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Are First Class Trips Worth It

You’re waiting at the airport ticketing counter behind 20 other people hoping to be served before the plane takes off. While you count the minutes with a 30 pound suitcase hanging by your shoulder, a well dressed man walks in with a porter carrying his luggage. He is directed to the first class ticketing counter where he is served a gold glazed ticket without having to wait in line. As he sits comfortably in the lush first class lounge, you try coming up with justifications as to why that man, who you don’t even know, is a pretentious millionaire.

It’s common to stereotype first class passengers as people who have too much money to burn, but statistics reveal that this luxury isn’t just limited to the well off anymore. The percentage of first class passengers has increased significantly since the past few decades, with middle income people making up most of the new clientele. While it’s true that first class tickets cost an arm and a leg, frequent flyer miles and flash sales on online ticketing websites have made it possible for the average Joe to experience the best that airlines have to offer.

Even though first class tickets have become more accessible to the general public, they still cost more than 10 times the price of coach. So the question remains; is paying this huge surplus amount worth it?

Cost-Benefit Evaluation

A common method that many financial gurus use to evaluate decisions is a cost-benefit evaluation, which basically compares the cost you are paying with the utility you’ll be getting. An average international coach ticket from the US to most Western nations costs around $1000, so we’ll use that as a baseline.

Both the tickets will take you to your destination safely, so the only edge that a first class ticket will have over the coach is the comfort level; reclining seats, bigger leg space, better cuisine choices and better service. The average price of an international first class ticket is $3500, accounting for a $2500 price difference. If we consider the average flight time for international flights at 10 hours, you’re paying $250 per hour for the luxury of first class travel.

Compare that figure with your per hour income and evaluate if you can afford it. Unless you’re a part of some royal family, we’re guessing not.

But…

So we’ve established that first class tickets make no financial sense for 99% of the population.  But then again, is luxury something to be evaluated on a technical basis? One key thing that these sorts of evaluations miss is the user experience associated with it. A KIA Spectra and a Ferrari would perform the same tasks i.e. take you from point A to point B, even though the KIA is priced at a fraction of the Ferrari, yet many financially sensible people wouldn’t mind investing in the latter.

Similarly, first class travel is an experience that should be taken as such. Now we’re not saying you should choose this option every time you travel, but do try it at least once.

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