You Can’t Go Home (To Economy Seating) Again

First seen in SKIRT! Magazine.


I blame AirTran.

My husband, Mike, and I booked tickets for a vacation through AirTran. It seemed like a harmless thing to do at the time. When we later checked-in online, a window popped up asking if we’d like to upgrade to “business class” for $39.

“Do it!” said my husband.

“But why?” I asked. I didn’t see the point of spending extra money just so we could be the FIRST people to hit the side of the mountain.

“Come on… it’s vacation!”

So, I agreed.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was quite possibly the dumbest thing I’d done since acquiescing to help Mike re-do our bathroom.  Every couple who has ever done a home improvement project together knows the “D” in DIY stands for “Divorce.”

Thanks to our fancy upgrade, when the time came to board our flight, we boarded first.  Boarding before everyone else was nice, though a little bit of a waste. Over the years, we’d perfected the art of rushing to the gate half a millisecond after our seat group was called, while still appearing to the casual observer to be walking there like lovers enjoying a relaxing Spring walk through the woods. You might remember us from the Sydney Olympics; we Gold Medaled in Speed Sauntering. Not everyone can knock an old lady down and step on a kid’s teddy bear on the way to the gate and not look like a Pamplona bull doing it. Now our skills were completely unnecessary.

First on the plane, I was greeted by row after row of empty overhead bins. I heard angels singing.  There would be no wild-eyed, neck-craning effort to try and find the last overhead spot to throw my carry-on bag. No standing in the hallway with my face in the armpit of a guy trying to get his bag up there. No patiently waiting while the lady holding up the line neatly folded her newspaper and did everything but build a nest before sitting down and clearing the way for the rest of us to get to our seats.

In fact, no one in economy had even boarded yet, when the flight attendant asked if we’d like a juice or free cocktail. We stared at her with wide-eyed wonder, like she’d just handed us a Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle on Christmas Day.

“We can get a free cocktail?” I asked.

Before anyone else is even sitting down?” said Mike. He asked in a conspiratorial whisper, thinking the flight attendant had just gone rogue. He didn’t want the Captain to find out before the drinks arrived.

The flight attendant just nodded and awaited our order.

And that’s when I knew I’d lost Mike forever.

We had screwdrivers in our hands before the first general boarding passenger even stepped foot on the bouncing gangplank leading to the plane.

“We’ve got drinks before anyone even boarded!” said Mike, his voice quivering with boundless joy. I hadn’t seen him that happy since the minute before, when looked left and right and didn’t see his knees on either side of his ears.  Business class had the space that someone built like a 6’2″ space alien needed.

The glint in Mike’s eyes illuminated the whole plane. Business class had become a magical place where cocktail rivers flowed peacefully into roomy pretzel forests (no peanuts since the allergic people ruined that for everyone).

This particular flight had an unruly pack of Spring Breakers in the back, and at one point, the Captain actually announced that if they didn’t calm down, he would “Turn this plane right around!”  When one of the amateur drunks tried to come forward and use the business class bathroom, our bulldog of a flight attendant sent him packing to the back with a deft point of her bony finger. I think I heard Mike giggle. The flight attendant went on to regale us with tales of her twenty years protecting business class passengers from the rabble in the back, like a battle-worn Sargent sharing war stories.  I think Mike was in love.  She could have had him with the promise of life-long business class seating and a bag of salted snacks.

In my business, I often put other people’s expenses on my credit card. I get reimbursed by my clients AND I get airline miles. This means, using the points, we used to fly everywhere for free.  Not anymore. Not since the day I agreed to upgrade. From that moment on, Mike would never again fly economy. It was a very dramatic ceremony; he put one hand on his heart and one hand in the air, and swore that, never again, would he sit anywhere near a screaming baby. I think he thinks in business class, if a baby screams, the flight attendant just politely asks it to stop, and it does. I didn’t have the heart to tell him first class babies cry, too.

Now I have two problems.

First, AirTran sold to Southwest, which has no first/business class. We may have just lost the best upgrade trick out there. Just when I thought we won the cold war, here comes Southwest and their communist seating policy.

Second, it takes a lot more points to fly first class on airlines that don’t have upgrade tricks. Now I am completely out of points, and we’re grounded for the foreseeable future. It’s not like we actually afford to buy first class tickets.

I wonder if I can pay my mortgage with plastic.


Amy Vansant
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13 Responses

  1. Abby

    I was “accidentally” upgraded to first class once on a business trip (the only trips I take, sadly,) and was truly amazed at the difference. You aren’t kidding when you say it’s like a different world up there, if only for the leg room.

    Anyway, I was next to this guy who was taking FULL advantage of the free cocktails and he started getting ultra chatty and quite annoying (almost driving me to drink myself.) He babbled the whole damn flight. Come to find out, he was the keynote speaker at the convention I was going to cover (as press) and just about crapped kittens when he saw me in the audience.

    It was funny. I got him to write a free feature for the publication. Bribery is lovely in the friendly skies.


    • Amy Vansant

      Excellent – though I’m thinking he didn’t see it as bribery, since Tools like that never realize they are Tools (hence the tool-dom.). I think he just had a soft spot for you because you listened to him, and the fact that he so “entertained you” (his perception) leads him to believe you are a person of intelligence and grace.
      And maybe he thought he’d get laid. There’s always a bit of that in there too.


  2. Lafemmeroar

    How ironic you sort of got a downgrade for your upgrade. Great post, it felt like I was right there with you and Mike enjoying my own cocktail 🙂


  3. Maribeth

    Unfortunately, you can not use plastic to pay your mortgage……nor your car payment. Damn those tricky points awarders.


  4. Stacey

    I flew first class for my honeymoon. As soon as I sat down, a flight attendant had a mai tai in my hand. I don’t even know where it came from. When they brought me an ice cream sundae, I was ruined. I hate economy so much more now.


    • Amy Vansant

      Oooooh.. that sounds like REAL first class – not $49 upgrade to business class. Excellent. But you’re only further ruining us for regular flight. Stop that!!


  5. O Shea Shenanigans

    I am with your husband on this one. Flying First Class is worth every penny- even deserving of being capitalized in a sentence.
    From this point forward I too declare the O Shea’s fly first class!! (my wife just rolled her eyes behind me didn’t she?)

    I wanna board first and drink alot!



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