As someone who has recently flown on a great deal of airlines in a fine array of countries, I can definitely empathise with this. Having now flown not just economy and business, but also first class, I can vouch that there is a world of difference between the three. Like… woah. So much. Business class lounges have free alcohol and cold meats. First class lounges have free five-course meals and massages. In many countries, first and business passengers get special coupons to go through different airport security and customs. In some places, they get an entirely different airport.1 You get to board earlier, and don’t usually have to queue. There’s overhead luggage space.2 Basically, flying still sucks for rich people, for a given value of “sucks”, but there definitely are a lot more people around who do try and make it less so.

And free alcohol. Free alcohol helps, too.3

My husband tells me airlines suck because, despite what The New Yorker might say, the industry is unprofitable. That is, no airline has ever consistently made a profit; they all tank and either require government bailouts, or they fold. I asked why, if that’s the case, people keep opening new ones. He said it’s a combination of national pride–every country “needs” an airline in the way every country needs a postal service or a telecommunications provider–and that whole “everyone else failed but I won’t!” mentality. I’m not quite sure I’m convinced, but if nothing else, that’s the Harvard Business School official approved line as to why airlines would charge you extra for breathing, if they thought they could get away with it.

  1. “Some places.” Dubai. I mean Dubai. And it’s not quite an entirely different airport, but it is a different floor of the airport. Basically, in Dubai airport, if you’re rich, you will never see another traveller who isn’t. []
  2. the biggest thing I learnt on my trip was that people from the US cannot fucking catch planes holy shit. Check your luggage you raging selfish wastes of space. Don’t try and cram your seven enormous suitcases into the overhead bins. I swear to god, we were on one flight, from Vegas to LA, which is about forty minutes. It took us fifty minutes to get off the tarmac, because assholes wouldn’t check luggage–this wasn’t even with an airline where checking luggage cost anything extra–and got into a fight in the aisle over overhead bin space. In the end, the flight attendant had to throw someone off the plane. Like, seriously. The US is the only place I’ve seen so much airline assholishness in one place. I’m still angry about it like a month later. Gah! []
  3. Berlin Air was the most egregious on this one. Business class between Oslo and New York, and I think I’d been offered three glasses of champagne and some whiskey before we’d even gotten off the runway. It was like 10am. []