Don’t Overpay For Business Class – That’s Not the Point Of This Hobby

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Although it seems a long, long time ago, it was only around twelve years ago that I experienced my first international Business Class flight. I don’t actually remember exactly where I was flying to but I remember the aircraft and the rest of the experience pretty clearly. I sat in seat 10B on an American Airlines 777-200 flying from London to somewhere in the US (probably Los Angeles) and I was awestruck at the amount of room I had.

After over twenty years of sitting in Economy Class, on flights of up to 12 hours in length, I was in Heaven.

I had more leg room than I had ever seen on a plane, my seat reclined further than I realised was possible and, in my first hour on the aircraft, I got more attention from the flight attendants than I’d had on my previous ten Economy Class flights put together. I could see why people liked the pointy end of the aircraft so much.

American-Airlines-777-200-Old-liveryAn American Airlines 777-200 in oneworld livery arriving at LAX

That was then. Now things are a bit different.

Since taking that first Business Class flight I’ve flown up front a lot more frequently and experienced a wide array of Business Class products across a number of different airlines and I’ve started to notice a marked difference in my attitude.

As someone who writes about airline products for a living I have to be critical of any Business Class cabins that don’t reach the standards that I know are possible – I’d be doing the readers of this blog an injustice if I wasn’t.

If there’s one thing that readers are looking for in a cabin review it’s an objective and honest comparison with whatever else is available on the market – that’s what helps them decide whether the product offers value or not – so I’m happy to criticise the heck out any cabin that I consider to be below par.

What makes me less happy is when I allow these criticisms to affect how I book flights for myself.

I have no interest in paying regular Business Class fares so I’m all about flying up front for as little as I can possibly get away with (something which I try to pass on via this blog) and my feelings on various Business Class cabins can really get in the way of that.

The seat I had on that first Business Class flight is still in service on American Airlines (albeit on a rapidly decreasing number of routes) and I know that, now, I would probably avoid flying in that seat if at all possible and I may even pay more to avoid it.

That attitude really doesn’t fit with my stated aim of flying up front for a little as possible.

American-Airlines-777-200old-Business-ClassThe old American Airlines Business Class seat on the 777-200

A large part of my problem is that I remember how cool that first Business Class experience was and I’m constantly trying to replicate it with any other Business Class flights I book. That’s very hard to do once you’ve flown up front as often as I have.

The new American Airlines 777-300ER Business Class product worked for me for a while (that’s a truly excellent hard product, it’s just the service element that lets it down) but I’ve flown it so often that now I’m more than a bit blasé about the whole experience.

American AirlinesAmerican Airlines new Business Class on the 777-300ER aircraft

I really don’t think very much of the British Airways Club World seat (regardless of which aircraft it is in) but even that worked for me for a couple of years before the novelty wore off. Now I really have to persuade myself to book a BA Business Class seat if there are other alternatives.

Fortunately the Etihad Business Class experience still works for me, probably because I haven’t flown with Etihad all that much and probably because the service and seats are great (especially on the A380). I’m already looking forward to a trip I have with the airline in December.

Etihad Business Class 777-300The Etihad 777-300ER Business Class cabin – good seats and fantastic service onboard

The problem is that it now takes a particularly special Business Class (or higher) experience for me to get the desired combination of anticipation, excitement and enjoyment, and those sort of cabins don’t come cheap. Chasing the original high is starting to cost me money that I’m not happy spending.

And that’s the point I’m trying to get over. Be careful.

It’s easy to get carried away with the whole “Business Class experience” and, before you know it, a hobby of flying up front for the same amount as a lot of people pay for Economy Class becomes a lot more expensive than it was ever meant to be.

It pays to remember that, no matter what long-haul Business Class cabin you find yourself in, you’re in a better seat than anyone in the cabins behind you and in a better seat than the vast majority of travelers will ever get to sit in.

british-airways-club-world-A380-reviewThe British Airways Club World Cabin – not one of the better products but still miles ahead of any non-Business Class cabin

The fact is that there isn’t actually anything terribly wrong with the poorer long-haul Business Class seats except that, in today’s world, there are a lot of better seats around. That doesn’t actually make the seat bad, it just makes it not as good as a lot of others.

I’m not suggesting that I (or anyone else) should choose to fly in one of the poorer Business Class seats if there are comparatively priced better quality options available. What I am suggesting is that it’s easy to persuade oneself to pay more (sometimes considerably more) for the better Business Class seats when the more sensible option would be to suck it up in a seat that we may consider to be “not that great” but that 90% of the flying public would dearly love to fly in.


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