Cheerful bum sitting next to businessman in First Class: “I got my ticket for three dollars over the Internet. Are you going to eat that salmon?” — Leo Cullom cartoon in The New Yorker

Brooks: “On March 15 you wrote that you generally fly first or business class. ‘But,’ you wrote, ‘like most others up front, I don’t pay for it.’ How about devoting a column inch or so on HOW?”

If you’re Gold or Platinum on American Airlines, you can buy stickers (electronic) for $25 and, if a seat is available, use them to upgrade. It’s one sticker for each 500 miles of a flight, or fraction thereof, so the typical flight costs me 3 stickers — $75. If you fly a lot, they give you some free ones, too.

John T: “I just came back from an ‘around the world’ tour from Cleveland, to London, to Tokyo, and back to Cleveland. The cost of this was $5500 in business class. My partner and I discovered that we could take the same flight in coach for $1100. When we approached our company travel department and suggested that we would be willing to fly coach to save the company $8800, they said, ‘Sorry, it’s company policy to fly business class.’ Dilbert really is alive and well.”

Andrew Leschak: “My motto is ‘it only costs a few more dollars to fly first class.’ You can always find a bargain. I fly a LOT for business and usually fly first class. I am always upgraded due to my status of Chairman’s Preferred with US Airways (fly 100 segments or 100,000 actual miles). It doesn’t cost anything for the upgrade, regardless of your coach ticket price. Which is why I always fly with US Airways and our free market economy keeps all ticket prices the same among different airlines (I do need to fly the “cheapest” major air carrier). Also, for those traveling on business paying full fare coach, US Airways will upgrade you to first if available, regardless of your frequent flier status.”

Muriel Horacek: “At a recent Exxon Retirees’ luncheon the speaker said ‘If you can afford to travel first class, but choose not to, be assured your heirs will.’ On my visit to New York last week, I paid $333 round trip. The men in my row paid $1400 and $1700 respectively. And I had the aisle seat!”

(My guess: The men were just thrilled when Muriel pointed this out. But I actually know Muriel, and suspect they became big fans by the end of the trip.)

Of course, the real first class is . . . private jet. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve gotten to fly on one of these; but it is, without question, a guilty pleasure. Given a billion dollars, it could grow on me very quickly. Todd Jennings: “Surely you know that Warren Buffett renamed his corporate plane The Indispensable from its original name, the Indefensible.”


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