A Business Class noob's tale of living the high life – and an Economy reality
When an awesome deal lets you experience life beyond those Business Class curtains, you discover – however fleetingly – how much you never knew you wanted extra legroom.
A little more than 20 years ago, I was a university student in Brisbane flying home for a break when the head steward – a friend's father – came up to me and said he would bring me to the front after take-off.
To be honest, I thought Uncle meant to the front row of my Economy section, and although I wondered what the point was, I nodded to be polite.
Turns out, “the front” meant Business Class. He even brought me to the cockpit mid-flight (it was pre-9/11) to say hello to the pilots.
I thought that was the end of my foray into Business Class and that was perfectly fine by me. I was never going to cough up the big bucks to fly Business, no matter how enticing those wide, comfy seats looked. I had come to terms with the fact that my lot in life was just to lightly run my fingers over the plush seats as I made my way to the back of the plane.
Also, I’m short and I don’t need all that leg room. Or so I thought ...
The email came in exactly three days before I was due to fly to Melbourne to celebrate a friend’s 40th birthday. “You’ve been selected for an upgrade, available exclusively to you for the next 72 hours. Upgrade now to Business Class for S$621 per person to enjoy more personalised service and extra comfort on board.”
Firstly, kudos to the airline’s marketing team. It takes skill to make your customers feel like they’ve won a prize, even though they have to pay you for the privilege.
I deliberated for a couple of hours, and thought: Oh, what the heck? It was a special occasion. And, also, #shortlegsmatter.
Apparently, one doesn’t just simply embody a Business Class traveller mindset overnight. That was clear when we queued up for 20 minutes at the Economy check-in counter, only to be reminded that we could have gone to the Business counter where there was no queue.
Rookie mistake. We recovered from this embarrassing faux pas by making sure we boarded the plane earlier than the Economy passengers because we could.
One of the things that immediately stood out was the lack of frantic activity in Business Class. Nobody was rushing you to sit down and not helping you stow your hand luggage. Nobody was standing this close behind you tsk-ing loudly. And I didn't have to give anybody an accidental lap dance while climbing over to get to the middle seat.
I was already expecting better service, gourmet food and comfortable seats, but an unexpected pleasure of being in Business was being served a bowl of warm nuts. I, for one, never knew that I preferred my nuts warm and in a bowl until this experience.
Meal-time was a classy affair with a white tablecloth, and utensils wrapped in a white napkin. There was even a cheese course. After dinner, a member of the cabin crew came by to convert my seat to a bed, complete with a padded mattress and a full-sized pillow.
As it was an overnight flight, I was intent on making sure I spent as much time horizontal as I possibly could. I’m an anxious flier and I tend to not be able to sleep on planes but that night, baby, I slept like a baby.
Oh, and for the record, no matter how short you are, you can always use more leg room. I stand – and also comfortably lie down – corrected.
I was genuinely sad when we touched down, which is not my usual reaction to flying. I’m usually very happy to be on terra firma.
There’s just no way you can enjoy this same level of comfort in Economy. And I know this for sure because, sadly, I flew home at the back of the plane.
I could feel the difference in service immediately. I checked in at the Economy counter (again) and was asked to pay for 1.5kg of excess baggage.
Meanwhile, my friend, who had returned home earlier and had opted to upgrade her flight again, was waved through with a smile, even though her bags were 7kg over the limit. Business Class privilege is a real thing.
After contorting myself into my Economy seat and winning a brief battle against my neighbour for the armrest, I settled into my fate. I guess the hardest thing to come to terms with was that I was no longer special.
When I asked a cabin crew for a drink and she brought me one, the transaction felt cursory. I didn’t feel like she wanted to get me a drink. It was also back to food covered in aluminium foil, and don’t even get me started on the room-temperature nuts. In a bag. It definitely didn’t spark joy.
Jokes aside, I was glad for my Business Class experience. Given the service, comfort and pampering, the S$621 was very well spent. I’ll be on the lookout for more such deals and though I may not be able to take them up all the time, I’m making sure I don't wait another 20 years because that would just be nuts.