Pardon my rambling here for a moment, but this is something I’ve been pondering for a few days now. Thanks to my mileage runs I’m able to typically redeem miles for international first class awards. As a matter of fact, I’ve become so spoiled that I typically don’t consider international business class awards anymore; international first class is becoming the norm. Of course when I am able to get into international first class for such a low price, why the hell not? I know, I have a long life ahead of me. 😉
That being said, for the first time that I can remember I find myself reconsidering business class for award redemptions. When I first started with my international premium cabin travels, my favorite word was “maximize,” and actually it still is. But I guess what has changed is how I define “maximize.” It used to mean getting to the airport seven hours before a flight to visit the international first class lounge, not sleeping on the flight because I didn’t want to miss out on the “experience,” and eating all nine courses of whatever was being served. Now “maximize” has a lot more to do with arriving at my destination well rested, entertained, and reasonably well fed. I guess my ideal flight now has three components: a flat bed (an absolute must), good entertainment, and decent food (I’m no foodie, but something edible).
So what’s the point of this post? As I look at planning another award trip I find myself stepping back for a second trying to decide between two choices, and I start to examine my travel preferences in more general terms.
Take, for example, Los Angeles to London on Air New Zealand in BusinessPremier, vs. Los Angeles to Frankfurt to London on Lufthansa in First Class. For the first time ever, I can’t decide which I’d actually prefer. In the past I would have said “first class is always better than business class.” For me travel time isn’t a factor, as it might be for others; getting there is half the fun, so the nonstop doesn’t have a huge draw for me.
At the same time, on Air New Zealand I have a truly flat bed with a decent amount of privacy, a great selection of entertainment, and pretty good food options. With Lufthansa, on the other hand, I have excellent service, excellent food, decent entertainment, and more personal space (although not necessarily more privacy). And given the options, I couldn’t decide which choice to go with.
Along the same lines for me is Air Canada’s business class product. The entertainment is great, the service is decent, the food is perfect in my book (again, I’m a simple eater), and the seat allows for good rest. When I look back at my Shanghai to Toronto flight from last summer in their business class product, I really can’t imagine how first class would have been any better. I got nine hours of sleep, at no point felt uncomfortably full (yet was well fed), and I was even thoroughly entertained.
So I guess the point is that I’m actually becoming less snobby when it comes to food, service, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love a charming, attentive flight attendant over a grouchy flight attendant that disappears after the meal service, but on the whole it’s becoming less important to me, while in the past I would have preferred excellent service and awful entertainment. Along the same lines, I find myself considering United’s new international first class as an award redemption option, even when I have options like Asiana, Lufthansa, Swiss, etc.
My apologies for this complete rambling of a post, but what’s the deal here? Am I sane or going crazy? I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that the answer is very much a function of how many hours one has spent in premium international cabins.
Oh yeah, and eating too much in first class — that’s totally your fault, blog readers. It’s because of you that I feel the need to never turn down food, if only to snap a picture of the plate. 😀