Is US Domestic First-Class Air Travel Worth It?

You are going on your honeymoon or celebrating a special occasion and want to splurge a little to travel in style. So, you are going to buy a first-class air ticket for yourself and your loved one but wonder if the cost is really worth it. This is one of the most commonly asked questions – assuming that you have the extra cash handy and are ready to spend it – is the experience worth all that money spent?

Travel blogger Gourmet Flyer did an analysis comparing the regular economy fares for major US markets, such as Los Angeles (LAX) to Chicago (ORD), versus what it costs to sit upfront. His criteria for comparison are 60-day advance purchase, mid-morning departure, and mid-week outbound and inbound with a Saturday stayover. He took the average of the US Big Three airlines – American, Delta, and United – and found that an economy seat for a roundtrip ticket costs $282 but a first-class ticket will set you back $1,098. That is almost four times as much!

So, what do you get for that much money? First and foremost, all the perks that come with the price tag begin at the airport, before you even step foot onto the plane. Most major airlines offer dedicated express check-in counters as well as priority security lanes for their premium cabin customers. Once on board, you’ll enjoy an extra spacious and comfy seat with plenty of legroom. If you are travelling as a couple, you’ll certainly appreciate the 2-2 configuration on most planes.

Most major airlines also offer what is known as a pre-departure drink, which is usually champagne or some sparkling wine. Have you ever walked past a first-class cabin on your way to find your seat at the back of the plane and seen those passengers upfront looking all relaxed while sipping champagne? Well, that could have been you if you are willing to spend that kind of money.

Alcoholic beverages are also free in the first-class cabin and most of the time, the flight attendants will bring you refills if you request them. During meal service, sometimes the wines flow freely!

On flights that exceed a certain threshold, typically two hours or longer in the air, the airline also offers a delicious hot meal service to its premium cabin passengers. What’ll you get depends on the time of the day and the length of the flight. For early morning departures, breakfasts choices usually include egg dishes as well as waffles or pancakes. A lunch or dinner service typically includes a hot entrée such as grilled chicken breast or beef brisket. You also get a side salad, bread, and dessert.

Gourmet Flyer has written many reviews on traveling in premium cabins across many different airlines and he has also posted many pictures of the foods and drinks as well as amenities. You can visit his travel blog and explore the world of jet-setting in first class.

But the bottom line is still: Is it worth all that money spent? First of all, you need to understand that premium cabin travel is designed for the business travelers who have a hefty budget paid by large corporations. To those business executives, money is not a problem and they often do not even know the price of the ticket.

For the average ordinary people like us, who probably splurge for the experience on a special occasion, the cost is very high. Gourmet Flyer’s advice is: If you have the money and you can afford it, then do it once. Only after that can you decide whether the experience is worth it – for you! As the value of the money spent varies a lot among different people. Only you can answer that question for yourself.