Paying for First Class Travel – One Way or Another.

Once upon a time, flying was an adventure … was even fun. Not any more. People still fly, but they don’t like it. I was thinking about that on the 5-plus-hour American Airlines flight yesterday from Los Angeles bringing me home to Maui.
Having to go through security is the first thing people complain about when it comes to flying. But most of the time, it’s an efficient process handled pretty well by people doing a boring, thankless job.

 The real problem is that the airlines have shifted their focus. Because of mergers and bankruptcies and just plain lean times, they have cut back on the number of flights and on the number of cities served. Planes are almost always full now, so there is not much need to bother about pleasing the passengers. 

The focus these days is, quite clearly, on extracting as much money as possible from each of us: food is now for sale, and there are additional fees for checked baggage, for cancelling or changing your flights, even for being able to pick your own seat, or for picking a seat with a few inches of extra leg room. People hate being nickel-and-dimed. And the airlines are nickel-and-diming us every step of the way.

There are some exceptions, of course. American’s first-class service is pretty good. So when I arrived at the Los Angeles airport on Thursday afternoon, I was thinking about purchasing an up-grade to first class if the price was right. It’s a bit over five hours from LA to Maui and, as an occasional treat, it’s very nice spending that time in a comfortable seat with plenty of leg room while sipping a fine scotch whiskey and dining on some very good food.
So I went up to the counter and told the gate agent I’d be interested in buying an upgrade if there were any empty seats in first class. There was one, she said, but I wasn’t eligible for an upgrade because I had used Aadvantage miles to pay for my economy class ticket.
It’s American’s policy, she said. Evidently, their Marketing Department feels that folks paying full freight to fly first class would be upset if they knew they were sitting next to someone who paid for an economy class ticket with miles, then bought an upgrade for a quarter of what they had paid for their seat.
The irony is that many of the people in first class are traveling on business, which means all that luxury becomes a business expense … and tax deductible!
So after being told I could not buy an upgrade, I have to sit squeezed into a coach seat for five hours while, as a taxpayer, I’m helping to subsidize those folks up front in first class.
I resent them … ALL of them … especially that big guy who just asked for his second glass of Johnny Walker Black Label.
Damn! I should be up there with them.