October 7, 2011

Is Flying First Class Worth The Cost?

No.  Flying first class is not 'worth' the extra cost.   I guess I'll have to elaborate or this article will be way too short.

The other day Consumerism Commentary wrote about their Traveling First Class for the First Time.  Coincidentally I have also recently flown first class for the first time.

On a recent trip my wife decided to splurge by upgrading to first class on one flight segment on our return flight.   The flight in question was a short one hour trip.  When we checked in the automated self service checkin computer pitched the upgrade.     The cost of the upgrade was $45 per seat.   With two seats it cost $90 total.  However we were checking a bag and the bag was free for 1st class versus paying $25 fee to check it for coach.  We actually spent $65 more than checking the bag and flying coach so it was $32.50 extra per seat to upgrade.   I figured if I was ever going to fly first class spending $65 to do so wasn't a bad way to experience it.

I think I can say as a fact without getting much argument that fist class is nicer than coach.   The seats are comfy and there was more leg space.  It was nice.   They also pamper you a little bit.   You have a single flight attendant serving a few people and you get real glassware and silverware for the food.  The experience overall was nice and fun.   I wouldn't say it was worth the extra $65, but it was a splurge so we enjoyed it.

After that flight I was curious myself if paying more for first class tickets might be worth it as a splurge.   I did some quick searching to compare the costs between coach fare and first class on both domestic and international an example trips.

International flight
flying time :30 hours for 1 stop versus 18 hours for nonstop

Coach : $835 for one stop or $1,028 for nonstop
First : $10,392 for one stop and $13,156 for nonstop

Domestic flight
flying time : 7 hours for 1 stop and 5 hours for non stop

Coach : $196 for 1 stop and $231 for nonstop
First : $633 for 1 stop or $765 for nonstop

The cost of a first class fare is anywhere from 200% more up to 1200% more than the coach fares.   This is a huge markup.    One argument for first class I've heard is that its much more worth it for the longer international flights.   I certainly would enjoy a comfy first class journey as opposed to a crampt coach flight for a long 8 hour flight overseas.   However those international first class fares are over $10,000 more expensive than the coach fares.  You could buy a car for that much money.  

Free food, free booze, Free bags

One benefit of first class flight is that you get some free stuff that you'd have to pay for in coach.   My wife and I avoided the $25 checked bag fee by upgrading.  If we'd eaten meals or drank any booze then that would have been free too.  Generally I'd estimate that this could save you up to $100 roundtrip if you check bags and eat meals.   That helps offset some of the cost of first class but alone is not going to make up for much of the added cost.

Generally flying first class is just a luxury.   I can't see any way that I could justify spending 3 to 13 times as much for this luxury.

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