Some experiences spoil you for life. For me it was the business class flight with Swiss from Santiago de Chile to Zurich almost six years ago. It was our first miles upgrade and it made me feel like royalty. To be precise, it made me feel like royalty from the time we checked in to the first couple hours of flight. Then I quickly got used to the extra room, comfortable bed and friendly attention of the staff. When we landed in Zurich I felt like this is the only normal way to travel. Royalty? Come on, I’m entitled to this, I am not flying economy ever again!
Soon reality kicked in. From that first business flight we spent numerous hours crammed in the tight space of the average coach class seats cursing our genetic predispositions that made us grow so tall. And every single time we travel I go through the same process trying every possible way to strike some luck and get a business class seat one way or another:
- Pre-booking research: It’s the daydreaming phase. Once we’ve determined the final destination I check every imaginable airline, route and connection for any possible extra discounted business rates. I browse through different booking engines and apps searching for the best option. Also, I thoroughly study numerous “how to” expert tips by seasoned frequent travellers. All to no avail, as it usually turns out.
- Booking: I’ve given up – for the time being. I’ve decided that paying three times the amount of the economy fare for an eight hour flight would be just too much on top of all our usual travel spending. So I book a normal economy ticket and settle for paying the little extra for the “preferred seats” in the emergency exit row wherever possible. It is the only way I can survive a long flight seating next to my husband whose legs don’t fit into those usual 31 – 32 inches of space.
- Couple of days before flight: My hopes go up again. It’s the time when at some airlines you can get a discounted last-minute upgrade offer. I’ve figured out that this usually happens when economy is overbooked but there’s still space in business. So I patiently wait for the e-mail saying “Upgrade your flight for as little as…”, usually without success.
- Check-in: Now this is my worst envy phase. I keep scrutinising all the lucky bastards being warmly welcomed at the business class counter while the rest of us queue in a long line next to them. I don’t mind all the business people who clearly deserve their comfortable lie-flat bed. After all it’s probably the only bed they get a chance to sleep in. But there are also people like us who travel with their backpacks and look so … normal, actually. How do they get to wait in the fancy line and not me? Did they really pay for it? How? They certainly don’t look like they can afford it. I, on the other hand, am all dressed up, hoping for the lady at the counter to recognise how I really don’t belong to the back of the plane. I try to be extremely friendly and polite, but nothing really works. Damn.
- Boarding: Wait, there’s still hope! One time we were among the last ones to get to the gate and the friendly guy at the counter simply tore our boarding passes and exchanged them for two business class seats. I couldn’t believe our luck at that time. I could hardly prevent myself from hugging him enthusiastically. But I guess things like this only happen once in a lifetime so usually at the time of boarding I’ve already given up hope. When I pass all the privileged passengers enjoying their first glass of champagne in the front I’m contemplating much deeper issues in life: Mostly about how unfair the world is. If the one percent privileged ones would give up only ten percent of their space each, we would all have enough of it (not quite, but that’s what I am thinking at that time). After all, having a flat bed, private suite or even a shower on board is sheer extravagance. I would be happy with just a couple of inches of space around my knees and elbows and so should be everyone else.
Why am I writing all this? Because right now I’m in between phases 3 and 4. In just two days we will be boarding our Emirates flight to India again. For the last couple of days I jumped at every beep indicating an incoming e-mail in vain. It seems, dear Emirates, you’ve disappointed me again. But you can still make it up to me. What a perfect Christmas gift this would be…