Every time I board a flight and take my seat in the Economy Class cabin, unbothered as I may want to appear, I never fail to notice the segregation of the classes of travel. It is so obvious that the “immortals” are in First/Business Class while the “mere mortals” are in Economy Class.
So, what exactly makes Business Class travel so coveted and exclusive?
Passengers who fly Business Class pay a premium ton be pampered. While Business Class tickets will cost three to four times more than the Economy Class ticket on average, First Class tickets can easily cost five to six time more.
While these prices may seem like a form of extortion for many Economy Class (also known as “Cattle Class”) patrons, complaining about the overweight or snoring passenger next to you in those cramped non-reclining Economy Class seats with zero legroom won’t earn you an upgrade.
You need to pay for the ticket, or redeem your frequent flyer miles to upgrade to Business Class.
While one may argue that all travelers aboard an aircraft arrive at their destination at the same time despite the different class of cabins, the inescapable fact is that airline differentiate cabins to cater for diverse passenger profiles, thereby deliberately tapping into the primal and emotional senses of their customers.
As an Economy Class traveller, you are put in your place from the check-in point.
First, most airlines have a separate express or priority check-in counter with a red carpet reception for its First/Business Class passengers. Baggage allowance on average for this class is 40 per cent more than the Economy Class provision.
Second, there is the free access to a premium lounge for all First/Business Class passengers as they wait to board. At boarding, these passengers always get priority. By the time Economy Class passengers have all boarded, passengers in First/Business Class will already have had a chilled welcome drink, usually champagne.
While these trappings may seem trivial to many travelers, it is difficult to downplay the service differentiation levels on board. Crew are expected to refer to First/Business Class passengers by their names.
Third, as soon as you board, depending on the aircraft type, the parade through First or Business Class gives you the first sobering moments of travel class differentiation.
Worth noting is the fact that is always the Business Class seats that you cannot fail to notice.
Depending on the airline, these seats are always bigger, swankier and with almost the double leg room as that offered in Economy Class. Further, if it is a long haul flight, you will notice different types of seats in business class; recliner seats, lie flat seats or even complete mini cabins or suites.
Seats and leg room aside, what never fails to surprise me as I walk through First/Business Class, are the facial expressions of the passengers themselves. The bored, carefree but almost snobbish look bordering on being condescending.
As if that were not enough, when the flight has ascended to cruising altitude, the cabin crew draw the divider curtain between the cabins. Sometimes I wonder why they don’t just have a door installed and save us the mere mortals the class drama!
Behind the curtains are a variety of vintage wines selection, three course meals with proper cutlery, pajamas and goose feather duvets for those flat bed seats at nap time for the business traveller.
Most African airlines are not very good when it comes to soothing passengers’ egos. Unlike their European counterparts who offer “premium economy” for passengers midway between Business and Economy Class extremes, most African carriers will only offer two classes of travel; Business Class or “cattle class.”
If you simply cannot afford the Business Class fare, fly frequently with your airline of choice, earn flyer miles and get free upgrades to experience the five-star service with “the immortals” in First/Business Class. It works for me.
This post was earlier published in The East African Magazine Aug 27, 2016 The allure of business class travel