I love to travel. I’ve been to many places and have many more on my “Bucket List.” Road trips are fun, but airlines have done a great job of taking the joy out of flying. Short flights are expensive and a hassle. And boy, do I dread those Long Distance Flights!
I’m going to date myself a bit here to reminisce about what flying was when I first started my travel experience. Back “in the day” flying was a pleasant and rather refined experience. People actually dressed up to take a flight. Airline staff were pleasant and courteous. Real meals were served – I fondly remember flights that served filet mignon dinners – in coach! Seats actually had leg room ( a very nice feature for those of us standing six-foot plus.) And of course if you paid for your seat you were entitled to bring your luggage along for no extra charge. I used to love flying. (I eventually even got my own private pilot license.)
Skip forward “several” years. The flight experience today is a hectic disaster. Passengers are poorly treated, bunched and herded together into increasingly crowded planes and assigned to seats with rapidly decreasing leg room. ( Can you say “please don’t recline your seat into my knees” nicely and be taken seriously? ) Meals? Forget about it. For anything short of trans-oceanic or trans-continental we’re talking peanuts and soft drinks. For the Long Haul Flights – something resembling a meal is served. ( But if you are smart you should bring along your favorite sandwich and snacks – just a thought IMHO )
It’s against this background that I “look forward to?” and anticipate an upcoming flight to China. No other way about it. To get to China from where I live you have to fly. And it’s a long flight. I took a similar flight before when I visited Japan. Loved Japan – hated the flight.
At this point I should probably clarify. Yes, I am aware that airlines have a variety of seating options. First class seats which fold down into beds and the like. Check out this spiffy configuration. I could fly like this.
But I don’t fly up there in First Class with the CEO’s and whoever. Why not? I don’t work for a large firm and have access to hundreds of thousands of frequent flyer miles. My travels don’t earn me any type of Premier or Deluxe or Club status. I’m in the back of the bus – I fly Coach (there – my secret is out – wow – I feel so much better.) Flying “up front”, well let’s just say it tends to get expensive. How expensive? Just for kicks, while writing this article, I checked the current price for a round trip flight from Kansas City to Beijing and return. Here’s what I found. Flying coach (that’s me) would cost $1761. Business Class (not me) $6818. First Class (definitely not me) $15646! First Class costs almost nine times as much as Coach!
If you would like a little insight into what it’s like to fly first class you might check this interesting article documenting one individual’s First Class flight from Chicago to Zurich. It gives a nice detailed view of the first class travel experience. The article shows that you are really treated well. ( I think I’ll try to do a similar article on my Coach experience flying to Beijing this spring- stay tuned for that one – should be an interesting counter point.) My recent price check shows that the round trip non-stop flight from Chicago to Zurich sets a passenger back roughly $12,325. For that price I guess you should be treated well. That author is reported to fly something on the order of 180,000 miles per year. I can only assume that he logs those miles as a business traveler, courtesy of his employer and as a result uses frequent flyer points to upgrade on occasion to First Class. I could be wrong here – but I doubt he is flying on his own dime. Some corporation somewhere is likely adding this to it’s cost of doing business and passing the cost on to the consuming public – you know – those guys flying back there in Coach.
While airlines strive to innovate comfort and service in the first class section with sleeping cubicles, lie flat seats, and wonderful meals, they are trying to figure out how to cram more people into less space in coach. Seat space in Coach is dropping to the 23 inch area. But the idea I like best is the “stand up while you fly” concept! Really – doesn’t that sound like fun? I can’t wait to try this out!
© 2012, Bruce W Bean, Ph.D.. All rights to all content including photos reserved.