How to fly first class even when you are in economy

Though just mere metres away from the economy seats, first class offers a world of perks and pleasures. Top of the list is, of course, more room and comfortable accommodations—a convertible seat that becomes a bed in your own private pod being the key item. From this prime spot you can do more than just lounge. You can also work, meaning business travellers don’t lose a day to travelling when they can’t afford it. And, on those redeye flights, you actually have the ability to truly sleep and arrive rested. This means that your next day can be productive instead of wasted due to exhaustion.

In addition to the physical benefits, first class typically offers a higher standard and variety of food and drink, all included in the price of the (also higher) ticket. Some airlines offer their first class passengers a choice of dining options and a wine list that puts most restaurants to shame. Add to this a mini home theatre with endless viewing options and you can see why some people shell out big bucks to fly in front of the curtain.

Another key reason many travellers opt for first class is the opportunity to meet and network with potential business connections, both in the air and on the ground in, exclusive pre-boarding lounges. Other airport perks for first class passengers include bypassing line-ups for security and boarding, and accessing their luggage more quickly upon disembarking. One thing that most first class travellers also do is minimize their risk by purchasing a comprehensive travel insurance plan. This purchase goes beyond flight class and will allow your flight to be that much more relaxing knowing that you are covered.

As divine as this all sounds, first class airfare just isn’t a realistic option for most of us. So what real-life hacks can you leverage to make it feel like you’ve crossed the threshold into first class? For starters, let’s address your comfort. There is often a big discrepancy between seats within economy class—with exit and emergency rows being the clear winner. If you are able bodied and can book your seat ahead of time, make a point of reviewing the airplane layout and booking those seats. You may be charged a nominal fee, but it is worth it to enhance your ‘first class’ experience. Premium economy seating is also worth a look- while these don’t convert to a bed, you will get a bit more space and sometimes a few inches are worth the additional cost.

Unless you are flying with a toddler who is potty-training, avoid booking your seat near the restrooms or the kitchen at the back of the plane. The line of people waiting two inches from your seat can be off-putting and the kitchen area can be brightly lit and noisy on overnight flights. Window versus aisle seating is a personal preference but the window will typically minimize disturbances by fellow travellers needing to step over you. For added comfort a carryon luggage piece can make a good footrest when it doesn’t need to be stowed. If you’re travelling with another person, a good tip is to book the window and the aisle—middle seats are usually the last to be sold. If the plane isn’t full, it’s a good chance you’ll have an extra seat. If it is, it’s a safe bet the middle person will switch to allow you to sit beside your travel companion.

There isn’t anything worse than feeling starved through a five-hour Toronto to Vancouver flight when you skipped breakfast at the airport. Always, always fly prepared. Busy flights can run out of food and you can be left with a meal you didn’t want or worse, nothing at all. To enhance your flying experience, take it as an opportunity to bring along treats that you never typically buy. And make sure to drink plenty of water (sparkling or flat).
If you’ve ever glanced into the first-class cabin, usually when you are passing through on your way to economy, you’ll notice very few people dressed in ripped jeans, grubby sweatshirts or muddy running shoes. People still reminisce nostalgically about the 50s when people dressed up to fly, so don’t be afraid to class it up! Go ahead and wear a jacket or blazer in economy, and ask the flight attendant to hang it up for you if you don’t want to wear it on the flight. Pashminas or large scarves also add a glamorous touch and can double as a light blanket instead of the scratchy airline ones. If you wear nice shoes on the flight but don’t want to rest in them, bring along a pair of cosy slippers. This bit of comfort will go a long way to enhancing your experience. And remember to bring an eye mask and neck pillow too.

Yes, that flimsy curtain is a very obvious divide between airline classes but it is possible to maximize your flying experience with a few simple tricks. Looking your best and arriving with plenty of time will minimize your frazzle and allow you to board calm and composed as well.  Along with your travel insurance, download the customizable TripWise app which will help keep you abreast of flight updates, government advisories, local emergency numbers and other nifty tools. .. While you might not have a personal assistant, you can still travel like royalty with some good planning and technical support.


Travel insurance is underwritten by CUMIS General Insurance Company, a member of The Co-operators Group of Companies, administered by Allianz Global Assistance, which is a registered business name of AZGA Service Canada Inc.

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