Viewpoint: Airlines might as well build golden thrones for first-class passengers

By Chris Derrett
Editor in chief

I can satirically say that after receiving a free upgrade to the magical world of first class for the first time in my life, I don’t know how people live with flying in coach.

Within the next five minutes, you’ll come to the conclusion that each amenity provided in first class is absolutely [not] crucial in getting from point A to point B. You’ll wonder how you’ve ever flown in [the much more cost-efficient and practical] coach and lived to tell the tale.

If you regularly fly first class on short-to-medium distance domestic flights, you might be slightly offended. Sorry.

Depending on how you see it, first class is like Texas A&M: it’s either the only way to go or no way to go at all.

The difference is A&M doesn’t come with hot towels, warmed almonds and rosemary chicken.

It only took 30 minutes for first class to make me feel special. The plane had been grounded while maintenance workers signed paperwork, long enough I guess for dehydration to threaten our well-being.

By “our,” of course I only mean the first-class passengers, who were each offered a cold cup of water with a smile.

The folks in coach got nothing more than a view of the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport tarmac and a complementary voice from the cockpit assuring them we’d be in the air “in a few minutes.”

I don’t know where to start when talking about my in-flight experience, so I’ll pick the hot towels.

Yes, those actually exist. No, I didn’t know what they were at first.

They came on a tray, rolled up and looking like puffy, white taquitos.

I applied the “do as the Romans do” idiom, looked around and followed suit as the passengers each grabbed a towel to wipe their fingers.

It should have occurred to me earlier. You can’t settle for paper napkins after enjoying a ceramic cup of mixed nuts, especially when that cup arrives warmed for your comfort.

The warm towels and snack were precursors to the main event: a hot chicken meal with a salad and cheesecake slice. There was also free wine, but accepting it would not have been becoming of a Baylor student. I signed a contract saying I wouldn’t behave that way.

In the course of the flight, my thoughts moved from “cool” to “huh?” to “you’ve got to be kidding me” to “I’m glad their free earphones are blocking the sound of my snickering.”

First class has its benefits, and it’s understandable for someone to want that comfort in a long flight such as New York to London. For two hours, though, is it really that hard to suck it up?

The state of coach cabins is another topic in and of itself. Some might say it’s closer these days to transporting cattle than human beings, though the cattle didn’t pay for their ride.

The state of first-class travel on relatively short trips is laughable. Legroom might prove a worthy cause of paying more, but we just don’t need everything else.

Those extra touches of “service” change the company’s image in my mind from a courteous doorman wishing me a nice day to people waving fans as I sit on a custom-constructed throne.

No thanks.

Chris Derrett is a senior journalism news-editorial major and is the Lariat’s editor in chief.