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The Day I Realised The Golden Age Of Business Class Travel Was Over

“They’re noise-cancelling headphones, not fart cancelling.”

I know what you’re thinking, ‘boo hoo’ poor bloke has to fly business class. Must be so hard for him up the front. Honestly, you’re right. Cry me a river but this observation is less about the service or airline and more about the behaviour of people onboard.

The golden years of air travel were a luxurious affair reserved for those who would wear suits, blazers and loafers — a stylish and well-mannered affair. Today it’s a little different, with budget airlines, loyalty programs and new money opening up pointy end travel to almost everyone.

That means you’re going to get all walks of life onboard. Just one visit to the iconic Instagram page Passenger Shaming and you’re likely to agree and probably never set foot on a plane ever again.

What’s new, you might ask? Well — while we are veterans at putting our headphones on and zoning out to other people’s antics in Economy — in recent years we’ve noticed some bad behaviour proliferating Business Class too.

Two recent incidents suggest lie-flat travellers are not as classy as they like to think — and they are why I am reluctant to fly business class ever again.

Incident #1

On a recent Qantas flight back from Melbourne to Sydney, I encountered what I call a ‘This my seat now!’ passenger. It was a bizarre moment where I boarded, walked to my seat and… was immediately confused as someone was already sitting in it. The woman didn’t say anything — instead pointing from my window seat to an empty aisle seat across the way.

“I move. You there.”

She had taken it upon herself to move so she could sit next to her husband. Rather than kick up a fuss I took her commands like a little bitch, politely told the flight attendant we had switched and proceeded to hate the world for the next 60 minutes.

The kicker in the situation was her husband. In hindsight, moving was probably a good thing as this gentleman proceeded to cough up a lung every few minutes and use the barf bag to spit in the entire flight. Charming.

Incident #2

Just last week I took a last minute status run from Sydney to Melbourne in order to maintain my frequent flyer status. Totally unnecessary — but a good chance to see the family.

However, upon boarding the aircraft, I noticed the guy sitting next me giving the cabin crew a hard time. Not a good start but none of my business — I put my headphones on and looked busy, as I could tell this was the type of guy who would take any invitation to strike up a long and boring conversation.

Mission accomplished, I asked for a water and sat back to enjoy my rather expensive flight.

Suddenly, halfway through, a stench enveloped my nostrils. Was it a beef burger? Not unless the airline chefs had made an eggy mistake. Was it a can of baked beans? Not unless you like your beans with a side of gross.

I turned down the volume of my music slightly, only to hear one of the most rank noises I’ve ever heard at 38,000 feet. The passenger next to me was happily (and loudly) farting — and he hadn’t even bothered to glance over at me, having assumed my noise-cancelling headphones would render me oblivious to his malfunctioning bowels.

Sorry mate — my Bose headphones are good but they’re not that good. Noise cancelling, yes, but not fart cancelling. I shot him a look dirtier than his gas and a few minutes later he went to the toilet. It was a minor victory but somehow I still felt like a loser. After all: if you want to hear this and fly in a state of discomfort, you don’t need to drop $1,200 to do so…

So what’s the big lesson here? Maybe stop booking Business Class tickets for one hour flights.

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