how the rich fly
September 30, 2014 2:55 PM   Subscribe

what it's like to fly the $23,000 Singapore Airlines Suites Class (includes lots of photos)
In 2008, Singapore Airlines introduced their Suites Class, the most luxurious class of flying that is commercially available. The Suites were exclusive to their flagship Airbus A380, and they go beyond flat beds by offering enclosed private cabins with sliding doors that cocoon you in your own little lap of luxury. The interior was designed by French luxury yacht designer Jean-Jacques Coste and comes along with a plush soft leather armchair hand-stitched by the Italian master craftsmen Poltrona Frau. Perhaps most well-known of all, Singapore Airlines became the first and only commercial airline with a double bed in the sky.

However, the experience came with a hefty price tag. With round-trip tickets costing up to S$23,000 (or US$18,400), it was completely unattainable for most people. Formerly, the only way for an average person to fly in the Suites was to take out a bank loan. And then I remembered that most of my personal net worth exists in frequent flier miles rather than cash.

So in September 2014, after splurging an colossal amount of miles… I was booked on Suites Class to NYC! This is my trip in photos.
Flightfox - The 24 Best First-Class Cabins
(includes photos, prices, breakdown of amenities offered, and a "rockstar factor" rating)

New Yorker - Game of Thrones: How airlines woo the one per cent

Condé Nast Traveler - All That Money Can Buy: "...how—and where—the top 0.01 percent travel, and... what it’s like to vacation like a billionaire"

The American Prospect - Et Tu, Jet Blue? The Airlines' War on the 99%
"Yes, air travel is getting even worse for regular people. That's because the wealthy are taking up all the space."

Crain's Chicago Business - Another place wealth gap is at its widest: in the air
"...some of the most cherished new international first-class perks have nothing to do with meals, drinks or seats. Global airlines are increasingly rewarding wealthy fliers with something more intangible: physical distance between them and everyone else. The idea is to provide an exclusive experience — inaccessible, even invisible, to the masses in coach. It's one way that a gap between the world's wealthiest 1 percent and everyone else has widened."
posted by flex (175 comments total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
 
I like how even if you shell out $23,000 for a plane ticket, you still have the character string "MR" randomly appended to the end of your first name on your ticket, giving you a minor panic attack while wondering if the TSA will let you into/out of the country with a name of lies. Solidarity forever!
posted by threeants at 3:09 PM on September 30, 2014 [11 favorites]


I'm reminded of King Joffrey travelling around in his curtained sedan chair.
posted by sobarel at 3:09 PM on September 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


Here's my one piece of business advice: if you're going to start a business, it helps if your target market is price insensitive.
posted by GuyZero at 3:09 PM on September 30, 2014 [8 favorites]


It's not exactly invisible if you are sitting back in Economy because they WILL run a commercial for Suites every time you select a movie or tv show to watch on demand. Just because.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 3:10 PM on September 30, 2014


My understanding was that business/first class is almost all tickets bought with miles/elite program upgrades rather than straight up cash... is that not the case?
posted by kmz at 3:11 PM on September 30, 2014


Damn, totally need to do that and say my name is Lord roomthreeseventeen.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:11 PM on September 30, 2014


Stuff like this always makes me wish I had a job which let me build up a ton of frequent flyer miles.

I wonder how they deal with turbulence? Do they come Velcro strap you into the bed? Or do you just fly out of the bed if it gets bad enough.
posted by emptythought at 3:12 PM on September 30, 2014


Given the choice, would you swap that Singapore experience for one LHR-JFK sector on Concorde?
posted by Devonian at 3:16 PM on September 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


And man, I appreciate him taking one for the team, but I can't imagine having an ungodly amount of frequent flier miles and wanting to spend it on this instead of, like, 25 free flights.
posted by threeants at 3:16 PM on September 30, 2014 [20 favorites]


This irks me for several reasons, but the worst is that only 3 of the 12 suites were occupied.

The other thing that bothers me is that, ok he used frequent flyer miles. But $19,000 worth of frequent flyer miles is still worth quite a few flights (and this is a guy who clearly flies a lot). So there is some exchange rate that means this flight was still several thousand dollars in opportunity cost.
posted by 2bucksplus at 3:17 PM on September 30, 2014


Presumably he lives in Singapore and I guess he probably doesn't take a vacation to New York very often for the obvious reason that it's really far away. Plus he seems young and well-off so I expect he doesn't see anything as an opportunity cost really.
posted by GuyZero at 3:20 PM on September 30, 2014


Just curious, but what does a private charter jet cost for the same route?
posted by wcfields at 3:22 PM on September 30, 2014 [9 favorites]


The world's most expensive and luxurious flight and still they hand you fucking Toblerone.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 3:25 PM on September 30, 2014 [56 favorites]


I kind of wish everything on that menu included a carbon price tag. Everything involving flying comes with a carbon price tag to match. That steak was already carbon insensitive. Now package it, prep it, and fly it around the world at 36,000 feet. Granted it was on a more efficient A380, but still. The planet burns because of our audacity.
posted by msbutah at 3:26 PM on September 30, 2014 [10 favorites]


And Illy coffee. Blurgh.
posted by sobarel at 3:26 PM on September 30, 2014 [8 favorites]


Man, I remember when I got to fly the top Virgin Atlantic tier and they sent a limo with a Bar to pick me up.

That's a good feeling to have.
posted by The Whelk at 3:26 PM on September 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


Funny thing is, you can book a one-way, 16-day transatlantic cruise for around $400 total in the off-season (if going with two) and have a very similar experience, minus the free booze. That's sixty of those for the price of one flight.

Also, I find it odd that people are so willing to treat their flight points as the equivalent of arcade tickets. You could very easily trade them in for real cash, albeit at a loss. Why waste money on pointless extravagance?
posted by archagon at 3:27 PM on September 30, 2014 [6 favorites]


Just curious, but what does a private jet cost for the same route?

What most people think of as a private jet wouldn't have the range. Total distance from Singapore to New York is just under 10,000 miles, your average Cessna or Gulfstream has a range between 2,000-3,500 miles. Therefore, a private jet would have to stop and refuel at least 3-5 times. That's the reason celebs still fly "commercial" (or whatever this is) for long distances.
posted by 2bucksplus at 3:28 PM on September 30, 2014 [14 favorites]


Through the entire flight, the attendants check on you almost every 3 minutes without being intrusive or annoying.

That sounds like hell to me. Can you pay more to have them leave you alone?
posted by dilaudid at 3:28 PM on September 30, 2014 [6 favorites]


pointless extravagance

Extravagance is its own point
posted by The Whelk at 3:29 PM on September 30, 2014 [33 favorites]


I flew in Air Canada's International First Class a couple of times, but it was nowhere near as fancy as Singapore or Emirates and the like.

The thing I remember most about it, though, was how many of the people in the first class lounge were stuffing their carry-ons full of off-brand potato chips and such. I've never been able to determine if they were people who could afford to fly first class because they were greedy in the rest of their lives or if they were in first class on Aeroplan points and just milking it for every last dime.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:30 PM on September 30, 2014 [10 favorites]


I was fine with this up until I read the following "At airports in Paris, London, Istanbul, Bangkok, Sydney and elsewhere, airlines offer their top passengers fast-track cards allowing them to speed past immigration lines."

I know this happens for private jets, that they land in places where they are met by immigration and then just get in a vehicle, but this really bothers me. It feels like the implementation of the PlatinumPlus Citizenship that the Onion wrote about back in the Clinton era.
posted by Hactar at 3:31 PM on September 30, 2014 [11 favorites]


That sounds like hell to me. Can you pay more to have them leave you alone?

He says there's a Do Not Disturb button. But, yeah, I'd feel incredibly uncomfortable in this situation. And guilty.

Not cut out for the 1%.
posted by sobarel at 3:31 PM on September 30, 2014 [5 favorites]


Just curious, but what does a private charter jet cost for the same route?

It's over 9,500 miles for a direct flight, more to go through Frankfurt like this. I think the 777 LR is the only place in the world that can cover this distance in a single flight. An Embraer Lineage 1000 (which is a pretty huge private plane) can only cover 4,400 miles. From that site it costs roughly $6 per mile flown in fuel alone which is $57,000, plus costs of the crew time and whatever fraction of the plane you pay for.

So Singapore Airlines cabins is a great deal relative to that.
posted by GuyZero at 3:32 PM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


Just curious, but what does a private charter jet cost for the same route?

Singapore to NYC is about 21 hours. A fractional jet card apparently runs $120,000 for 25 hours, but that depends on what size jet. Even a G650 will not make it in one hop.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:32 PM on September 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


The price is insane, the staffing downright servile, the elaborateness and richness of the food reminiscent of gout-inducing medieval royal feasting, and the accommodations almost absurdly cushy. But I enjoyed how much he enjoyed it. I almost get the sense he got his money's worth.

On the other hand, given the right attitude, maybe he could have had just as much fun playing in a water fountain like the smiling dog on one of the posts on the blue today.
posted by bearwife at 3:33 PM on September 30, 2014 [19 favorites]


Most likely the guy was acquiring massive miles by wonking the frequent flyer system. Until recently it was very commonly possible to book cheap discount flights and come away with flyer miles worth double or triple the cost of the airfare. My wife used to do this and she's flown to Africa First Class three times.

Thing is a lot of those loopholes have been closed and those flyer miles are likely to be worth a lot less in the near future, so it's not insane to splurge them now while they're worth enough to cover something like this.
posted by localroger at 3:34 PM on September 30, 2014 [10 favorites]


This site says a Gulfstream 550, which has that kind of range, would rent for $8,600 an hour. So around $150,000. Plus you'd probably have to pay a considerable amount for the empty return flight while you're on your trip. It could easily be ten times as much as renting this cabin.
posted by miyabo at 3:36 PM on September 30, 2014


He's misinformed. Flying is where you sit in a terrible little seat for a few hours while a baby cries and you have to measure your own increasingly uncomfortable bladder versus disturbing the miserable father of the baby who is trying to get an hour of sleep by leaning himself on the tray table and passing out. At the halfway point they begrudingly serve you a quarter glass of ginger ale and two bags of "snack like" cardboard.
posted by codacorolla at 3:36 PM on September 30, 2014 [19 favorites]


Given the amount of side-eye that I am unable to contain just passing through the "regular" first class cabin on the way to economy, I'm pretty sure that if I saw this in person my pupil would be peeking out of my ear.
posted by threeants at 3:38 PM on September 30, 2014 [8 favorites]


I was fine with this up until I read the following "At airports in Paris, London, Istanbul, Bangkok, Sydney and elsewhere, airlines offer their top passengers fast-track cards allowing them to speed past immigration lines."

I know this happens for private jets, that they land in places where they are met by immigration and then just get in a vehicle, but this really bothers me. It feels like the implementation of the PlatinumPlus Citizenship that the Onion wrote about back in the Clinton era.


This is something that has been done for decades - in the age of the steamers, first class would be processed in their staterooms by immigration agents who would board the vessel to do so.

Everything old is new again.
posted by NoxAeternum at 3:38 PM on September 30, 2014 [8 favorites]


"Entering the confines of The Private Room, the staff greeted me by name."

I had this experience at Disneyland on my birthday, where you can get a button with your name on it that says, "It's my birthday!" Employees then tell you happy birthday even if they're just casually walking by.

I liked it for the first five times or so, and I think it's a neat service, but I probably wouldn't do it again as it sort of stressed me out when I got Disney-fatigue at the end of the day.

More on point, I love how Derek Low documented every segment of his trip, from the tickets to the meal to the hallways, lounges, goodies, etc., documentary-style. Makes it a strong post because it offers us everything on a platter. Nice find!
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 3:40 PM on September 30, 2014 [5 favorites]


Isn't there a first class beyond this even? I could have sworn there was an article in the NYT this summer about how the 1% travels and they showed photos of one airline that offered shower stalls in first class, but I can't remember which airline it was.
posted by mathowie at 3:42 PM on September 30, 2014


Most amazing thing about this story was how much fucking food this dude put away.
posted by Arch_Stanton at 3:42 PM on September 30, 2014 [60 favorites]


Good looking food too.
posted by The Whelk at 3:44 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


The price is insane, the staffing downright servile, the elaborateness and richness of the food reminiscent of gout-inducing medieval royal feasting, and the accommodations almost absurdly cushy. But I enjoyed how much he enjoyed it. I almost get the sense he got his money's worth.

That's kinda how I felt, moreso after he showed that the airline expected real royalty to fly with them--people used to such excess and servility. The existence of kings is hatesome and obnoxious, but living like a king for a day must be a fun treat. He really did seem to be smiling from ear to ear.
posted by Thing at 3:44 PM on September 30, 2014 [5 favorites]


Most amazing thing about this story was how much fucking food this dude put away.

Amen. He frickin' gorged himself. I can't even start to put an estimate on it. Maybe 20,000 Calories? And almost zero physical activity? I would have gained five pounds.

My hat is off to you, Derek Low.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:45 PM on September 30, 2014 [6 favorites]


The author, Derek Low, first achieved internet fame for his "ridiculously tricked-out dorm room", which can be viewed here on YouTube. That video got him 10 internship offers from a variety of tech firms. More recently he used a drone to film "the ultimate Singapore selfie," as well as the "greatest graduation selfie of all time".. He's also done the Trans-Siberian Railroad and the Galapagos Islands. And more, scroll down the front page of his site. He might be gainfully employed, but my Google-Fu has not yet discovered how.
posted by beagle at 3:47 PM on September 30, 2014 [20 favorites]


Derek is the CEO of Learnyard.
posted by GuyZero at 3:50 PM on September 30, 2014


Ah, and here is the precocious Mr. Low.
posted by beagle at 3:51 PM on September 30, 2014


I would have gained five pounds.

You just take some speed and cigarettes and don't eat for a few days, what?
posted by The Whelk at 3:52 PM on September 30, 2014 [5 favorites]


That Trans-Siberian Railroad journey is like the antimatter to the Singapore Suite matter.
posted by sobarel at 3:54 PM on September 30, 2014 [7 favorites]


I stopped shopping at Safeway because it creeped me out the cashiers I had never met before kept referring to me by name. I don't think I'm cut out for this sort of thing.
posted by ckape at 3:55 PM on September 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


Emirates First Class features a shower spa, Mathowie
posted by donovan at 4:03 PM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


I thought this article was hilarious. And fun, and well written. I realize the Metafilter Brigades have to hate this because it's disgustingly wealthy and indulgent. But FWIW, I suspect the folks working this cabin have some of the best jobs in Singapore Airlines. Itself one of the better airlines in operation.

Personally I'd pass all this luxury up for a side-effect-free pill that knocked me out, I arrived at my destination as if the flight never happened. They can stack me like cordwood for all I care. Or for $23,000 wouldn't it be nice to get something that travels faster than Mach 0.8? RIP, Concorde.
posted by Nelson at 4:06 PM on September 30, 2014 [25 favorites]


Also, I find it odd that people are so willing to treat their flight points as the equivalent of arcade tickets. You could very easily trade them in for real cash, albeit at a loss. Why waste money on pointless extravagance?

Some things are once-in-a-lifetime experiences. In my dad's case, he traded his miles for a ticket on one of the remaining BA Concorde flights, before it was shut down. It was fun seeing him unpack all the swag they hand out to Concorde passengers.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 4:07 PM on September 30, 2014 [13 favorites]


I nearly had to fly for my Corp at the last minute to Singapore. It was the end of Ramadan and the beginning of the Grand Prix. The only flights left weren't these ridiculous seats, but it was pretty close

I was also booked at a hotel I don't recall much of. Other than it said is was staying at the "presidential suite".

I ended up doing the work remotely, but holy shit that would have been an expensive trip.
posted by clvrmnky at 4:07 PM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


The thing I remember most about it, though, was how many of the people in the first class lounge were stuffing their carry-ons full of off-brand potato chips and such. I've never been able to determine if they were people who could afford to fly first class because they were greedy in the rest of their lives or if they were in first class on Aeroplan points and just milking it for every last dime.

The grabbing hands grab all they can. All for themselves. After all It's a competitive world. Everything counts in large amounts. The graph on the wall tells the story of it all. Picture it now.
posted by srboisvert at 4:10 PM on September 30, 2014 [33 favorites]


Ah well if it comes to it we're all plummeting to our deaths together anyway.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:14 PM on September 30, 2014


On Emirates you get a shower spa and an ejector seat.
posted by sobarel at 4:16 PM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


Of course, even hotels that cater mostly to the run-of-the-mill affluent are used to meeting the needs of the super-rich. No request surprises staff at the Beverly Hills Hotel, where one wealthy guest insisted that they speak to his dog in “dog language” (“Woof, woof, woof, woof!”) and a European family of four who stayed for a month demanded new bed linens every day. Not just freshly laundered linens but never-before-used. “We had to break out of our stores 90 sets of linens and take a room out of commission to keep them in” so the guests could see the packages of unused sheets, says Edward Mady, the hotel’s general manager. Each set had to be pre-washed in a special detergent. “It was a doozy.”

That's it. I'm going to become a billionaire just so I can afford to find out who these people are, track them down, and punch all of them in the nose.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:18 PM on September 30, 2014 [49 favorites]


Personally I'd pass all this luxury up for a side-effect-free pill that knocked me out, I arrived at my destination as if the flight never happened.

This is more or less how I fly. As soon as I sit down in an airplane seat, I almost immediately pass out and often don't wake up until the plane is descending to land. I should probably be upset that economy/pleb class has gotten more cramped and terrible over the course of my lifetime, but it just doesn't effect me; I'm unconscious for most of the experience. The only downside to airplane-induced narcolepsy is that it completely wrecks my sleep schedule once I get where I'm going, more so than normal jet lag.
posted by strangecargo at 4:21 PM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


Didn't you watch LOST? The coach parts of the plane are the parts that have airfoils attached to them.
posted by ckape at 4:23 PM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


I love any comment that quotes DM!

I think it must be like a personality sorter: Does Sir/Madam enjoy being fussed over? Y/N
For those of us who do not like being fussed over, no amount of comfort is worth the constant interference and fussing. I saw a thing on some kind of World's Most Luxurious Hotels program, and was almost instantly sold on one they featured. It was in an old palace, probably somewhere like Jaipur, all internal courtyards, peacocks and glowing stone, but the dream was shattered when they reveal that staff stationed far above scatter you with rose petals on arrival. Please. What the fuck. How embarrassing. But I suppose there must be people who go nuts for this sort of nonsense.

I am minutes away from bothering someone like Branson via Twitter about why there are such poor choices on international flights. You can either sit in the back on wooden benches and have your PassengerGruel served in a bucket, or it's up the front with the aristos sitting on unborn calf leather and raw silk, wasting food; and the prices are stupidly far apart. Economy travel is pretty affordable, imo, but first is insanely, stupidly more expensive. What if you just want a little more room, NOT some kind of stupid exercise in indulgence? I'd pay more for more space - but not for a lot of trashy, look-at-how-rich-I-am nonsense.
posted by thylacinthine at 4:25 PM on September 30, 2014 [19 favorites]


On most domestic US carriers you can get three extra inches of legroom for a tolerable price - not pleasant, but not extortionate. Of course that doesn't keep the elbows of the large guy next to you out of your rib cage, and every inch you get is an inch the seats in full pleb class lost.
posted by wotsac at 4:29 PM on September 30, 2014


How do you not interview the two other jerk-offs in Suites Class with you.
posted by phaedon at 4:29 PM on September 30, 2014 [13 favorites]


So the first thing I thought of was that super cool jet thing from Agents of SHEILD where they have little plane cubicles. That seemed pretty cool.

I'm afraid to look at these pics bc they might make the Marvel superhero plane seem boring.
posted by sio42 at 4:31 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


Thing is a lot of those loopholes have been closed and those flyer miles are likely to be worth a lot less in the near future, so it's not insane to splurge them now while they're worth enough to cover something like this.
indeed. The general advice that I give to any new frequent flyer is to treat your points like cash in a bank account with negative interest. Every year sees airlines increasing their redemption targets and elite status mileage tiers. You may accumulate a ton of points because you're tied to a job that keeps you on the road all the time but, for the love of God, don't hold on to them while waiting for that golden opportunity to take a round-the-world vacation. By the time you get around to them, the redemption targets may just rise high enough to eat at your dreams.

For me personally, I prefer spending my airline points on fancy hotels. Why spend 20 hours in a windowless double bed sitting inside a metal tube, for the same number of points, you can get a week in a suite at a Four Seasons with a stellar view of the city of your choice?

Put me in the category of mourning the Concorde. The best perk in air travel is getting you to your destination as quickly as possible.
posted by bl1nk at 4:34 PM on September 30, 2014 [7 favorites]


"Entering the confines of The Private Room, the staff greeted me by name."


Shit, American used to do that flying first class back at the turn of the century when I still flew commercially...
posted by mikelieman at 4:36 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think it must be like a personality sorter: Does Sir/Madam enjoy being fussed over? Y/N

At some spas you can customize the fussy interaction, you indicate on a form what level you'd like - from full on "chatty aren't we friends let me lift your arms for you" to "stone cold silence/barely visible except only when needed."
posted by The Whelk at 4:41 PM on September 30, 2014 [6 favorites]


So, what would happen if an airline broke from the pack and said: from now on we're EgalitAir. No different classes. Everyone pays the same price. Everyone's guaranteed decent food, adequate room and a comfy - if not luxurious - seat.

They could get more seats onboard, and there'd be standardised and more efficient service. No more special VIP staff or spa lounges at every airport. No more hot and cold running lobster tails.

Would losing the handful of people who can regularly travel like Mr Low really matter to the bottom line?
posted by sobarel at 4:46 PM on September 30, 2014 [7 favorites]


JetBlue was kinda that for a while, now they have Mint Class and I worry.

The thing is, easy access to cheap airfare has become such a Thing now I think you could continue to downgrade the coach service and skim the fat from the top passengers basically forever.
posted by The Whelk at 4:52 PM on September 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


Reminds me of this older subnormality comic over at the airport.
posted by poe at 4:53 PM on September 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


So, what would happen if an airline broke from the pack and said: from now on we're EgalitAir. No different classes. Everyone pays the same price. Everyone's guaranteed decent food, adequate room and a comfy - if not luxurious - seat.

That would look something like JetBlue, the original "one class" airline: and just last week their CEO was sort-of forced out for being unable to maximize profits/passenger. Now JetBlue is poised to add a baggage-fee, charge for Wi-Fi and most damningly: squeeze more seats on their planes.
posted by 2bucksplus at 4:54 PM on September 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


Southwest kind of does that, sobarel. The food doesn't really exist apart from little snacks but you can have as many as you like. There are no assigned seats - everybody lines up at the gate. It's a very different kind of experience. My friend who weighs two and a half times me and has linebacker shoulders can't fit in their seats. He buys business and first class tickets for the room. In the past he's taken a 1st class Alaska Airlines flight the same time I've done Southwest to the same destination.
posted by Mizu at 4:55 PM on September 30, 2014


JetBlue is/was my favorite domestic airline for the no nonsense, basically comfortable and easy service for everyone but yeah- changing.
posted by The Whelk at 4:56 PM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


There are no assigned seats - everybody lines up at the gate.

But you can buy an earlier position in line.
posted by grouse at 4:57 PM on September 30, 2014


Oh well. I didn't know about JetBlue. Don't think there's anything like that on this side of the Atlantic where you have a choice between "proper" airlines of the Lufthansa variety and "budget" airlines of the RyanAir variety, in which you certainly don't get decent food, seats or legroom.
posted by sobarel at 4:57 PM on September 30, 2014


My conclusion from this is that the One Percent like to be alone and constantly drunk.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:58 PM on September 30, 2014 [13 favorites]


I have had enough problems with overhead bins that I will always buy my place in line.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:58 PM on September 30, 2014


My conclusion from this is that the One Percent like to be alone and constantly drunk.

Maybe I am cut out for it after all...
posted by sobarel at 4:59 PM on September 30, 2014 [38 favorites]


My friend who weighs two and a half times me and has linebacker shoulders can't fit in their seats.

According to a friend who has to do it, Southwest is actually pretty easy to navigate two-seat ticketing, and they refund your second seat if the plane isn't full. She's always gotten the refund.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:00 PM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


My conclusion from this is that the One Percent like to be alone and constantly drunk.

and my girlfriend says I'm not aspirational!
posted by Think_Long at 5:00 PM on September 30, 2014 [8 favorites]


I hate people with loads of money as much as anybody else hates them but I had thirty grand sitting there blocking my view of the telly you bet your ass I would blow it on an airplane suite.
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:01 PM on September 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


My conclusion from this is that the One Percent like to be alone and constantly drunk

There are also drugs and garish sports clothing.
posted by The Whelk at 5:04 PM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


"When I woke up, I saw the clock and my heart sank. A little over 3 hours to Frankfurt. I'd slept for 6 hours, or $6,000 worth of the flight."

My heart would've sank more when I woke up and noticed we were over Ukraine, and been more than a little bit nervous at that point.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 5:06 PM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


Iced Milo!

God I love Singapore.
posted by Jimbob at 5:07 PM on September 30, 2014 [6 favorites]


My dad used to fly internationally a lot in the 60s/70s/80s (he was an outside oilfield chemicals sales executive and did a lot of business all over the world). While many of the details are over the top, the quality of the experience doesn't sound that crazy to me for super-first-class based on the stories I remember from my dad and the times I flew with him. People now think of airplane flights as a nasty cattle car experience, because they generally are--see all the stories about people fighting over whether or not they lean back the seats--but there was a time when flight was a luxury and everybody was treated well, or they just didn't fly. First class on a nice flight meant delicious food, china, free drinks, etc.

(Also totally not surprised that it's Singapore Airlines. I never flew them, but the rep they had even back when my dad was alive was that their service was fantastically lavish and attentive to detail.)
posted by immlass at 5:07 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


There are also drugs and garish sports clothing.

If bad quality weed and tracky bottoms count then most people round here have them, and are definitely not part of the global elite.
posted by sobarel at 5:08 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


I got to fly Virgin Upper Class from L.A. to London, twice. This was for work; I didn't have to pay for any of it. This was 10 years ago, so I'm sure things have gotten more luxurious.

Things I didn't expect:

* A limo picked me up at my house. There was another limo waiting for me in London. Every leg of the trip was limo'd.
* They board the plane with the "normal" passengers first. They seat all those people and then come fetch you from the bar. So, they make everyone wait for you to arrive. If you're wondering why there was a delay in pushback while you got an early start on the 12-hour fight for the armrest ... sorry.
* There was a walk-up bar aboard the plane.
* There was an on-board massage therapist. DUDE.
* In the Heathrow Lounge, there were showers, a bar, a restaurant, chillout rooms, a beauty salon (mani-pedi? sure!) and yet another massage therapist.
* They have their own customs and check-in lanes. No waiting. For anything.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:09 PM on September 30, 2014 [10 favorites]


He got served Iced Milo??

brb booking a flight
posted by Quilford at 5:10 PM on September 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


Side note, I don't think he ate all that much over the course of a day or so. The portions are just over tasting menu size, and the biggest thing he pictures is either the burger (which Applebee's would call a "slider") or the perfectly reasonable looking bowl of fish soup.
posted by ftm at 5:14 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yah, that's what I like to call a light supper chez Sobarel.
posted by sobarel at 5:19 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oh, Singapore Airlines. Their first class product is obviously beyond mere mortals' comprehension but even their economy class product is way above anything that I've ever taken on any American airline.

I was really sad when Singapore Airlines ceased their Los Angeles-Taipei service: with my immediate family in LA and all my dad's side of the family in Taiwan, LAX-TPE was by the far the most likely super-long-haul (10+ hours) flight that I would usually take, and the service quality is excellent.
posted by andrewesque at 5:20 PM on September 30, 2014


...from now on we're EgalitAir. No different classes. Everyone pays the same price.

That price would be high, near business class levels. And therefore normal people wouldn't pay it and still squeeze themselves into crappy economy because $400 for a round trip ticket is already a lot of money for a normal person.

Airlines have much higher margins on fancy-class passengers.
posted by the jam at 5:26 PM on September 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


I hadn't heard about the shakeup at JetBlue. Depressing! Flying JetBlue is wonderful, it'll be a shame if it becomes like flying any other airline.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:26 PM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


Wow, Singapore Airlines must be very lucky for such unpaid promotion of their service that nobody seems to be using!
posted by destro at 5:27 PM on September 30, 2014 [6 favorites]


Actually JetBlue started out as a one-class-for-everyone airline and only recently added a better class. Even then they only offer their "Mint" service on trans-continental flights from LAX or SFO to JFK. So there is such an airline.
posted by GuyZero at 5:29 PM on September 30, 2014


Ok, I finally looked. That whole sliding wall thing is awesome. If you were with your partner/trophySO you could each watch your own tv. I'm sure there's nothing on anyways, but wow. It is the future and it's for the rich.

People like Zaf amaze me. I'm way too grumpy to ever have a job like that. I'm mostly unable to be convincingly nice unless I've had a nap and alcohol and/or caffeine. Maybe Zaf had those...
posted by sio42 at 5:30 PM on September 30, 2014


Oops, missed the earlier JetBlue comments. basically it sucks being an airline surprisingly enough. It's the quintessential example for using Porter's "Five Forces" model of business analysis to show how they always get forced into unprofitability.
posted by GuyZero at 5:30 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


The cook-to-order thing seems much smarter for this level of food. Otherwise I assume they throw out a massive amount of high quality food.
posted by smackfu at 5:32 PM on September 30, 2014


...from now on we're EgalitAir. No different classes. Everyone pays the same price.
MidWest Express used to be like this. All the seat were the same, and they used what amounts to first class seats. Was great, but their hub was Milwaukee, so...
posted by Eddie Mars at 5:32 PM on September 30, 2014


Salvatore Ferragamo annuity kit, which included a full-sized bottle of cocaine.

is how I read it.
posted by salad at 5:34 PM on September 30, 2014 [5 favorites]


Airlines have much higher margins on fancy-class passengers.

Well, this article made me wonder about that. There were three of them on this flight, with two dedicated staff, their own special airport lounge, constant food and drink. Are the airlines really making money out of them, or is it a bit of a prestige thing?
posted by sobarel at 5:36 PM on September 30, 2014


Is there anything more quintessentially Singaporean than the combination of Milo and Dom Perignon?
posted by DoctorFedora at 5:42 PM on September 30, 2014 [9 favorites]


If Singapore Air can't get the usage levels up they won't keep it, but first-class passengers are more valuable than business class are more valuable than economy. They do take up more space, but they don't weigh more; they don't take much more baggage, they don't eat much more food, or use much more water. And they also tend to travel more, and are less price-sensitive. Airlines aren't very profitable: you should assume that everything they do has been thoroughly costed.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:45 PM on September 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'd like to thank the thread for informing me about Milo (which I shall no longer solely associate with Catch 22) and the various US airlines which had already run my business plan into the ground before I'd even thought of it!
posted by sobarel at 5:47 PM on September 30, 2014


Milo is basically Cola Cao, yes?
posted by poffin boffin at 5:51 PM on September 30, 2014


And omg I think I have enough miles to do this, although it would have to be on a OneWorld airline.
posted by poffin boffin at 5:52 PM on September 30, 2014


Salvatore Ferragamo annuity kit, which included a full-sized bottle of cocaine.

Just ask your friendly personal flight attendant/masseuse and they will hook you up.
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:53 PM on September 30, 2014


Milo is basically Cola Cao, yes?

You mean rapido, delicioso, and nutritivo? You betcha!
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:54 PM on September 30, 2014


I had enough miles for Global First Hawaii to Europe once, 19 hours, and it was wonderful ... even though it didn't really compare to this.

It's worth it. I don't know the mileage breakdown for this, but I don't think it's a simple as "one flight in suites = 20 economy flights." For most American airlines a First Class ticket on miles is less than double the miles on an economy ticket, but the experience is a world away.
posted by kanewai at 5:57 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oh man, Singapore Airlines. I had the opportunity to fly business class on multiple occasions and it was so nice that I was sad when the flight was over. I absolutely love that he paired the DP with iced Milo, which was one of my favorite things about Singapore. The Singapore Sling, OTOH, is terrible, whether it be aboard an airplane or among the peanuts at Raffles.
posted by grumpybear69 at 5:58 PM on September 30, 2014


He says there's a Do Not Disturb button. But, yeah, I'd feel incredibly uncomfortable in this situation. And guilty.

Yep. I couldn't do this because I would spend the whole flight worried that I would seem greedy if I asked for any more food, and I don't really want to put the flight attendants out by asking them to make my bed so I'll just sit here in the seat and try to sleep like that. And I won't ask for another coffee because that stuff looks expensive, it must cost them a fortune.
posted by Jimbob at 6:03 PM on September 30, 2014 [6 favorites]


I'm a regular guy and I'm not super comfortable with being served. With that said, and with no direct experience with Singapore specifically, the folks up front do a good job genuinely making you feel like it's their pleasure. I mean, to the extent that's possible; I know they'd rather be at home relaxing, but in context, they do a very, very good job making you feel welcome and like there's nothing that would make them happier than to bring you another glass. I guess they have a professional attitude that makes it not feel especially servile.
posted by ftm at 6:08 PM on September 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


That Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee they serve him is just about the most expensive coffee in the world - it's what the Queen drinks! - and, other than the price, totally unremarkable.
posted by sobarel at 6:08 PM on September 30, 2014 [6 favorites]


Those putting this as the 1% vs. the 99%? Nope. The high end of the 99% flies international first class. I've done it (bought J, upgraded to F)

The 1% flies chartered luxury jets.
posted by eriko at 6:12 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


It isooctane be rich ..simple as that
posted by Postroad at 6:15 PM on September 30, 2014


Jacquilynne: I've never been able to determine if they were people who could afford to fly first class because they were greedy in the rest of their lives

You'd be surprised at how many relatively well off people, but ESPECIALLY their spouses if the other party is the monied one, act this way. So many stories along this vein. I worked at a coffee shop in a condo tower where the cheapest unit was probably 1.5mil. The amount of condiments and free shit, or remade drinks after they had drank half, or other cheap-ass shit I saw from people who drove maseratis(or had someone else drive them around) was just... Ugh.

Some people have lots of money and are very smart with it, some people love to blow it and show off, but some people are determined to milk every last drop from the teat of the system as they see it. It's similar to how a lot of rich people, especially rich kids, love to shoplift.

Mr_roboto: Amen. He frickin' gorged himself. I can't even start to put an estimate on it. Maybe 20,000 Calories? And almost zero physical activity? I would have gained five pounds.

If there was this much top shelf free food in front of me, I'd eat more than that. I'm the kind of person who always eats 25k calories at corporate dinners or whatever if the food is really great. As soon as it got to the food part I was like "I would have cashed in my flyer points for that alone, and hell yea I would have eaten garbage can loads of food".

I don't even really like flying, but I would have done this just to eat the free food.
posted by emptythought at 6:19 PM on September 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


As a kind of FYI, the linked article apparently used, without permission, pictures and whole paragraphs from the travel blog of a friend of mine. My friend asked the author to remove the content, which he agreed to do. If you reread the article and notice it seems different, that would be why.
posted by I Havent Killed Anybody Since 1984 at 6:22 PM on September 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


There are 6 linked articles, which one are you referring to?
posted by poffin boffin at 6:26 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


> The general advice that I give to any new frequent flyer is to treat your points like cash in a bank account with negative interest

I got to fly first class (just normal first class, not "here's your private sofa" first class) this weekend. I made small talk with the guy next to me, who was amused that I was in row four while the rest of my family was in row 28. When I explained that I was using a friend's upgrade that was going to expire in a few days, he sighed so deeply. "I get eight upgrades a year, and I can't keep up," he said morosely. This seems to me to be to be a good problem to have, but it was eating at him.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:29 PM on September 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


By the way, all the Related Posts just below are really excellent
posted by Quilford at 6:40 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


@poffin boffin: " what it's like to fly the $23,000 Singapore Airlines Suites Class "
posted by I Havent Killed Anybody Since 1984 at 6:55 PM on September 30, 2014


Site is 502 offline...I guess the guy thought pix were a free perq also....
posted by CrowGoat at 7:00 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


My first overseas trip as a kid was NY to Amsterdam with my mother about 30 years ago on KLM. Somehow we ended up keeping one of the blankets from the plane. How nice was that blanket? It's still the go-to movie watching blanket on the couch in the TV room at my parents house. We traveled first class a bit when I was a kid, so I have this very rosy memory of the "good old days" of air travel. It was pretty much VIP treatment from the moment you got to the airport. It was especially nice because, we weren't rich at all. It was a perk of my mother's job. Traveling was the only time in our life we got anything close to that type of experience.

The downside of that is that I'm obsessed with flying first class every chance I get these days. Mostly through mileage programs/upgrades. The normal coach flying experience is excruciating when you grew up in the front of the plane. from a service perspective, first class these days is what coach was like back then.
posted by billyfleetwood at 7:05 PM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


Flying often enough to get regular upgrades to first class is a terrible fate. You shouldn't envy people in the comfy seats... you should pity them.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 7:08 PM on September 30, 2014 [7 favorites]


That's it. I'm going to become a billionaire just so I can afford to find out who these people are, track them down, and punch all of them in the nose.

I used to plan vacations for these kinds of people. Not the nose-punchers, the "we require brand-new sheets every single day" kind of people. You could tell who was old money and who was new by their attitudes: the old money would request impossible stuff without thinking twice because they knew it would be done; everything had always been done for them and they knew no other way to live. You were just another in the faceless mass that ensures their particular brand of status quo; of course you'd do what they wanted.

The new money people were combative, aggressive and desperate in their need for justification. They'd demand you DROP EVERYTHING and do the impossible for them NOW because DO YOU KNOW WHO THEY ARE. (Seriously, the first time someone tried that line on me I got the giggles and had to mute my phone.) New money considered line-skipping nightclub access as a right of status recently granted, still with that thrill like they're breaking the rules; the old money knew the line-skipping access was for them.

If you're going on a nose-punching tour, punch the new money noses first. They'll at least know why you're doing it. The old money people will be startled and confused, like a puppy who can't understand why everybody got so shouty just cause they peed wherever like they always do.
posted by Spatch at 7:25 PM on September 30, 2014 [49 favorites]


My understanding was that business/first class is almost all tickets bought with miles/elite program upgrades rather than straight up cash... is that not the case?
No. SQ basically never releases more than two seats in Suites to miles customers, usually one seat and sometimes none.
I can't imagine having an ungodly amount of frequent flier miles and wanting to spend it on this instead of, like, 25 free flights.
This is a common misconception. If I am flying to Singapore, coach costs me 80,000 miles, business 120,000 and first class 160,000. First class is exactly two tickets. When you consider that coach tickets cost $1500 in cash, business 4 times as much and first class 12 times as much, using your miles for first class is actually quiet rational. This is especially true for those of us with million+ mile balances.
Isn't there a first class beyond this even? I could have sworn there was an article in the NYT this summer about how the 1% travels and they showed photos of one airline that offered shower stalls in first class, but I can't remember which airline it was.
As pointed out earlier in the thread, you are thinking of Emirates. The new hotness is the Ethiad Residences soon to launch London to Abu Dhabi and essentially unavailable by miles. This is essentially an apartment on the plane with separate rooms.
posted by Lame_username at 7:40 PM on September 30, 2014 [10 favorites]


kmz: "My understanding was that business/first class is almost all tickets bought with miles/elite program upgrades rather than straight up cash... is that not the case?"

It's gotten almost impossible for me to upgrade into business class on long-haul flights anymore. I think it's mostly corporate flyers.
posted by Runes at 7:49 PM on September 30, 2014


Ok, I finally looked. That whole sliding wall thing is awesome. If you were with your partner/trophySO you could each watch your own tv. I'm sure there's nothing on anyways, but wow. It is the future and it's for the rich.
So, when the flight is really empty like this, not only do you get your own separate walled off seating area, but they will take two seats in the middle and make them into a giant double bed so that you don't have to convert your seat. They may only do this if you are a couple traveling together, but I think not. So we didn't just get two walled off rooms to eat and watch TV, but we got another double-sized one to sleep in across the aisle
Flying often enough to get regular upgrades to first class is a terrible fate. You shouldn't envy people in the comfy seats... you should pity them.
So very true.

FWIW, my wife is like some of you upthread and is uncomfortable with the super-attentive service. She has no problem with this kind of first class, however. She always asks them if they can serve a light meal right away and then converts her seat into a bed and sleeps for the duration of the flight. On the really ridiculous 14 hour flights, she ends up watching some TV at the end, but all the over the top service really happens at the outset.
posted by Lame_username at 7:51 PM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


So, what would happen if an airline broke from the pack and said: from now on we're EgalitAir. No different classes. Everyone pays the same price. Everyone's guaranteed decent food, adequate room and a comfy - if not luxurious - seat.

They could get more seats onboard, and there'd be standardised and more efficient service. No more special VIP staff or spa lounges at every airport. No more hot and cold running lobster tails.

Would losing the handful of people who can regularly travel like Mr Low really matter to the bottom line?


First class subsidizes the costs of everyone else, not the other way around.
posted by empath at 7:51 PM on September 30, 2014 [9 favorites]


I don't know, you're still in a cramped, noisy metal tube surrounded by strangers. Those cabins--which are really, really small--eliminate a bit of the pain, at an insane price. For me the only good thing about flying is getting places quickly. Everything else about the experience sucks and probably always will.
posted by aerotive at 8:29 PM on September 30, 2014 [3 favorites]


First class subsidizes the costs of everyone else, not the other way around.

More generally, price discrimination is an essential tool for profitability in the airline industry. I say this because (a) intelligent price discrimination almost always improves profits, and (b) the airline business is a really tough industry where a lot of players go bust (i.e. they need whatever they can get).
posted by Edgewise at 8:34 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


Interesting timing. I just found out that the flight attendants for the airline of my upcoming trip "...will not be serving in-flight beverages or meals on selected flights as of Monday as part of a job action over stalled contract negotiations."

I wonder if I'm allowed to go get my own meal then? Probably not?
posted by ODiV at 8:40 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


As pointed out earlier in the thread, you are thinking of Emirates. The new hotness is the Ethiad Residences soon to launch London to Abu Dhabi and essentially unavailable by miles. This is essentially an apartment on the plane with separate rooms.

The A380 must be making everything else look like crap for high-end flyers.
posted by Thing at 8:42 PM on September 30, 2014


Where is dancing wombat? I am disappoint.
posted by susiswimmer at 8:43 PM on September 30, 2014


How much for a rack in the CRC and completely ignore me for 20 hours?
posted by ctmf at 9:40 PM on September 30, 2014 [10 favorites]


I'm always shocked at people flying above the cheapest flights. I grew up in a middle class, two kids, family, so we always flew the cheapest flight from point A to B, that is, booked in a midnight seat sale months ahead of time, the vacation dates chosen to match that, and boarding the plane at an early hour of the morning, often around dawn.

Recently I did manage to score the emergency isle, which was quite nice, AND the middle seat was empty, so I could put my backpack under it and REALLY stretch out. Second best flight ever (The best was the time I flew on the world's clearest day and could make out CARS on the ground for the entire trip from Toronto to Edmonton or Calgary, I forget which). I didn't even know that was possible.)
posted by Canageek at 10:27 PM on September 30, 2014


relevant onion article listicle
posted by ghostbikes at 11:56 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


That Trans-Siberian Railroad journey is like the antimatter to the Singapore Suite matter.

Try this - somewhat less appealing first class coach and sleeper cabin on Senegal railways.

Apparently to buy a ticket you have to wait under a tree till a guy shows up, plus you need to bring your own mattress.
posted by colie at 11:59 PM on September 30, 2014


Nice to know Mr. Climate Change DiCaprio is a customer for this carbon potlatch.
posted by spitbull at 12:12 AM on October 1, 2014


I have flown in the Suites a few times. It never occurred to me to take any photos. It's nice, but nothing really makes the experience of being on a plane for 13 hours a pleasant one.
posted by Major Tom at 2:22 AM on October 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


VR might be the cheaper way to a more pleasant experience.
posted by Segundus at 2:43 AM on October 1, 2014


lame_username: As pointed out earlier in the thread, you are thinking of Emirates. The new hotness is the Ethiad Residences soon to launch London to Abu Dhabi and essentially unavailable by miles. This is essentially an apartment on the plane with separate rooms.

I...i can't believe this is actually real.

That looks like the crew quarters from star trek TNG.

just... what?

I guess we know what the inside of the space tourism ships will look like.
posted by emptythought at 3:39 AM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


One of the nice things about space travel is that total mass matters, but volume doesn't- as long as you can afford the weight of the air and the walls, you can make the inside spaces big enough to be comfortable. Space Tourism will be much more like the passenger liners of the previous century.
posted by jenkinsEar at 4:39 AM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm getting a Bad Gateway error for the main link, so here's a mirror.

Is that Family Guy on the TV in the first pic? ... Maybe this illustrates something about "First Class". Big seats are expensive, but "class" is cheap. If you are reading Dan Brown in the big seat, and I am reading Jorge Luis Borges in the small seat, then who's really first class? Think about it won't you? (Now will someone shuddup that gawdam baby??)
posted by dgaicun at 5:08 AM on October 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


"One of the nice things about space travel is that total mass matters, but volume doesn't- as long as you can afford the weight of the air and the walls, you can make the inside spaces big enough to be comfortable."

You could say the same thing about air travel. And I guess the linked articles prove that you *can* make the inside spaces big enough to be comfortable. But...
posted by OnceUponATime at 5:12 AM on October 1, 2014


Nice to know Mr. Climate Change DiCaprio is a customer for this carbon potlatch.

Let's be real. Everyone who knows cares about climate change, but nobody who matters is going to compromise their comfort over it.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 5:29 AM on October 1, 2014


I appreciated the sly Hitchhiker's Guide reference.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:18 AM on October 1, 2014


As soon as I sit down in an airplane seat, I almost immediately pass out and often don't wake up until the plane is descending to land.

posted by strangecargo

HOW DID NOBODY PLAY THE EPONYSTERICAL CARD ALREADY!?
posted by moonmilk at 7:08 AM on October 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


Btw, if you get a nice sleeper car from amtrak, you get kind of a 'poor mans' version of this kind of treatment.
posted by empath at 7:28 AM on October 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


It's nice, but nothing really makes the experience of being on a plane for 13 hours a pleasant one.

Yeah, when V Australia first started flying, I got a great deal on a flight between LA and Sydney. Turns out they weren't selling many seats, so I had a whole row to myself and great service. Still sucked.
posted by smackfu at 7:30 AM on October 1, 2014


Got a 404, but it is in the wayback machine.
posted by brewsterkahle at 7:35 AM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


My understanding was that business/first class is almost all tickets bought with miles/elite program upgrades rather than straight up cash... is that not the case?

Not really, no. Airlines run pretty tight margins (think of how many you've seen go out of business in your life), and points programs are a pure loss for them. Remember Aeroplan changing everything about how their program worked approximately eight years ago? That was because people were hoarding their miles, and someone with a brain looked at the ledgers and basically said "Oh holy fuck look at that liability." Billions and billions and billions of miles on the wrong side of the balance sheet that they were on the hook for. The overwhelming majority of J/F-class seats are paid in cash.

Also, there's no such thing as 'free food' or 'free swag' on these flights. They're baked into the cost of your ticket, they're just not line items.

And I think I'm weird here... I love flying. It's pure magic. Just over a hundred years ago, no human being had ever flown, except downwards, and here I am in a magic (I vaguely understand aerodynamics but METAL IS HEAVY so therefore there is a wizard onboard somewhere) flying tube! Going somewhere on the planet that would have taken months or years to get to for almost all of human history! Yeah the screaming kids suck, and that asshole who won't share the armrest. But it's magic! I'm flying! And I wouldn't, ever, turn down flying this way. Flew first-class once as an upgrade (red-eye flight, nobody in first class, the flight attendants just said "Hey, if you all want to head up to the front of the plane...") and I've hated coach ever since.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:26 AM on October 1, 2014 [7 favorites]


I forget where I heard this recently, but someone was saying that if you want to make yourself feel better about your awful apartment or office, just imagine you're on an aeroplane. "Seriously? I get all this space? Just for me?"

I'm doing the inverse right now. It makes me feel soooo good to look at this and think "You know what, your $20,000 bed is pokier than my salvaged mattress, your $20,000 bathroom is better lit but way crappier than my little bathroom, and your living room is a piece of shit. I'm going to go home tonight and get in the bath with a beer and make nnnneeeeooooooowwww noises with my mouth, and I won't even have to go through a check-in desk to do it."
posted by forgetful snow at 8:37 AM on October 1, 2014 [5 favorites]




Also, there's no such thing as 'free food' or 'free swag' on these flights.

Yes and no. The branded swag and chef-designed food is most often product placement by high-end brands wanting to get rich people to try their shit. Like gifting suites at award shows, you just want the right people to use your products so they can tell their equally rich friends about it, or be seen using it, or maybe visit the exclusive restaurant run by the celebrity chef that "designed" the food.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:50 AM on October 1, 2014


And I think I'm weird here... I love flying. It's pure magic.

I love takeoff for this reason. Everything else can go pound sand.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:50 AM on October 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yes and no. The branded swag and chef-designed food is most often product placement by high-end brands wanting to get rich people to try their shit.

I know and work for a chef who consults on airline food and trust me, they are being paid for it. Sure, there's a prestige thing when it comes to certain names and brands, but they aren't provided to the airline gratis.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:01 AM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


> The new hotness is the Ethiad Residences soon to launch London to Abu Dhabi and essentially unavailable by miles

Sure, but --as per that video -- you still end up watching Twilight.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:10 AM on October 1, 2014


It's interesting that in the promotional materials they use both male and female models, with perhaps more women. In my limited experience, first class is a about 80% men. I wonder if the firstiest first class has a more even mix, since it's more likely to cater to the inherited-wealth crowd (a fact I just made up). Or if it's just airlines thinking that men want to imagine there will be pretty women to look at while they fly.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:15 AM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm always shocked at people flying above the cheapest flights. I grew up in a middle class, two kids, family, so we always flew the cheapest flight from point A to B, that is, booked in a midnight seat sale months ahead of time, the vacation dates chosen to match that, and boarding the plane at an early hour of the morning, often around dawn.

Same. But the last time I tolerated this state of affairs was -- and I can mark the date -- Veteran's Day weekend of 2006 when I caught a 6 or 7 am flight from Dulles to SFO via Phoenix. The flight was delayed and I missed my connecting flight, getting me in far later than I planned. Plus waking up at 3:45 to get to the airport.

Since then, I have two rules about flying: no early morning flights and nonstop only.

Air travel is terrible, but it is better than all the alternatives, so I love it. I am not a tall or large, and I can sleep under any circumstances, so flying coach has never been a huge burden.

I wish the experience were more like a train or a ferry where you can get up and head to the dining area to get a drink and hang out before going back to your seat, but generally between sleep, movies, and reading, I manage.

That said, I saw the promotional video for Etihad, and I started to drool.
posted by deanc at 9:53 AM on October 1, 2014


no early morning flights

Last flight of the day can be dicey, too.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:56 AM on October 1, 2014


That said, I saw the promotional video for Etihad, and I started to drool.

Hell ass yes.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:06 AM on October 1, 2014


What is it that people dislike about flying as opposed to any other long distance travel? Ignore the queuing and seat size, imagine we are all walking straight into first class.
posted by asok at 11:39 AM on October 1, 2014


Mainly the sleeping. Certain flights expect you to sleep, and I can't do it.
posted by smackfu at 12:10 PM on October 1, 2014


What is it that people dislike about flying as opposed to any other long distance travel? Ignore the queuing and seat size, imagine we are all walking straight into first class.

I don't know what it is, and I've tried many different things, but my ears have a horrible time popping. I'm usually out of sorts, trying to get them to pop myself, for a few hours after flying.

I also tend to not be able to sleep on flights, so I often grow bored and cranky.

If we are taking the fact I'm usually flying economy class, then I also dislike having to have my life dictated by the people around me - especially when those people fall asleep on my shoulder, making ME feel like the asshole when I have to get up to use the bathroom.
posted by codacorolla at 1:12 PM on October 1, 2014


Air travel itself -- the part where you're in the plane and moving -- is fine, assuming you're of a size and shape that fits comfortably into the seat provided.

15 years ago, even the coach experience on American carriers was pretty cushy (to say nothing of the foreign ones). That's changed quite a bit, and now coach on most carriers is effectively "contempt" class -- the seats are much smaller, and the amenities have vanished.

Add to the shitshow that coach has become the whole post-9/11 security freakout and TSA fuckery, and you get a pretty terrible experience all around.

When I have flown in first or biz class (ALL HAIL UPGRADES), or even coach on a foreign carrier that still treats its customers like humans (Emirates, Finnair), the experience is dramatically better. But it's still preceded by the usual TSA crap. That part casts a pretty big pall over the whole affair.

>when those people fall asleep on my shoulder...

FUCK THAT. Unless you area my wife, you do not get to sleep on me. Full stop.
posted by uberchet at 1:44 PM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


What is it that people dislike about flying as opposed to any other long distance travel? Ignore the queuing and seat size, imagine we are all walking straight into first class.
asking people to ignore queueing and seat size when discussing the flaws of the current experience of long distance flight is like asking people why they might dislike having a job that's 30 miles away and requires a car commute vs. having a job that's within walking distance/public transport, but assume a perfect world where traffic doesn't exist and car maintenance is free. But, hey ...

Flying vs train travel (assuming no queues and first class service on both systems)

FLIGHTS
For a flight, I usually have to travel to an airport and arrive with adequate time to check in and deal with the security checkpoint. I may get a special check in lounge privilege for first class, but this usually only applies for international first class, and I'm not comparing a theoretical transatlantic first class fight versus an ocean skimming transatlantic train (though wouldn't that be awesome?)

I have to be mindful about what I'm packing and verify that I don't have tools in my pocket or bag that may be confiscated because of terrorism.

I usually have to stay buckled in during large chunks of the flight and have to plan bathroom breaks and having reading material on my person accordingly for times when my travel is restricted.

I am usually served meals and drinks on an arbitrary schedule determined by the attendants.

Sometimes the attendants are concerned that my sleeping through the meal service will mean that I will wake hungry and annoyed that I wasn't woken up. Sometimes the attendants are concerned that I actually meant to sleep through the meal service because I ate before boarding the plane and I want to sleep. There's no way for them to know.

TRAIN
the lack of security checkpoints means that I can arrive at the airport five minutes before my train leaves. I can walk onboard and sit down in my chair and just have to be concerned with ensuring that the conductor sees my ticket.

I can get up whenever I want and use the bathroom or have a meal in the meal car. I can prepare meals and a beverage at home and bring them with me onto the train if I'd like. Isn't that crazy?

I can either call someone if I need to at anytime without paying for the privilege, or I can sit in the Quiet Car if I don't want to deal with loud conversations or fussy children.

basically: the difference is dignity. One mode of travel defaults to assuming that I am a terrorist or cattle and demand that I pay them to be treated like a person. The other one treats you like a human being by default, and gives you the option to pay more money for hot towels and a slightly more comfortable chair.
posted by bl1nk at 1:49 PM on October 1, 2014 [8 favorites]


asok: What is it that people dislike about flying as opposed to any other long distance travel? Ignore the queuing and seat size, imagine we are all walking straight into first class.

It's not the noise, I wear my ultimate ears IEMs the entire time nowadays. This also eliminates any baby concerns, or any other noise. The pressure and air quality doesn't bug me either. I work in a dusty office in a warehouse.

I'm not afraid of flying, but the actual sensation of it when there's stupid uneven turbulence and the plane keeps dropping like a foot is impossible to relax with or get used to. One of the flights I was on this year was seriously like that from take off until it landed a couple hours later.

It's hard to explain too. Riding a motorcycle doesn't freak me out. But somehow that combination of falling and instability does. It reminds me driving a really large vehicle down a road with a crosswind strong enough to blow you off the road if you aren't very careful. You just can't relax, feeling the forces acting upon the vehicle you're in, aircraft or otherwise.

And every goddamn flight I've been on in years has been like that for at least part of it. It's a big portion of the reason that I hate the concept of international long haul flights, even though I know there isn't really a better way.
posted by emptythought at 1:53 PM on October 1, 2014


> JetBlue, the original "one class" airline

Original? Kids on my lawn: People's Express with one class (shitty) for all domestic flights. "first United States airline to charge a fee for each checked bag." Pay for your ticket in cash, on-board. I flew Newark to Oakland in 1985 in an 10-across 747. Gnar.
posted by morganw at 3:31 PM on October 1, 2014


Ah, it was one class of tickets, though. I remember flying People's Express (unless it was a competitor) around the same time, from Boston to NYC, and I got a first class seat because of my sharp elbows.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:35 PM on October 1, 2014


So my parents fly Business or First Class fairly often: my dad's one of those froo-froo types that expect exceptional service and is super fussy about everything, while my mum is a lot more flexible but since she usually travels with Dad she gets the better airfare too. Sometimes they pay for it (esp if it's to anywhere else in Asia since it's not that much more expensive than an Economy ticket to see us kids in the UK/US), sometimes if it's really special they'll cash in allllllll the frequent flyer miles.

I sent them a link to this. Mum said that asides from the double-bed situation the service isn't that different to what you'd get in regular First Class (and was inspired to do a photoessay of her own, though she doesn't quite know how). Dad immediately suggested that I buy a ticket for him. (Of course, pick on the one kid who has the most trouble being gainfully employed.)

When I heard that he'd cashed in all his miles for this, I wished I could claim all the miles I've had from flying at least once a year (often more) every year since I was a month old, since I could have likely afforded that suite. But alas all-airline frequent flyer programs don't really exist, aside from a couple of startups, and I've lost track of all the flights I've taken.

I'm kinda ambivalent about Singapore Airlines. Mostly because on my second-to-last flight with them (which was already emotionally fraught for different reasons) they kept misgendering me the entire flight, 'Sir'ing me for 16+ hours (and a crew change!!) despite me presenting typically female. My last flight with them they were OK, but not the super-friendly crew they had the reputation for. (Also their colour scheme is stuck in the 80s.)

The most fun I've had flying higher-than-Economy was when I was about 9 or 10 and my family and I flew First Class from London to Singapore via Dhaka on Biman Bangladesh. The airline itself is not the most reliable; it ranks with Delta (BAH DELTA) on delays and inefficiency. But in that flight were two other families with kids my age, and we basically hosted our own Kids Club in the middle of the night.

When I was about 12 I flew alone from London to Singapore on SIA. On the last 20 minutes of the flight they move you up to First Class (they want you to be the first off the plane). It was interesting seeing all these businessmen look kinda puzzled at this kid in their midst who wanted to play Mario.

I really like the Virgin suite; I haven't flown anything beyond Economy with them but they do have a Premium Economy thing that is like what some of you are suggesting. I am however super annoyed that they changed their lounge policy to go from paying $30 for entry, to paying $60, to "business annual memberships only". GAH! I keep wanting someone to start a chain of airline-agnostic lounges that cater especially to young travellers.

I think Malaysia Airlines has better service than SIA (they even graciously upgraded me on a flight from Amsterdam to KL when Schipol was running into tech delays) but they don't fly LAX-KUL anymore, sadface.

AirAsia has the "one class for all" option, though I think if you paid a small amount you get more legroom. Free seating, and when I last flew with them there was no "pay more to get seated first" situation.
posted by divabat at 3:56 PM on October 1, 2014


and omg the quick-customs thing is a GODSEND when you have a "Terrorist" passport (muslim country/name or poor-country passport with a thousand visas) and don't want to deal with surly semi-racist customs people. I only got to do it once (Qantas gave me a pass when I told them that I had been waiting about half an hour for in-flight service) but ahhhhhh so handy.
posted by divabat at 3:58 PM on October 1, 2014


What is it that people dislike about flying as opposed to any other long distance travel? Ignore the queuing and seat size, imagine we are all walking straight into first class.

And other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?
posted by modernnomad at 6:55 PM on October 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


What is it that people dislike about flying as opposed to any other long distance travel?

Honestly for me it's the pricing. I always feel like I'm getting ripped off, due to the constantly changing price with hidden fees and miles and other complications. It's like negotiating with someone who is out to screw you. If there were an airline that offered a simple fixed fee to fly from point A to point B, I'd probably take it, even if it cost slightly more.

The insane pressure to make your flight on time or you'll potentially have to pay $500 or more in fees makes it even worse. When I take Southwest, I'm way more relaxed, since I know I can reschedule at the last minute (although I rarely take advantage).

And then you have to pay $50-100 on each end for many trips to get to and from the airport. It just feels like insult on top of injury. I wish Orbitz would include the price of ground transportation -- for example that flight that arrives at midnight isn't such a good deal if you have to take a taxi instead of the bus and blow $100.

I don't mind the flying itself at all. I pass out immediately, and in fact I sleep way better than I do at home. Maybe it's that I know my phone won't ring, or maybe it's just a side effect of the reduced air pressure. Either way I've seriously thought about building a home simulator for that experience.
posted by miyabo at 9:40 PM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


And other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

Well, yes, but I am trying to isolate the flying bit from the security theatre and other flying related irritations that occur before and during the flight.

Because I live on an island pretty much all flights are international, so there has always been more security and queuing for me if I want to leave the island than internal flights or other modes of transport. I am used to having to arrive a couple of hours before flight time to get through all the shenanigans, and to be fair when they are dealing with around 400 people per flight it is not that surprising that I have to wait 20 minutes in a queue to check in. Having to arrive at the gate 30 minutes before flight time is also not a big ask as loading 400 people with cabin bags is a considerable undertaking. The security theatre is a load of unnecessary nonsense and designed to instil fear and acquiescence to authority for the most part. Any small group of people with a modicum of imagination could use the materials available at the duty free shop plus items that are not restricted to seriously disrupt a flight and/or kill everyone on board, regardless of sky marshals and body scanners.

Recently I have flown with Ryanair and I have to say that the experience on the ground was the worst I have had, worse than EasyJet or Jet2. The feeling of contempt for the passengers (and the staff) that permeated the process of waiting to board and boarding was the most notable aspect. Both flights were late arriving and therefore late leaving, however the call to gate happened according to the schedule, and there is bugger all to do at the gate. So the entire passenger contingent waited at the gate for 30 minutes one way and 45 minutes on the return with no announcements to let us know what was happening. The turn around for the planes is so rapid that as soon as the last person from the previous flight alights they start loading passengers. The ground staff numbers are minimal so they had two people taking the luggage from the arriving flight off, then loading all of the luggage for our flight before taking the incoming luggage to the carousel.

Ryanair wanted to charge me £15 per ticket per flight to print out the boarding passes (which were like a cash receipt) because their website did not state that in order to use the smart phone to check in you have to use their app. Their app was terrible and crashed out whenever any action was instigated. I think the beleaguered ground staff knew this, as when we mentioned the app they printed out the boarding passes and sent us on our way without further argument.

So, I am not unfamiliar with bad flight experiences, but the bit on the plane, looking down at the clouds, coastlines, mountains, cities, farmland, wilderness and open ocean is awe inspiring and I feel a great privilege in being given that perspective on the world, something that has only been possible relatively recently for any living being on this planet. Obviously destroying it all is the environmental cost of flying, which is disastrous. Ideally I would be on the *amazing* European trains, but they take longer and the cost is higher (which is a travesty).

bl1nk - Sometimes the attendants are concerned that my sleeping through the meal service will mean that I will wake hungry and annoyed that I wasn't woken up. Sometimes the attendants are concerned that I actually meant to sleep through the meal service because I ate before boarding the plane and I want to sleep. There's no way for them to know.

On Emirates economy class you get a little tag for your seat top that says 'Wake for meals' on one side and 'Do not disturb' on the other. I have often wondered why other carriers don't do this as it works in the favour of staff and passengers.
posted by asok at 4:48 AM on October 2, 2014


On Emirates economy class you get a little tag for your seat top that says 'Wake for meals'

Also useful for strategy meetings and conference calls.
posted by colie at 5:35 AM on October 2, 2014 [5 favorites]


So, I am not unfamiliar with bad flight experiences, but the bit on the plane, looking down at the clouds, coastlines, mountains, cities, farmland, wilderness and open ocean is awe inspiring and I feel a great privilege in being given that perspective on the world, something that has only been possible relatively recently for any living being on this planet.

I feel like most of my long flights are spent looking down at clouds. Not very exciting.
posted by smackfu at 5:59 AM on October 2, 2014


Less than 100 years ago, only a handful of mountain climbers or balloonists had ever seen the top of a cloud.
posted by miyabo at 8:24 AM on October 2, 2014


Top looks pretty much the same as bottom.
posted by colie at 8:43 AM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


The plagiarism accusation regarding Low's article makes him seem pretty lame and highlights a fear that I've had about the rise of blogging to replace print media.

It actually makes sense to blow $20,000 in frequent flier points to make an article that's likely to help your blog go viral -- spend money to make money -- but at least be ambitious enough to write your own copy or cite your sources. Sheesh.
posted by Skwirl at 11:30 AM on October 2, 2014


It's bizarre that he would put a tremendous amount of effort into getting on the flight, and then plagiarize a few inconsequential sentences. But as I learned as a college TA, cheaters aren't lazy people trying to avoid doing work -- in fact they're mostly anxious people under extreme pressure to perform.
posted by miyabo at 12:47 PM on October 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


Yea, but that's one of those things like "addicts don't choose to be addicts" or "poor people don't make decisions that bring it on themselves" that despite evidence, people don't want to believe because morality and just world and bla bla bla.
posted by emptythought at 1:33 PM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


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