The cost of first-class airfares can be astronomical.
Some first-class prices, such as a US$32,000 trip from New York to Abu Dhabi on Etihad's A380 in a first-class suite, are just as high as the altitude of the planes themselves.
The reasons behind the expensive price tag of first-class airfare include the coveted perks, the sense of luxury, and the fact that the high charges enable airlines to offer other tickets at discounts.
However, with a 70 per cent increase in fares compared with economy – possibly even more if you're flying internationally – are those reasons even worth the steep cost?
Depending on how badly you want a taste of luxury, it might be – especially if you are a savvy traveller who used points to pay for your flight.
For starters, the perks and pampering blow economy class out of the water
First-class passengers have special access to first-class airport lounges, where they can grab a drink preflight, receive free manicures and pedicures, or take a shower upon landing.
Some airlines even shuttle passengers in a Porsche or Mercedes to their connecting flight, where they can then board via priority boarding, of course.
In-flight, that special treatment becomes top-notch personal service, complete with meals by Michelin-starred chefs and free alcohol as well as luxury provisions such as pyjamas, eye masks and expensive gift bags.
And that’s not to mention the amenities and privacy the luxurious real estate of first class provides. Airlines are known to boast padded seats four to six times the size of economy seats with extra leg room, larger television screens, a flat bed with bedding, sliding doors for solitude, and even showers.
Some aircraft even have first-class suites, such as Etihad's A380, complete with a living room, double-bed bedroom and a private bathroom with shower.
All of this pampering and comfort leads to another, intangible perk: convenience
Surrounded by such luxury, it is easier to land at your destination refreshed, less stressed, and well rested.
And the location of first class is also the most convenient for boarding and leaving the aircraft, helping to add more time and energy to your day.
That is all hard to come by in economy, where little service, cramped seats, and a longer waiting time to disembark are more likely to heighten jet lag and therefore create lost productivity – not exactly ideal for a family with a toddler or a business person who needs to head into a meeting right after hopping off the red-eye.
First class also affords those travelling for business with a few bonuses
First class gives fliers more space, privacy, power outlets, and Wi-fi to get their work done, as well as the potential to forge connections, writes Joel Comm of Inc, the American weekly magazine.
“The first-class areas are the ultimate networking rooms,” Comm writes.
“It starts in the lounge, where you get a proper place to relax, alongside people who are at the top of their professions.
“It continues on the plane, where you might find yourself sitting alongside the founder of a multimillion-dollar company or the chief executive of a Fortune 500 business.”
The sums are discouraging, but if you have the money, first class can be worth it
Ultimately, first class will get you to the same destination in the same amount of time as economy. Logistically speaking, it’s not worth the money.
Take the example of an American Airlines flight from John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City to Heathrow Airport in Britain in July 2018.
The 3,440-mile (5,375-km), seven-hour trip will cost US$915 for economy, equal to roughly US$130 an hour. The US$5,407 cost of first class, though, will get you to the same place for roughly US$772 an hour.
If you don’t have more than US$5,000 to spend on a single flight, the calculations are pointless. But even if you do, the difference is stark.
For those who can afford it, the worth isn’t about the money – it's about the intangible benefits first class provides.
It enables fliers to gain time, energy, productivity, and potentially new relationships. If that’s too sacred to lose, then first class might be worth it.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider.