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Ambien IS Business Class…

I’ve been reading the news about the new Air New Zealand coach seats that convert into a bed-ish thingy (see here) and it got me thinking about whether we just complain way, way too much about the current state of coach seats.  And whether we fetishize business & first class seating way beyond the actual comfort they provide.

Air New Zealand will be offering a product that allows you to convert 3 coach seats into a bed-ish thing that supposedly can be shared by two adults.  Look at that photo I linked to.  Could you sleep like that for 8 hours?  My wife and I are in a king bed, and that’s too crowded for us.  I truly have to wonder whether that would be better than taking an Ambien and dealing with it in coach.

And here is where I say that with all of the improvements in airplane seating over the past 15 years, the truly biggest difference in long-haul airline travel is Ambien.  Not lie-flat beds; not the A380; not Sky suites; not video on demand.  Ambien.  I can sleep 7 hours in a middle seat in coach on Biman Bangladesh.  No matter the length of the flight or the time change, I arrive feeling like a million bucks.  I would take an Ambien and sit in coach over no Ambien in business class on a red eye any day.  Not sleeping in a moderately comfortable seat stinks compared to being passed out in coach.

And while I’m at it:  I don’t understand the business class cabin fetish people have (look, a photo of the soda they served me!)  Yes, it’s far more comfortable than coach.  Sure.  But really – it’s not like sleeping on your own bed.  And it’s not as if airplane food – even when served on nice china – would be even remotely acceptable in the real world.  QANTAS charges $26,000 for a roundtrip first class ticket from New York to Sydney.  The same price as a 2-year old BMW.  For a sad approxmation of a meal and a nap.  I know a lot of airline blogger types LOOOOOOOVE first class.  God bless ’em.  And it’s not sour grapes: i’ve done my share of flying up front (thanks, miles!).  But every time I feel the same thing:  I wish I used half the miles and flew in coach twice.

For $3, I’ll take an Ambien and wake up wherever I’m going.  Well, Ambien plus an in-seat plug so I can watch a movie on my laptop.  In-seat plugs are pretty underrated…

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  1. It’s not the most uncomfortable looking coach situation i’ve ever seen. Try sitting between an overweight guy who snores louder than a helicopter and a mom with a crying baby on seats half the size…ambien or not, good luck sleeping in that situation! ;)

  2. I think the biz class “fetish” is more about the IDEA of the upgrade than the actual ammenities. People like to feel special/important (including me!), and an upgrade accomplishes that. But like you, I find it hard to pay my own money for it. Back “in the day,” I usually flew overseas in biz class on reward travel. But then some of the airlines (like Continental) wised up and made biz class seats twice as many miles as coach. Still a deal when compared to actually paying for them, but still too rich for me. So most of my first class travel these days is domestic, where I can get upgraded for free. I was recently given a free transatlantic biz class upgrade on Lufthansa, and I can’t stress enough how incredibly mediocre it was (and Lufthansa is a good airline!).

    If you’re paying your own way, paying for biz class seems like the worst way to get value. An extra $15 will generally get you a much better meal. $25 will upgrade your hotel. Why pay several hundred bucks to be SLIGHTLY more comfortable for a few hours. It makes no practical sense.

  3. IAH-PHX: I don’t remember something you mentioned: were biz class reward seats much cheaper years ago? I thought they were always double the coach price. What am I forgetting?

    I completely agree – that the fetish as about the idea of an upgrade. To your point – $100 upgrade will get you to a suite in most hotels, a significant improvement over a regular room, while $2000 won’t even get you into biz class on international flights (and as we agree – there is little actual value in biz class…)

  4. There was a time in the OnePass program that int’l biz class awards were MINIMALLY more expensive than coach class. In the early 90s, you could redeem 80,000 for 2 coach tickets to Europe, or 100,000 for 2 biz class tickets! Only an idiot (or perhaps someone unable to find biz award seats available) would redeem for coach.

    Obviously, this was an unsustainable ratio, and when CO introduced BusinessFirst, they changed it. They did grandfather in existing members under the old chart (after a certain deadline, I think they gave you one award at the old level).

    While the old OnePass benefit was extreme, there are still some programs where biz class represents good value, particularly to Asia. To me, when you have to use twice as many miles, it’s not worth it.

  5. I recently flew to China. A friend told me about Ambien. It’s about a 12 hour flight from LAX to Beijing.

    I flew coach and waited until I was served my first meal. I had a small glass of wine with my food. After eating, I took Ambien. One more item before taking the drug – I visited the mens room. I slept from shortly after the first meal until wheels down in Beijing! Amazing. I did exactly the same thing on the return trip. Better than first class. We were off sightseeing immediately after the flight to Beijing and I was wide awake, rested and ready to go.

    It is a miracle drug. I slept about 10 hours each way and did not have to get up to go during the flight?? It seems to put you in sort of a suspended animation mode. I cannot thank my friends enough for telling me about the drug. Bonus points – it’s generic!

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