First Timer’s Guide to First Class

In honor of my sister’s “leaving on a jet plane” yesterday, I’ve decided it’s time to wrap up this travel blog mini-series. I realize that there has been a significant delay between posts, but delays happen, folks. Please accept these vouchers good for two future blogs (gratuities, of course, not included).


As a rule, when my zone of any plane is invited to board, I decline. Instead, I gather my things while staying seated, pull out my plane ticket, and finish my pretzel while everyone else fights for their place on the tiny jet way. On this particular trip, I was finishing up a phone call with my mom when I reached for my ticket. It was only then that I realized my zone wasn’t the usual THREE or FOUR but something called PREM, and my seat number was 2.

It sounded…well it sounded like I was in First Cla—no, it couldn’t be. Could it? I’d paid for this ticket, and while I thought it was expensive enough, I also knew that it wasn’t nearly expensive to be a part of the premiere class. I wasn’t First Class material and that I was sure, but not so sure that I was willing to walk past the seat. I didn’t want to be the “excuse-me, excuse-me, my seat is back there” girl.

So I did what any logical person in my predicament would do: I explained the situation to my mom—still on the phone—loud enough for the people around me to hear. I figured if they knew that I knew that everyone knew that I didn’t belong in first class, they’d be a little more understanding of any ruckus I would cause once on the plane. Instead, they were just annoyed that I was talking on my phone in the jet way.

Mom said it sounded like first class to her, but maybe I should ask the flight attendant. (Moms are full of good ideas.) I showed my ticket to the flight attendant at the door of the plane—we’ll call her Nancy—and said, “I know how dumb this question is, but is this really seat number 2? Like in first class?”

Nancy looked at my ticket, and then back at me, then back at my ticket, and then back at my college sweatshirt, and then her eyes finally rested on my book-sack and said, “Yes, this is first class…how’d you manage that?”

“I have no idea…”

“Well then, I guess it’s your lucky day. Let me show you to your seat.”

From that point forward, my adventure in first class was both completely different from and exactly the same as any other flight I’ve taken before or since.


I’m a lover of new experiences. That’s why I moved across the country to go to graduate school (although that explanation never stops people from asking, “yeah but why?”). So when I found myself in First Class, I thought, this is going to be a great learning experience.

Actually, what I really thought was, hell yeah! I’m in first class suckers! I’m. In. First. Class. I’ve arrived. Or, I will arrive. In First Class. Or something to that effect. I do remember the words first and class tumbling around my head paired with various other words.

I found my window seat along with a complementary pillow and blanket–it was only an hour and fifteen minute flight. This is a really efficient use of funds, I thought. Before the cabin door closed, I updated my Facebook status—naturally—to read something like “I’m in First Class–best airport mistake ever.” You know, real profound stuff.

I organized myself in my very large, very comfortable seat and awkwardly shuffled the pillow and blanket to the side. Then, I prepared myself for the awkward yet refreshing conversation I knew I’d have with the stranger on my left. But it never came. In fact, the only one who spoke in First Class at all was Nancy.

“Can I put your coat in the closet?” I wanted to say yes, but everyone else had declined her offer before she reached me. “No, thanks.” I’ll just awkwardly drape it here on my lap.

Now in the “second class” area of airplanes, tray tables are attached to the seat in front of you. In First Class, though, the seats in front of you are so in front of you that if the tray tables were there, they’d function only as a sort of entry table that you throw your keys and spare change on when you first sit down, before take off. Instead, the tray tables are hidden in the armrest that should be the third, unlucky traveler that sits in the middle of each row.

Normally I use the tray table to support my laptop during the flight, but today I wasn’t confident that I could seamlessly get that tray table out of the arm rest without disturbing my very quiet neighbor. Instead, I “casually” reviewed the materials in the seatback pocket, desperate for a “Your First Time in First Class” pamphlet. I’d heard that cocktails were free, but I’d exhausted my one-stupid-question-per day limit with the “So, like, am I in First Class?” Idiot.

“Can I get you a drink?” Nancy asked.

She startled me, speaking in the absolute silence like that. Is it me or does the roar of the engine even sound quieter in up here? I was sure I’d heard Nancy correctly, but her little drink cart was nowhere in site.

“Um, sure. A coke?” With a little something extra in it for free? She nodded politely and then looked to the woman beside me. She ordered a Fresca. Well, if I had known we were going fancy…

Nancy walked away and came back with our two glasses. Glass-glasses. Even my Coke looked uncomfortable. Where do I put this without a tray table? I pretended to sip my drink and watched the woman next to me. She put her Fresca on this little rubber pad on our armrest. I didn’t fully trust it. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the front of the plane or the back of the plane, turbulence is turbulence. Except that it’s not! We hit rough patches, and my glass never tipped once. My Coke looked pretty smug after that.

I looked up and there was Nancy again. This time, she held a woven basket of snacks. And not your typical pretzels, peanuts, cookies either. It was fully of familiar candy and crackers like the pantries of some of my friends from childhood.

“What would you like?” She looked like a modern-day gatherer, and while I was proud of her scavenging abilities, I was also getting increasingly worried about her little cart with the drawers full of soda and cranberry cocktail. Where was it? 

Miss Fresca got a Twix and some other kind of cookie with a name I couldn’t pronounce. I got a bag of goldfish crackers. They really brought out the taste of my Coke and completed my overall “student look.”

I too wanted a Twix, but it felt weird to take two things from the basket when I’m normally offered just one from a noisy drawer in the cart. This was especially true since I didn’t pay the First Class price. The rest of my experience was relatively uneventful, though I did use my blanket because it turns out that First Class is rather cold.

When my flight was over and I was back on solid ground I checked Facebook—naturally. I was surprised and then not-all-that-surprised to learn that my First Class status received more “likes” than my acceptance to graduate school. Granted this could be a reflection of people not caring about my education more than it was a comment on the perceived greatness of First Class, but I found it interesting nonetheless.

Would I fly first class again? Certainly. But if I had it to do over again, I would go for the Twix or convince Miss Fresca that there’s two in every pack for a reason.