Your Flying Style: Coach or First Class?

I’m currently sitting on a Friday night flight to Dallas, Texas, where I’ll be spending the weekend.  I love Friday night flights because the airport is dead-empty and the flights aren’t usually filled to capacity (at least the ones I’ve ever been on).  In fact, I got so lucky that I actually have the entire first row of seats to myself!  Well, the first row of coach that is…

Oh, pardon my bag in your face, sir…

When you fly coach, there’s always an odd tension or vibe on the airplane as you awkwardly squeeze past those first 3 or 4 rows of first class.  Everyone is already seated with some brilliant novella at their fingertips and a nice glass of scotch or some aged, fine wine.  They look cozy in their expanded seats and their legs are stretched any which way they like.  And sometimes … I even feel like they kind of judge me as I begrudgingly trudge back to … coach.   (I actually feel like I’m in first class right now with this entire front row to myself, so I guess the joke’s on them.)

Exactly how much do one of those bigger seats go for…?

And I really do think the joke is on them: My flight to Dallas – a whole hour and 13 minute flight – was already over $300.  Three hundred dollars to fly to a city that I’ve driven to in 8 and half hours a bazillion times in my life (most of my dad’s family is there).  When I was booking my flight on Travelocity, I even saw a coach seat to Dallas on another airline for over one thousand dollars.  If my seat in coach was that much and the price range went so far up as one grand, I can only imagine how much those first class seats must have set them back?  I can only presume that they must have cost at least $500 or more.  Probably more.

And for what? A couple extra inches of seat and floor space?  Or to board first before us lowly coach flyers can get on?  (Which really doesn’t make sense because it’s much better to board last since it’s that much less time you have to sit on a cramped plane and us coach peasants are always knocking them in the face with our big duffle bags.  Whoops … sorry about that.)

If I were a rich girl…

I guess if I were loaded beyond belief, I might fly first class.  But I’d much rather blow my money on feel-good stuff like ridiculously over-tipping, buying my nieces and nephews way cooler toys than any of their friends have, and giving more money to my church than they know what to do with.  I definitely wouldn’t blow an extra couple hundred bucks on a cushy seat on a one hour flight (now, if I were flying to Europe or some place really far away, I would definitely consider it.)  And even if I was flying on business, I still don’t think I’d go first class on such a short flight – I’ve never understood that mentality of “it’s okay to waste my employer’s money, but not my own”.

I guess I’ve just always wondered what people think when they buy first class for short trips.  Of course, it’s not my money, so they can really do whatever they want.  And some people probably rightly deserve those first class seats.  But, it if was me, I definitely would just save my money, opt for a slightly smaller coach seat, and use that couple hundred bucks for more worthwhile activities.

Do you fly first class or coach?  Have you ever flown first class?  Did you think it was worth it?  If you don’t fly first class, why don’t you?


  • I’m kind of the same. If it’s a shorter flight–under 4 hours let’s say, then I’ll take the cheapest seat.

    But after a few terrible flights to and from Europe, I am definitely going to consider upgrading something for my next trip! 8-9 hours with no legroom is really difficult. I’m also fat, so that makes it more uncomfortable (I still fit within the seats and don’t encroach on others, but there isn’t a ton of wiggle room!). Seat sizes on flights have been steadily decreasing over the years so it affects everyone.

  • I flew coach to Europe and business class back (I had no choice all the coach seats were gone)…. I didn’t really feel a difference, except that we were fed a lot more in business. Every half hour it was a round of food: cheese, chocolate, champagne, etc etc..

    I wouldn’t pay the extra if I had the choice.

  • I fly coach and rely on upgrades for first or business class. Unless I make an absurd amount of money, i.e. $1M+/year, I wouldn’t pay to upgrade.

    @Ginger… I assume you are referring to decreasing seat pitch, not seat width. Seat width cannot change, pitch (distance between 2 rows of seats) can change. There are strict requirements for aisle dimensions, so seat widths are fairly constant in coach class across all airlines… roughly 17 inches.

  • Never flown first class. For a short flight 3 or less it’s not a big deal but for cross country ones it would definitely be worth it to me to be more comfortable….if I had the money that is. My husband flew business from Europe and he said it made a huge difference. He arrived rested and relaxed instead of tired and cramped. I know….I hate getting on the plane and walking past the 1st class royalty. Who do they think they are anyways! Oh yeah …rich.

  • I travel often for work and do think the seats are tighter than ever and definitely less comfortable as the airlines try to cram more in the cabin. First class is WAY better but I’ve never paid for the pleasure. I’ve either used miles or been given the upgrade by the airline.

  • I don’t really fly. Full stop. Sadly, travel has not been a big part of my life.

    But I’ve always only ever flown economy, and would love to try an upgrade sometime! Preferably on someone else’s dollar.

  • I upgraded to Main Cabin Select (exit rows and bulkhead + unlimited food + priority boarding/luggage) on my last flight with Virgin America and I loved it! I don’t know if I would splurge on first class, but I liked having a middle option available.

  • If I had an unlimited amount of money, I would fly first class, for anything over 1.5 hrs. Why? Because I’m a tall girl, with wide hips. I’m uncomfortable on these airplanes. They keep making the spaces smaller and smaller, so my kneeds hit the front seat when I’m sitting normally . . . forget shifting to try and get comfortable. People who lean their seats back make it worse. However, cheap seat for an hour? Heck yeah, I can deal. But if I could afford it for longer flights? Oh yeah. I’m there. Bring on the wine!

  • I have never flown first class before 🙁 I don’t think I can justify in spending over $6000 on a flight (from Vancouver to Asia). I saw your post on this subject and it reminded me of some news that came out a couple of days ago. Apparently a new type of seats came out for airlines. If you choose to fly in these seats, it will be cheaper than the economy class because it takes less space. The full article on this is at:

  • I’ve flown first class before and its because we were flying all the way from Russia back to the U.S., I’m half-Russian (naturalized U.S. citizen), anyway yeah for that kind of flight it was worth it. Anything else probably not.

    Do you read Ramit Sethi’s “I will teach you to be rich” blog? Basically his idea of frugality is to cut back on the things you don’t care about and spend on the things that you do care about. Flying coach is a great way to save money and I don’t usually care if I travel coach.

    I like to take early flights like 7am or 8am where few people fly, that way while you do fly coach, less people fly with you, and you have more room on your aisle and in the plane. I’ve only flown first class once before and it was nice for that type of flight, because it was so long. The seats were cushier and much more roomier.

    Sometimes exceptions can be made and that’s where that exception was made. I also like to only take one bag or two at most when I fly. I’m not one of those girls who likes traveling with tons of bags, no thanks. There is so much uncertainty when you travel, that its best to keep things easy.

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