The Playbook For The Modern Man

The Business Class ‘Networking’ Myth You Need To Stop Believing

“Most of the time when I fly I am trying to catch up on sleep. I don’t enjoy conversation with my seatmate when I am trying to relax.”

In a world of alcohol-free cocktails, half strength wine, Crossfit klaxons and milky flat whites, business class is the hedonist’s last refuge.

How else fo you explain the growing trend of devil-may-care pointy end bloggers? The champagne rituals? The endless chase for points?

For that matter… how else do you explain the voracious consumption of million-dollar views and winning smiles by bored office workers unlikely to go further away from their house than the supermarket for the next six months?

Masochism?

Anyway, given the state of our economy (and new health horizons), gyms are the new nightclubs and frugality is the new normal, for many.

Speaking of looking at the world with a less-hungover set of eyes, today we would like to dispel a business class myth that has been kicking around for far too long.

The idea that flying business class opens one up to a world of networking.

We’ve been guilty of this ourselves, even, previously comparing the pointy end to cattle class as follows:

“If flying economy is like spending the night in a dingy dive bar (armrest tussles and all) then flying business-class is like ~vibing~ at an exclusive VIP lounge (purple disco lights included).”

We’ve also written, in regards to the proverbial pointy end, “even if your flight is indefinitely delayed, you’ll be too busy networking with industry big wigs and being shouted tax-payer-funded drinks by corrupt politicians to have an existential chicken edamame crisis.”

A classic 2006 Flyertalk thread, entitled, “Business/First Class passengers’ personalities, characteristics & networking,” however, proves us wrong.

Started by a user called zanzibar, the discussion begins as follows:

“I am considering travelling via one of the upper classes for the first time in my life in the next 6 months. I might go on a world trip or to several continents.”

“I am curious if people in first and business class are in general more talkative than people in economy class? Or can you not make such a stereotype?”

“I am hoping to meet people… while travelling and in the process further my learning of this ‘underground’ world of freelancers, bloggers, FF geeks, and of course, the rich who just buy the tickets with cash.”

“Does anyone have any experiences of interesting people they met travelling in the upper classes, any knowledge they garnered from passengers that they would probably never have garnered in the lower classes, any networking success, any globetrotting miles-accumulating friends they made etc.”

“I met Aubrey de Grey once at the airport and he was quite friendly (surprisingly, I was the only one in that flight to recognize him despite his resemblance to Rasputin)! Unfortunately Mr. de Grey was in the front rows travelling in style, while I was in the back and we had to cut short our conversation once he boarded the plane.”

Comments seen below zanzibar’s post would appear to dispel this myth that business class is a great place to network.

“I’ve never talked to anyone or seen anyone talking in C/F unless they were family,” one wrote.

“Most of the time when I fly I am trying to catch up on sleep. I don’t enjoy conversation with my seatmate when I am trying to relax or to sleep,” wrote another.

“And on many aircraft, such as the pod configuration on AC, there is almost no opportunity to engage in conversation with others.”

Another user pointed out that the people who fly business class are not automatically more useful people to network with: “Are you suggesting that the passengers of the ‘lower classes’ are not as intelligent as those flying in F/C?! One of the most well-travelled FTers is a young Canadian who I believe has never sat in F/C during any of his visits to 100+ countries, but who contributes to many conversations here. I don’t consider him to be less intelligent because of the way he chooses to use his miles.”

“F/C passengers are just like the Y passengers, some are nice, some are a-holes.”

Another commenter broke the situation down into two ideas: “In my experience, people in the ‘comfortable’ classes on aeroplanes are less inclined to be talkative, not more. I’m not sure why that is, but two reasons come to mind.”

RELATED: The Business Class ‘Cone Of Trust’ Has Been Breached & Passengers Are Furious

“One is simply that everyone is less close together so there’s less need to be ‘co-operative’ in ways that are required in Economy – you don’t have to disturb people so much when you get out of your seat, you’re less likely to knock people accidentally, you don’t have to help with things like passing a food tray back to the cabin crew, and so on and so on.”

“Another reason, I think, is that a higher proportion of people travelling in Economy are going on holidays whereas many people who travel in First or Business are travelling for business and, as such, are less likely to be chatty with strangers.”

 

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Finally, one user wrote: “Not to sound like a snob – because I am a very nice guy. I spend most of my waking time on a phone, in meetings, and on the computer (like right now, this is my transition to sleep period)…My day begins at 6am taking care of e-mails I missed in Asia and I have to finalize the Europe ones before they close and begin business in the US. There’s the day-to-day flying around, meetings, approvals, etc. In the evening, Asia opens and the 101 questions arrive in e-mails, I don’t get to bed until 2am/3am and it all begins again…it’s non-stop.”

“Some of airlines have a bar/lounge area – THAT’S where you can go talk. I just think people don’t want to chat, maybe it’s me. You now make me wonder, I haven’t met those eager to chat unless it was a destination like from Paris to Papetee (via LAX), where you will find honeymooners, then they will start to talk …this was a good question.”

“Come to think about it, most of my discussions happen in the lounge before take-off, usually the ‘where you headed, where did you stay, etc.'”

RELATED: The Gentleman’s Guide To Airplane Conversation Etiquette

Frequent flyer and founder of Flight Hacks Immanuel Debeer has also weighed in on this topic, previously telling DMARGE, in his experience, “Most people in the lounge want to keep to themselves and in business class, the reality is that most people are company men and women who’s employer paid for them to fly in business.”

“It’s not like every seat is taken up by some hot entrepreneur, well on their way to becoming the next Google or Facebook.”

“That said, of course, it’s fine to strike up conversations with other people (and there are plenty of nice and interesting people travelling in any class) as long as you can read social clues and know when your small talk isn’t appreciated.”

The more you know…

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