Travel

Flying First Class for the First Time

When I printed my boarding pass after checking in online, I was surprised to see the my seat number labeled “Check at Gate.” I didn’t think much of it, and the next day I worked my way through DFW to Gate E30. As boarding began and I realized everyone else knew their seat assignment, I went to the gate desk to ask for help. The man behind the counter looked at my boarding pass, said, “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of you,” and told me to sit down for the next few minutes. The minutes passed, and everyone had boarded the plane but me.

The desk guy butchered my name as he called me to the desk, handed me a new boarding pass, and said, “Enjoy first class.” I checked the slip of paper. Seat 2D. FIRST CLASS?? Hyperventilating with the sort of excitement that fears a cruel joke is just around the corner, I walked onto the plane. Sure enough, two seats from the very front of the aircraft was an empty seat. My seat. 

I’ve never flown first class before, and I doubt I’ll ever pay for it, so I knew I had to make the most of this opportunity. Although first class is not a palace with butlers attending your every need, the experience is full of little touches of class that turn flying into something pleasurable rather than tolerable.

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For starters, there’s the room. My knees were a full foot away from the seat in front of me. Even when they reclined their seat, I had tons of room. I could stretch my legs out as far as possible, and I could swing my legs wide like a man unconcerned with taking up other people’s space. My favorite additional space was a double-wide armrest between myself and the gentleman next to me; we were each able to rest our elbows comfortably and without contact.

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My seat was stocked with a pillow (excellent back support), blanket (unfortunately unnecessary), and a water bottle (fantastic since I’d been too cheap to buy one in the airport terminal). Within five minutes of takeoff, a first class stewardess (and I mean that in both senses of the words) came by, called me by name, and offered me a choice of two meal options. I knew this flight was supposed to be refreshments only, but this was first class. Perhaps normal rules no longer applied?

My self-conscious streak did not want to appear plebeian by simply asking whether or not the meal was complimentary, so I risked a surprise cost and chose the chicken pasta option. A couple minutes later, the stewardess returned with a hot towel so I could cleanse my hands of the ten-minutes worth of airplane germs I had experienced.

Because there were only twelve of us in first class, service was given quickly and often. Within ten minutes of my order, the stewardess came to my seat with a place mat. “You can turn down your table,” she said. I could not, because there was no table attached to the back of the seat in front of me. Noticing my panicked expression, she gestured to my armrest, which folded out like a robotic arm into a table over my lap. She laid the place mat down, and a couple minutes later returned with a tray of food. Real food. With real dishes and silverware, and a linen napkin to place in my lap. I ate like a human being, and the extra arm space meant I wasn’t awkwardly hunched over my meal.

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Within two minutes of my eating my last bite and placing my napkin on the tray, the stewardess reappeared to clear my place. She offered coffee, which I accepted. She brought back a real coffee mug. When that was gone, she asked if I want seconds. Then if I wanted another water bottle. I felt entirely spoiled.

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I loved flying first class, though it struck me as genius that all it took was a tiny bit more room and slightly fancier food containers for me to be thoroughly impressed.  But whatever, I’ll take it!  And I’ll try not to be too entitled during my next two flights by turning to my seatmate and saying, “When I flew first class, they came to check on us every five minutes.  And in first class, we got actual food.  In real dishes.  *sobbing*  I miss it so much!!”

*I assume the reason I was bumped to first class was that, during online check-in, I agreed to consider changing flights.  I didn’t wind up doing so, or even being asked specifically if I would.  But it is the only unusual thing I did while planning this trip, so I assume that’s the trick!  It’s worth trying yourself, just in case.

After eating and spending an hour or so reading, I had to use the restroom. First class has its own bathroom, and I was beginning to wonder if it would be especially spacious or coated in gold. It turns out, no, it is a regular airplane bathroom. However, it is only for first class passengers, which means it was a quick ten-step walk away, and there was never a need to form a waiting line.

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