Everything you wanted to know about flying first class

For many of us, the idea of first-class flying may seem like an unattainable luxury. But it’s still nice to dream about those plush, extra-wide seats, and perks like free champagne and noise-cancelling headphones. However, what’s actually available on a first class flight may not always meet your expectations. For example, first class seats on some flights (like short, domestic flights) only have a few more inches of legroom than the economy seats. As for the food? Without an on-board chef, you may be getting the same bland, overcooked fare that’s served to the coach flyers. To decide if it’s worth paying extra for that ticket, here’s what it’s really like to fly first class.

Boarding in style

A first class ticket means being first on the plane, even before coach ticket holders in the first boarding group. Most airlines seat first class passengers about 30 minutes before everyone else, giving them plenty of time to get settled. Some airlines even use different boarding doors so you don’t have to wait in line, and you’d avoid the jealous glares from the economy passengers. Once you’re seated, you’ll be offered a complimentary drink, such as freshly squeezed orange juice or champagne.

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Fully reclining seats

In full disclosure, some old planes have seats that recline at a slight angle, so it’s not a true fully-reclined experience. It’s still pretty darn close, however, which means you might actually get a few consistent hours of sleep. The seats are wider as well, and you don’t have to share your armrest with the people next to you. Another reason you’ll sleep better are the high quality pillows and blankets, which tend to be rather flat and stiff when you’re flying coach.

Peace and quiet

Do you always find yourself next to the one guy who’s a non-stop talker, or has no concept of “indoor voice?” First class seats come with dividers so you can discreetly convey your desire for privacy. As for noise-cancelling, many airlines provide first class passengers with premium headphones for this purpose. You may also be lucky enough to fly on a plane with your own Sky Suite, which is a partially private section of the cabin that you have all to yourself.

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The dining experience

There’s no shortage of complaints when it comes to airline food. But is the first class dining experience really that much better? Generally speaking, the menus look pretty delectable, with options like roast duck, Shanghai crab dumplings, and chocolate mousse cake with fresh seasonal fruit. However, these dishes are often prepared ahead of time and reheated in the on-board convection oven. Unless you’re lucky enough to have an inflight chef, the texture and consistency of your food may be no better than what you’re used to from economy class.

Better service? Maybe

This seems like a no-brainer. You paid for the upgrade, you should get better service, right? That’s certainly the idea, at least. Yes, you’re more likely to receive a warm welcome, followed by amenities like free alcohol and the flight attendant making up your bed (seat) if you want to sleep. On the other hand, customer service comes from within, and some flight crews members are less friendly than others.

At the end of the day, a more expensive ticket doesn’t guarantee a smooth flight. However, there’s no denying the appeal of a flight experience without the noise, chaos, and discomfort of flying coach.

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