Monday, October 9, 2017

Is Flying First Class Worth It? – Air Canada Business Class Pods Review

If you're a frequently flyer (like myself), chances are you’ve experienced one or two dreadful flights. It could have been the bland food, bad service or lack of personal space as a stranger slopped over into your seat, but is splurging on a first class ticket actually worth it?

Most airlines make first class seem like an exclusive club, pulling that annoying little curtain or door shut to separate the “average Joe” at the back from those at the front sipping champagne. It has less to do with exclusivity and more to do with how willing you are to upgrade for a little more luxury.

I’m one of those people who love traveling but hate flying. Turbulence makes me anxious since I lack Superman's ability to fly if the plane plummets and being confined to a small space, breathing re-circulated air at 30,000 ft is not my idea of a good time. To ease my travel woes we have started booking first class seats for most flights especially long, international trips. It makes more sense to splurge and enjoy the perks when you have more air time.

So let’s discuss some of the extras I usually get while traveling in Air Canada’s firt class or “Business Class Cabin.”
*Personal pod with a seat that fully reclines into a small bed (this is big people).
*Better, more attentive service (generally speaking).
*Douvet blanket and pillow.
*Welcome drink upon boarding (no need to wait until food service).
*Open bar + tea, coffee and unlimited soft drinks.
*More snacks throughout the flight including warm nuts, fruit & cheese platters, chips and candy.
*Personal care kit with toothbrush, toothpaste, socks, sleep mask, ear plugs, lip balm, hand wipe and moisturizer.
*Better food and gourmet menu options. When boarding, we usually find the dinner and breakfast menus in our pods which list a variety of courses.
*Large personal touch-screen TV with games, blockbuster movies, music and more.
*First class bathroom – larger and shared with fewer passengers.

On recent international trips to Frankfurt, Vienna, Portugal and Madrid, the first class tickets were about $4,778 – 5K per person (the same price as those Japanese Charcoal Face Masks I reviewed) but fares depend on the season, flight duration and destination. (prices tend to fluctuate regularly).

Now let’s talk about the food because airline meals have a bad reputation for being slightly better than the gruel served at hospitals. In my experience, it can be pretty good or downright disgusting and I’ve traveled with many airlines including: Delta, American, Turkish Airlines, Lufthansa, Qantas, Hawaiian, Swiss Air, Iberia, Croatia Airlines, Air France and many others. Below is a dinner menu from my first class flight to Budapest via Air Canada.

Seared ahi tuna, black beans, blistered tomato, harissa aioli

Mixed greens, grape tomatoes and vinaigrette

Main Courses
Each meal is served with a selection of warm breads
*Grilled AAA beef tenderloin in cabernet peppercorn sauce, Yukon Gold mashed potatoes, asparagus
*Hoisin glazed duck and ginger fried rice with spring radish, scallion and sesame
*Roasted cod with potato broth, saffron, fennel and tomato
*Portobello and cheese manicotti in creamy rosé sauce with leeks

Selection of cheese and fresh seasonal fruit

Dark chocolate fondant, hazelnut praline and field berry citrus compote

As you can see, the menu is substantially better and the food was good but for the ticket price there is still room for improvement and I wouldn’t classify the meal as “gourmet.”

Having a personal pod is roomier and a bit more private. Being able to lie down and sleep comfortably under a fluffy douvet makes a significant difference and helps maintain proper circulation. It reduces jet lag, eases stress and tension on the body and makes me feel well rested when I arrive at my destination. Not having to sit upright for 8+ hours while twisting my neck trying to get a good night sleep is the difference between an amazing flight and a horrid one plus resting on long flights can affect your entire vacation. If you plan to work on the plane, the pod is like having your own little office and back pain sufferers (like my husband) can move around more freely with no strangers taking up the armrest. 

The downside of having your own pod is being secluded from your travel partner since it is not easy to converse or interact during the flight. Overall it really depends on what's important to you but for a nervous flying like myself, it definitely promotes relaxation.

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