Flying economy is one of life’s greatest pleasures, that no one admits to enjoying. This is because it gives you a rare opportunity to be your absolute worst self, while feeling sorry for yourself the whole time…
Flying economy gets a bad rap. I’m not immune from misjudging it myself either. I’ve spilled countless words bitching about cramped conditions, people reclining their seats while I’m trying to eat, and lewd in flight acts.
Despite all this, I still love flying economy. In fact, I’d even say it’s better than flying business class. I touched on the reason for this earlier this week, when I talked about why watching movies on other peoples’ screens on flights ‘hits different.’
I’m not alone in this belief, with many other people making a similar observation, one even going so far as to say: “I cannot focus on a movie on an airplane unless it is on someone else’s screen…”
The point here is that enjoyment is not always derived from comfort or convenience (otherwise people would just watch movies on their own plane screens), but from simplicity, and a lack of commitment or expectation.
“The variety of entertainment we have at our earlobes at 40,000ft is remarkable. What’s even more remarkable though, is this: despite having our own headsets (and free rein to choose our own movie) many people prefer to watch the latest action flick on someone else’s screen, rather than pick a movie of their own.”Yours Truly
In business class, however, it’s harder to watch movies on someone else’s screen (it’s weirder, and way more obvious). But beyond that, this concept of simplicity is what I’m really getting at – and the reason why I prefer flying economy to business.
Why? Because you know you are in for a hell of a time, potentially even being treated like trash (or if we’re being generous, cattle), you feel free to completely zone out. You also feel justified in acting like a complete self-serving slob, such is the depths of discomfort and depravity you know you are in for. And let’s be real: who doesn’t get a low-key kick out of complaining and feeling sorry for themselves (and then telling everyone you meet on the other end of the flight about the hellish ordeal you went through as if you just got back from Mordor)?
And if you tell me you don’t enjoy kicking that blanket to the floor (before getting cold and asking for a new one), not quite putting your hand towel properly into the bathroom bin (why would I force it all the way in, risking getting germs on my hand, when I could simply leave the problem for someone else?) or wandering down the back of the plane to ask for some extra chips and biscuits, I simply won’t believe you.
In business class on the other hand, because you are being treated so well, and because you have such mind-blowing features on offer, you feel obligated to put in a good showing as a human (a tough ask, I know). On top of that, because you’ve paid so much (or spunked so many points) to be there, you feel a bit of pressure to really enjoy it, or really make the most of it.
In economy, by contrast, the flight is just a means to an end, and there is a blissful lack of pressure. In fact, your expectations (of both the experience, and yourself) are so low that it’s almost inevitable the trip will be better than you thought. It’s like driving a beat-up car. You couldn’t care less if someone scratches it, or dents it. Flying business class, on the other hand, says you care about yourself and take yourself seriously which, if you ask me, sounds exhausting (I’d rather curl up in a ball for 14 hours and pretend I don’t exist).
Another advantage of flying economy class over business class is the food. Now: I know what you’re thinking – of course the food you get in business class is much better than what you get in economy. But – for me – the goal of a long-haul flight is to spend as much of it in an emotionally void fugue state as I can. I like to pretend I’m Harry Potter living in his broom cupboard under the stairs – to disassociate from the uncomfortable experience and convince myself (and the flight attendants), with noise reducing headphones, a steady stream of podcasts and an illegally downloaded music playlist that hasn’t been updated since 2013, that I don’t exist. It’s not quite transcendental meditation, but it’s close…
On that note: say what you like about stomach-curdling cattle class curries: at least they don’t bring you out of this ego-free zone. In business class, however, the champers and chicken edamame salads periodically spark you awake and alert your anxiety, to the point where you start to worry that if you drop off for a second you’ll miss a plate of golden truffles or something. On top of that, because the service is so good, you feel bad for being antisocial, and feel obligated to take your headphones off and smile each time the cabin crew comes around.
Next up on my sh*t list is the bar. That’s right, some international business class flights have bars – some even have bathrooms with showers – onboard. Though you might think this is good, it can cause problems. As DMARGE founder Luc Wiesman once discovered, being seated near the bar can suck balls (he claims he was once kept awake for 15 hours by an Australian TV host, who appeared to be attempting to break David Boone’s record for martinis across the pacific, on one business class flight).
On top of that, economy isn’t the only place where bad behaviour is rife, with Mr Wiesman also having his seat stolen by another business class passenger on yet another flight (as well as having the misfortune to notice a nearby passenger fart on another). Without boring you with further examples, the point is this: ‘passenger shaming’ style behaviour isn’t limited to economy.
Also, business class is not an ego-free zone. As the stereotype goes, business class passengers can be a little more snooty, a little more demanding, and a little less patient. Though this is painting with an unfairly broad brush, I personally think there’s something to it. Speaking of which: being separated from your travelling brethren by a sliding door may sound great, but it leads to missed opportunities. I once woke up with a german backpacker’s head on my shoulder, for instance, during an economy flight from Dubai to Australia. Though I clicked on the wrong Facebook profile when they asked if I could enter my details into their phone, I still look back on the experience fondly (we had a nice conversation that probably would never have happened if we were both in business class).
Finally, travelling economy class is less of an invitation to shove tonnes of food and alcohol down your gullet (something which, if you go overboard with, can leave you feeling less than refreshed upon arrival). As one political editor, who “decided to go for the full six-course menu” in first class, once admitted: “My fellow travellers arrived…fresh as daisies for their meetings” while he rocked up “drunk, dishevelled and desperate to nap.”
That all being said, there are a number of hidden benefits to travelling business class that economy passengers don’t often know about, so it’s swings and roundabouts I guess…