The TRUTH About Spending Thousands Of Dollars To Fly Business Class All The Way Around The World

The Truth About Flying Business Class

Photo: Nicholas Carlson

Business Class flying: Is it worth it?This morning – actually, it was Tuesday morning, but it feels like it was this morning – I woke up in my Manhattan apartment at 8AM and started an 8,800 mile journey to Auckland, New Zealand.

I just arrived, and though it’s only Wednesday afternoon back home, it’s Thursday morning here.

It was a long trip!

My first flight, from JFK to San Francisco lasted about 6 hours. Then there was a three hour layover. Then I took a 13 hour flight over the Pacific Ocean and into the southern hemisphere.

But instead of dreading this long haul since I first planned it a few weeks ago, I’d been eagerly anticipating it.

You see, this trip was my first ever as a Business Class traveller.

I’ve flown a million times and the closest I’ve ever gotten to the big, wide leather seats at the front of an airliner was jamming a knee with my carry-on on the way back to seat 27B.

This time, it was Business Class all the way – and I was dying for it to begin.

Mindful that there may be a few of you like me out there, I kept my camera out at (almost) all times during this trip to document every step of the way.

The questions I want to answer here:

  • Is Business Class all that it’s cracked up to be? 
  • Is it worth the money?
  • What are the secrets to surviving 24 hours straight of air-travel?

Good Tuesday, morning! My journey started at 8AM in New York.

Unlike most Business Class travellers, I took the subway to JFK. It takes 2 hours, but I like how you KNOW it takes 2 hours.

Sitting with your luggage on a subway car can be a bit…awkward…

The subway actually connects to something called the AirTran. Out the windows: Queens!

At the airport, we start to feel special when we see this sign.

No fighting ticket machines or lines for business class fliers. Just walk up to that counter, and you're checked-in in under 60 seconds.

The security line was about 25% as long, too. Still sucked, though.

Looks like I have some time to kill before my 3PM flight…let's find a First Class lounge!

Looks like it's just this way.

Here they are: the frosted glass doors I've so longed to pass through so many times! Let's go!

We're in, but wait. Check out the vicious guardians.

We hand them our tickets and get the OK – and this free wi-fi card.

We wander down the hall. What else is inside the lounge?

UNIMAGINABLE LUXURIES IS WHAT! For example: a copy machine!

Also: FedEx boxes. Boom!

Views…of the airport roof!

A TV with a spotty satellite connection to CNN!



We also found a place where you can talk on the phone and change your clothes…

…here's what it looked like inside.

There were these work spaces, which reminded me of my college library

Maybe it was the conference rooms, the copy-machine, and the work spaces, but the lounge started to feel like a Kinko's.

You had to buy alcoholic beverages, but coffees and teas were free.

The best perk in the lounge? The workstations had outlets.

I plugged in and used the free wi-fi to catch up on my favourite Web site.

Back in the main room of the lounge, a crowd gathered around to gasp at Casey Anthony's acquittal.

The lounge PA tells me its time to board. I scramble past these targeted ads on my way to the gate.

It's a good sign when your row only has two seats.

I finally sit in my first business class seat! Look at that legroom. Let's look at what else this puppy's got…

…an astounding array of adustable positions (the seat can almost lay flat!)…

…and, most magically of all, a built-in back massager.

We're served a menu. I ordered the beef, but should have gotten the pasta.

The steward handed everyone in business and first class one of these clunky entertainment systems.

I stuck with my iPad, which has a bigger screen and weighs 1/4 as much.

Nothing says class – or that you are at a Chinese restaurant – like a warm, moist towel.

They gave me a tablecloth – again for that authentic low budget Chinese restaurant feel.

The food tasted like airline food.

Dessert almost made up for it: make-your-own-sundaes!


The finest business class luxury of all? An outlet for my gadgets.

The outlet is probably why I look so cozy in this photo.

We complete the first leg of my journey as we land in San Francisco.

Here's how I know I'm in the right airport.

I have a three hour layover. Time to escape the hoi polloi and find a first class lounge, right?

Found it! Let's go in…

…Rejected! Turns out us Business Class fliers aren't good enough for a FIRST class lounge…we turn around with our tail between our legs…

Around a few corners and down a hallway we finally find the Air New Zealand lounge

This lounge felt more elegant than United's…

…maybe it was the copious amounts of free booze…

As boarding time neared, the flight steward walked in approached all the passengers to let them know. It made you feel less like cattle.

We walked past our plane on the way to the gate…

Huge, right?

One more, for Frommer

At the gate, it was reinforced: Business Class means skipping in line. We boarded.

Here it is!

Boom! Look at it!

Look at the whole section!

We imagine we look about as classy sitting in our seat as this guy does sitting in his seat.

One more look at the section.

So, what are the amenities?

First of all, there's a personal entertainment screen. Per usual, it went neglected for our iPad.

This table pops out at the press of a button. It slides forward and back.

Another button moves the seat back completely forward and flat, turning the whole chair into a BED

Down by our foot stool (yes, the seat has one), we found all this: a couple menus…

…and a gift box! What's inside?

…an eye mask…

…some fresh socks…

…some ear plugs…

…and some toiletries, including a toothbrush and toothpaste.

Hey look, they gave us a warm moist towel.

Usually, Air New Zealand serves dinner over several courses. This couple looks like they're on a date!

We opted to get it all at once…

…that way we could get to sleep sooner.

Every Australian or Kiwi veteran of this flight told us to sleep, and get a drug to help. Our doc prescribed Ambien.

We also knew these $25 skull candy ear buds, which suction into your ear, also help block out noise.

It worked! Thanks to the ENTIRELY FLAT bed/chair, we slept more than 8 hours!

In the morning, the chair back just folds right back up…

…like so.

Sorry, we forgot to take a picture before diving into breakfast.

We looked at our in-flight nav system. Woah! We're almost in New Zealand.

There's Auckland!

We arrive at 5:30 AM local time – about 2PM on Wednesday in New York

As we look out from our hotel patio, we contemplate. Was Business Class all its cracked up to be?

The answer is that it depends on where you're flying.

On the domestic flight, we probably could have done without the warm, moist towelette and even the constant back massage -- thanks mostly to how incredibly engaging our iPad is.

The international flight was incredible. Compared to a couple of flights we've made to Europe, and even some across the country, it seemed short and a lot more fun.

But still, we would not spend the thousands of extra dollars on even an international business class ticket unless:

  • It isn't on your dime -- and probably not even on your company's dime, especially if its a startup with limited capital.
  • It is very important that you get a full night's rest before doing business on the day of your arrival. If you need 8 hours of sleep to be on your toes in a meeting that could make the quarter or year for your company, business class is a worthwhile investment. It will help you sleep.
  • It is an extremely special gift for a loved one on a big anniversary or birthday. If you have the money and want to make the gesture, it's a really impressive one to make. The person you're giving the ticket to will be entirely blown away -- and feel like a million bucks.

If you can't do Business Class, there are three things you MUST have to survive…

  • An iPad. The battery life is crazy. You can watch 10 hours of TV shows and movies -- and play some video games, too.
  • Noise-cancelling earphones. Boise sells really expensive ones. The Skull-candy in-ear-buds I have cost $24.
  • Sleeping pills, if your doctor says it's OK. I took Ambien. Slept like a baby.

DISCLOSURE: Why did I fly to New Zealand, and who paid for it?

You should know that I flew to New Zealand -- business class -- on New Zealand's dime. The government offered to buy my ticket and get me a hotel room so I could meet some entrepreneurs down here.

I agreed.

Scratch that; I jumped at the chance.

The Kiwis aren't saying they're expecting any kind of coverage. But the business owners down here will probably get some -- more than they would have if I hadn't flown here, I'm sure.

I promise to keep any stories I write about them honest.

(By the way, they're flying me back home coach.)

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