttle” types of flight.

You probably flew the Boeing 747. That still is “one of the largest” passenger airplanes.

bhec10's avatar

@Judi I am from Portugal, and my mother works as a flight attendant (I call it stewardess)

@CWOTUS Sorry, I was wrong, it was the 747 and not the 737. And it was the biggest one until Airbus A380 came along.

The superjumbo’s advent ends a reign of nearly four decades by the Boeing 747 as the world’s biggest airliner.

Judi's avatar

@bvdshec17 , I figured you must have been from a different country. My brother had a girlfriend in the 197—‘s who chewed me out for calling her a stewardess. She said, “Stewardess means keeper of the pigs. Unless you’re a pig I wouldn’t call me that.” (They’re no longer together.)

geeky_mama's avatar

I fly fairly often for work…
For domestic only flights (within the US) I don’t see a big difference between Coach and First Class (aka Business Class)—but that’s why they upgrade frequent fliers to First Class for free on these flights. Unless I’m going to ATL or DTW (I fly on Delta primarily, and occasionally get outranked by other Diamond Elites who spent more on their ticket-often you’ll have 80% of a plane filled with people who have elite status going into ATL or DTW!) I nearly always get upgraded..but while it’s nice having a bit more legroom and boarding first-that’s where the benefits end, truly.
You might get a free meal (invariably a cold chicken breast—either on a “salad” or on a roll as a sandwich), but they are truly gross. I’ve taken to packing my own snacks or carrying on a nice sandwich of my own.

Even many of my international flights to Brazil (which is a 12 hour flight for me) don’t feature lay flat seats or very nice meals. When I fly to South America for work I rarely will pay the extra for business class nor will I use miles for an upgrade as it’s just not worth it.

However, going to/from Asia and Europe the meals are considerably better in First Class (or Business Class) than in Economy. Or, maybe Economy is just that much worse on those big flights. Either way – when going to Asia it is VERY worth it to me to pay for First or Business.

Earlier this year I flew First to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific. It had lay flat beds that were angled so you couldn’t see anyone around you (live a private cubicle). The meals were wonderful (especially the made to order hot fudge sundae) and the bedding provided included a down pillow and down comforter along with noise reducing headphones which made sleeping on the longhaul flight a delight.
Having my own TV entertainment system and a recliner to enjoy movies from made it a more enjoyable flight—and considering it was a nearly 13 hour flight I had plenty of time to enjoy the meals, movies AND still slept at least 6 hours.

Some airlines don’t really offer much extra…like Iceland Air—not worth upgrading, and every seat even in Economy is still pretty good.
But, on Cathay, JAL, Silk Air, KLM and especially on Emirates.. it is quite a different experience in First Class. (KLM gives out little porcelain sculptures of Dutch buildings filled with liquor. Some frequent travelers collect them all.)

And, dear @Shippy—if you’re asking because you’re thinking of traveling back to UK from SA.. I highly recommend splurging to Emirates First Class. I’ve flown them between CPT and Dubai and LHR and find the service to be fantastic.

Shippy's avatar

@geeky_mama I was thinking of Emirates actually. I saw a video on you tube, quite amazing. I wouldn’t normally consider it, as the ticket seems to be, so far, about five times more than the usual. But, I have flying phobia for one, and also, it will be sad you know, watching Africa vanish from site forever! So, maybe the extra will be worth it. In a way, it makes it more exciting too and something to look forward to :))

Buttonstc's avatar

If you’re bringing Kitty with you, check and see if they allow you to put her in an approved container for transport under your seat or with you rather than in the cargo hold.

ALL aairlines treatment of animals in cargo is hit and miss and some animals have died or gone missing.

If there’s any way at all you can have her in the passenger cabin, it’s a whole lot better.

CWOTUS's avatar

When you want to really piss them off, @Judi, just call them “Sky Waitress”.

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