12 Reasons Why You Should Fly First Class On Your Next Flight

Delta first class

If passengers had a choice in cabin to fly, it would easily be first class. Economy class is the lowest tier cabin on a plane, and while some airlines do coach better than others, it declines in comfort every year. It’s why you should fly first class on your next flight.

I try to avoid economy class. It’s not because I’m rich or pretentious (and if you keep reading, I’ll show you how you can pay for first class for as little as $30 more than coach), it’s because I need the comfort and extra space due to special circumstances.

Qatar business class Q Suite selfie

First, I travel frequently with my pup, and having the extra space makes a world of difference. Second, I broke my back in a boat accident many years ago, and I still suffer repercussions. Sitting in a cramped economy seat is extremely bad for my back, and the longer the flight, the more discomfort I endure (if you want to learn how to travel with lower back pain, I wrote more about it here).

For more than a decade, I was fortunate enough to save hundreds of thousands of miles that have helped me upgrade, and I generally stick to one airline as an elite member. I also do my research and find insanely cheap first-class seats. If I can do it, you can, too, as long as you’re smart about the system. In the past 15 years, I’ve flown over a million air miles, and I’ve given so many travel hacks and tips on how to realistically get upgraded to first class, and what you should and should not do to increase your odds. Trust me. It’s worked in my favor, and I haven’t flown economy for over 5 years… but I did last month.

Delta Air Lines.

I flew economy class on Air India. My flight from Goa to Mumbai was less than an hour, so I thought I’d save a couple bucks. Was that accomplished? Sure. Did I regret it? Maybe. I also recently took an economy class flight from New York City to Mexico. It wasn’t planned, but I was going with a friend who didn’t want to splurge the extra $80 to fly first (yes, it was that little of a difference), so I took one for the team.

Here’s the thing about economy class: it’s not just notoriously shrinking seats you have to worry about, but there are several perks in first class you may not know about. After flying first class for over 5 years, then flying economy class twice in the past month, I had a reality check and I realized, even without back problems, I would do what I could to always fly first class — and there are 12 good reasons why.

12 reasons to upgrade to first class on your next flight.

1. You get better service and more personable attention in first class.

Old-school first-class flight attendant.

In economy class, the majority of flight shaming happens in economy class. Flying is stressful already, and the seats are tiny, so people can lash out or just be grumpy, and flight attendants know this.

Ask any flight attendant, and they’ll tell you they prefer working in business/first because they don’t have any problems there. The flight attendants working in economy don’t bend over backwards like those in first class, because all the airline’s most loyal and highest-paying customers fly in front — they don’t necessarily roll out the red carpet for you in the back.

Also, remember, there’s a lot of passengers in the back, so you won’t get as much attention if you need it compared to first class. Even if you paid full economy fare for your ticket, you’re still sat in the same section with those who bought basic economy or premium economy, so everyone is treated somewhat equally here.

2. You’re among the first to board the plane.

Ever wonder how flight reviewers get these photos of empty coach class in various blogs? They board first.

It’s not rocket science. First-class passengers board first.

If you’re booked in economy, you’re the last to board the plane. Even if you pay for early boarding, you’re still after military, families, business and first class and elite loyalty members.

Boarding lanes on Delta. First class (to the right) boards first.

Some airlines don’t even have those separate line-ups outside the boarding gate, so you’re literally herded together in economy class.

Crowded boarding gate!

I wrote about the best ways to board your flight early for free, even if you’re booked in basic economy. Obviously, your odds are better if you upgrade, and you’ll also avoid the huge line-up in the jetbridge, so take a look at some different ways you can beat the system. I also did a Youtube video below.

Crowded jetbridge when you’re flying coach.

Anyway, even if you’re the type who likes to board last, this brings us to No 3.

3. You’re not fighting for overhead bin space.

So much overhead bin space in first class.

I hate not knowing if I’ll have overhead bin space. It gives me anxiety. I like to be both in business class and the first to board a plane so I can store my overhead luggage before there’s no room. I’ve been in situations where I didn’t have overhead bin space over my seat in economy, and the flight attendant found space in the last row of the plane, so I had to wait for literally every passenger to deplane before getting to my luggage. Oh, man. Never again.

Also, passengers in coach do not care about each other’s belongings. I have had people move my belongings to another bin so they can try to fit theirs in (without even telling me). I’ve also come to my seat and all the passengers in my row put their heavy winter coats in the overhead bins, so I didn’t have room. This only happens in coach.

4.  You’re not sitting so so close to your fellow stranger passenger.

First class on Delta

In business class, there’s a lot more space between your seat and the passengers seat. Why? There is no middle seat.

Delta First Class Vs Comfort Seats. See the difference?

In economy class, however, you’re literally sitting shoulder to shoulder with the passenger next to you.

5. You don’t have to wait for everyone to deplane before you can get off.

Back of the plane on Air India.

If you’re sitting near the front in economy, you lucked out. Those in the back of the plane have to wait for everyone to deplane to get to the luggage carousel or make their connecting flight. Sure, it’s only an extra 5 to 10 minutes, but there’s always that person who takes forever to get their stuff every five rows.

6. You won’t share two bathrooms with 100+ people.

3 spacious bathrooms for 42 business class passengers on Qatar Airways.

Most average, domestic flights can squeeze 150 to 250 passengers, and there are only two bathrooms in the back of the plane. If you’re flying business class internationally, the bathrooms are often bigger, and there’s never really a line.

7. You’re sitting away from the loud engine.

Jason and I are on our best behavior… or are we? 🙂

Depending on the plane, the engine will be under the wings near the middle of the plane or in the back of the plane, never in the front of the plane. This means there will be a strong chance it could be a lot louder in economy class if you’re near the engine, especially on older planes.

8. Seats recline peacefully… enjoy all that space!

First class on Delta. Look at all that space, even when someone reclines their seat.

I don’t really have to elaborate here. But allow me for a hot sec. As I mentioned in my story on whether you should ask the person behind you if you can recline, economy seats are shrinking so airlines can squeeze in more seats. In just the past 20 years, the average economy seat went from 18.5 inches in width to an average 17 inches today. Pitch, the space between a seat and the seat in front of it, has gone from 35 inches to a whopping 30 to 31 inches, and some seats have as little as 28 inches.

You’re literally in someone’s face if you recline in coach; it’s not the case in first class.

9. Bonus miles!

When you fly first class, most U.S airlines give you bonus miles, whether you are a high-tier frequent flyer or not. This helps you get to status a lot faster… and you rack up so many miles, you can use them later for upgrades, free flights and shopping.

Here’s an example. I put in dates for a trip to Atlanta from NYC on March 27 to 30. If I buy a main cabin ticket, I receive 1,365 miles; 1,490 Medallion Miles; and $273 Medallion Dollars (Medallion is what qualifies you for status).

However, if I book business class, I receive 2,890 miles; 2,236 Medallion Miles; and $578 Medallion Dollars.

The further you travel, the more extra miles you’ll accrue. For instance, check out NYC-JFK to Seattle.

In Main Cabin, you receive 3,065 miles; 4,842 Medallion Miles; and $613 Medallion dollars. 

In First (Delta One), you receive 15,295 miles; 7,264 Medallion Miles; and $3,059 Medallion Dollars.

Receiving more miles for buying first-class tickets is a standard across most U.S. airlines but check your favorite airline to see how many more miles you might receive.

10. You get so much closer to loyalty status.

For any airline, the more you fly, the more you’ll be rewarded. Once you reach 25,000 qualifying miles, you will definitely start earning more qualifying miles. For instance, with Delta SkyMiles, you earn 7 miles for every $1 you spend as a Silver Medallion member as opposed to 5 miles for every $1 you spend as a general SkyMiles member.

11. It’s not always as expensive as you would think.

As I highlighted in my video on how to realistically get upgraded to first class, tickets in first class are not always as expensive as you would think. In fact, on some routes, it can be the difference of $30 (which is how much you’d pay to check in your luggage if you’re flying coach, so it balances out… and you get priority boarding, bigger seats, overhead bin space, better service, more miles… the works).

Check out my video below. All my upgrade secrets are there, including how you can pay very little for a first-class ticket.

12. You never have to be that person that goes to the gate agent trying to upgrade, fly standby or switch your seat. You have no worries whatsoever.

Can I switch seats? Or upgrade? Or fly standby? Or whatever?

Remember, there are some bad upgrade tips out there, so be smart about what might work for you.

More stories:

6 best airlines to fly economy class

I tried the secret VIP terminal at LAX – this is what it’s like

6 expert tips for flying with your pet

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Jimmy Im has traveled to 113 countries, stayed in over 600 hotels and has flown a million airmiles. He lives in New York City.

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