Do you turn left or right when you board your flight? If you are turning left, it would mean you are travelling business/club/premium class, or whatever relevant name the airline gives this ‘more luxurious’ class. Forgetting 1st Class, is it really worth the extra money for, on close examination, very little extra for double, treble or quadruple the fare paid for the proverbial ‘back of the bus’? Perhaps for the business traveller, who is travelling on company time and money it may be, but for the rest of us on the street, it is more than likely not worth the money.
There are many purported ‘benefits’, which in reality frequently don’t exist, or are ignored by the flight operators. Here is a quick round up.
- Dedicated check-in. Yes, in a majority of cases this will be provided so that you don’t have the endless queues suffered by economy passengers. But in other cases, at overseas airports, premium class passengers are not separated from economy passengers at check-in.
- Lounges – again, if you are travelling from London Heathrow or Gatwick, lounges are provided where any passengers holding a club class/premium class ticket can wait in comfort and avail themselves of free drinks and food. Depending on the time of day, the food however varies in quality and quantity. Overseas, there are recorded instances of no food/poor quality food being available and lounges not being cleared of debris and not the cleanest. They can also be very small and crowded.
- Priority boarding. Not always the case in many instances. However, this is not always a bad thing if flight loading is done the appropriate entrances for that particular class. If all the aircraft entrances are used for anyone, you could have hundreds of passengers squeezing past, dropping things on you and a relatively uncomfortable time! This also applies to the toilets – if it becomes a free for all with the bathrooms located just behind the cockpit, the queues can form if economy passengers are allowed to use them.
- Service on Board. Generally pleasant and efficient as there are so many crew designated to this part of the aircraft. However, apart from a glass or more of champagne, the food on many airlines does not generally display any real elegance or quality, and rarely excels over that supplied in economy. There will be more than one choice, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you will get what you choose so you may end up going hungry if you don’t like the second choice. In spite of top chefs and Michelin stars, the food almost certainly does not reflect this, so it is surprising that many of these chefs put their name to it.
- Seat Pitch and leg-room. You can expect wider seats and more comfort, but certain seat numbers do have drawbacks, and in the case of British Airways, you are never likely to get seats in the first row, unless you are an Executive Gold Cardholder. If you are travelling with a child/children, you may also find it difficult to sit together. If the club class on your particular flight is very busy, the partition will be moved back, and you may well find yourself sitting closer to Row 20 than Row 1, somewhat defeating the object of the exercise. Priority offload of baggage. In theory your bags should come off first, but this is somewhat of a lottery. Bags are loaded to strict planning and take-off weight, so you could queue at the carousel just like everyone else. At the time of writing, the author has travelled 7 times in club class this year so far, and not once were the bags offloaded first, a total waste of the red priority tag put on the bags. No chance of cut and run for a busy schedule.
These are just a few of the ‘anomalies’ travellers have experienced when paying large sums of money to travel at the front, and feel like royalty. If you are travelling long-haul, there are possible advantages in comfort, but frankly, the vast sums of extra money are simply not worth raiding your wallet for. Surely for all that extra money, you should receive better than only 20% of the benefits?
But it is not all doom and gloom, and certain airlines should be praised for excelling in providing top class business services to their travellers. If you are travelling to the Middle or Far East, you could be the lucky ones if you choose Emirates, Etihad, Qatar Airlines or Singapore Airlines. Year after year these airlines win the top accolades as reported by Skytrax, a leading aviation consumer website. These airlines and others such as Cathay and ANA Nippon are top-ranked for state of the art aircraft and consumer comfort. It’s worth checking out all airlines before choosing your business class flight. It seems like the true long distance airlines are succeeding in making happy passengers.
In terms of Europe, you really will not get ‘your mile for your money’.
Written by Bev C