Economy Class 101: First Class Revelations


Economy Class 101: First Class Revelations
I have a love hate relationship with Facebook. Reading other people’s minutiae can cause a bit of turbulence in our own lives. Recently, I felt the need to cool my own jets after reading someone’s status update. Now, this person and I are not really friends. I’ve never even met her, but somehow we connected on FB (which is weird, because I generally have a rule that I should actually meet someone in person before I ‘friend’ them. Nevertheless, somehow we are now ‘friends.’ But we aren’t really. You get me, right?).

Anyway, she posted something about how thankful she was for a husband who could fly both her and her kids first class on a ‘long’ flight. She and I have a very different definition of a long flight, because her plane ride was a mere few hours.

Kudos to her, but I actually giggled, because four hours is considered short-haul in my family. I may have even snorted. Like seriously. My four-year-old jetted his way through a 30-hour-trip with multiple layovers to South Africa a few months ago, and as soon as we landed asked, ‘Can we get on another plane now?’ It certainly wasn’t his first flight, nor will it be his last. Mark my words; this child will be a pilot someday.

Humble bragging doesn’t always bother me, because we all do it (even I just did it above), but THEN this person went on to say how her kids would never know the suffering of being a third class passenger stuck next to the restrooms like she had been so many times. (Insert smiley face ad nauseam.)


That part really did kind of annoy me. I know it was just a dumb offhand comment, but firstly, ‘friend,’ we are not on a passage across an ocean in 1912. The last time I flew third class was, well never. Third class is generally a term used to describe sea voyages of yonder year. (Think Titanic.) My ilk and those of us on a more, ahem, frugal budget shall we say, like to refer to our cheap(er) seats in the air as ‘economy.’ Simple semantics, but it does make us seem less like third class citizens of the friendly skies and more like citizens of the world.

Secondly, I’ve generally flown economy ever since I first set foot on a plane at the age of two and I’ve survived. On my first few transatlantic flights, I had to request seats in a non-smoking section because true story, people actually lit up in the sky years ago. In case you were wondering, secondhand smoke doesn’t stop at row 25. (And you think sitting near the bathroom is horrible.) Seats in economy may be getting smaller, but at least I no longer arrive at my destination with a sore throat and Lost’s smoke monster trailing me.

Smoke free or not though, of course I’d rather fly first class. However, there are life lessons to be learned in economy class and I’m hoping to pass on a few of these tips to my future pilot before he grows up and forgets where he came from.

Economy Class Lesson 1: Everyone poops.

I admit I’ve flown first class a number of times — all because I miraculously got bumped on the flight, and not because we are flush with money. I certainly enjoyed roomier seats, better quality food and more booze — everyone knows that’s par for the course the closer you are to the cockpit. But can I tell you something else? All that food and drink lead to potty breaks. And surprise, surprise, there are bathrooms in that section too.

So ‘friend,’ I don’t know about your experience in first class, but in my brief time with the upper crust, I still needed to pee. And while that first class restroom might be more spacious and maybe even smell a little sweeter…at the end of the day, there’s still a toilet in there.

I like to remind myself of the fact that we all have the same basic human needs, no matter what class of ticket we are holding.

Economy Class Lesson 2: Manage expectations.

I have pretty low expectations flying economy. I’m usually happy to get an aisle seat, a working TV and a light that actually switches off. I’m also happy when we land safely. Am I thrilled when I get upgraded? Absolutely. Am I annoyed because the free coffee in economy is sometimes horrific, especially when it comes in a cheap styrofoam cup with powdered creamer? No, because I usually expect it to be terrible. Travel is a balance of craving awesome experiences, yet also staying realistic to sometimes avoid disappointment. 

Economy Class Lesson 3: Manners never go out of style.

I am not always a cheerful traveler. My bag is usually too heavy, I’m always hungry and no matter what makeup I slather on, or outfit I wear, I’m a literal hot mess by the time I get onto a plane. Add in a child and I’ll leave the whole scenario up to your imagination. However, regardless of my state of distress or undress (I told you I get hot), I do try to make eye contact and smile at people on the plane. I greet flight attendants, nod to fellow passengers, and I do my best to make my way to my seat without knocking anyone in the head with said overweight bag, or my sweaty backside.

You know what I’ve noticed about first class? They look grumpy. They usually don’t smile back. Maybe they’re grumpy because the rest of us are barreling past them trying to squeeze into our own seats. Maybe they’re grumpy because they paid too much for their seat. Economy passengers can be grumpy too — sometimes because they think they are above sitting in the back. Entitlement doesn’t look good on anyone no matter what row you’re sitting in — a smile though goes a long way.

Economy Class Lesson 4: A little hardship can be a good thing.

The people I am closest to in my life are those I shared hardships with — houses with no heat in the winter, planes grounded in the summer with no air conditioning, ships weathering gale force winds, camping in the rain.

There’s a sense of solidarity when you’re slogging through something difficult together. And while I certainly don’t wish suffering on my family or anyone else, a little hardship every now and again probably won’t kill us. My kid can wear slippers and put on a sweater around the house instead of me cranking the heat higher. He doesn’t need a snack every time we get in the car. And he for sure isn’t going to notice the difference between a seat in first class and economy class at this stage of life.

In the end, it doesn’t matter where you’re sitting — the plane will still get you there. Although maybe by the time the Peanut becomes a pilot, he can just let us travel on his private jet. Don’t worry, ‘friend,’ I might even save you a seat. I must warn you though, there will be restrooms.


  1. That was pretty good ‘little cousin’. I used to travel more often, but not anymore. It was interesting to read this, and am glad you little guy travels so nicely. Hope it continues that way. Facebook is the way my very extended family keeps in touch. To sit down and write actual letters would be rather difficult simply because our lives become so complicated. I look forward to your occasional postings. Just my way of looking in on you and your family. But, it’s evening, we have a very late corned beef and cabbage dinner cooking. Two planned for this month. So, I must go for now. Tim

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