Thoughts on Premium Cabins

The thing about reviews is that most reviewers almost have too much experience for their experiences to be relevant to people like me who just don’t have enough time off to try every product in the sky. I realize that the point of most reviews is to be as in-depth as possible precisely because people who take a once-in-a-lifetime vacation in first class want to make sure they aren’t wasting their money (or miles). Still, some of the “bad” reviews I read make me laugh, given that they really don’t sound that bad to me.

I really have very little experience with first class – the first time I sat up front is when I had food poisoning and upgraded to AirTran’s first class because it was only $100 and I thought that sitting in Economy while trying not to barfpoop would just be too miserable. For anyone who never got that opportunity before AirTran disappeared, my review is that the seat is wider and they give you a snack. Definitely worth $100 given the circumstances, but not exactly “premium.” I’ve also flown Virgin America first class a few times, since their same-day upgrades used to be really cheap. I think I paid $150 to upgrade BOS to SFO (almost 7 hours in a headwind), and that flight was probably awesome. I say “probably” because I took too many sleeping pills while waiting at the gate, and I barely remember the flight. I was so zonked that, despite sitting in 1A, I was the very last person off the plane.

My wife and I flew “business class” on Norwegian from OAK to OSL last summer, which is more or less premium economy on most carriers. My review of that flight is that the seat is wider and they give you a snack. (I’m being snarky, but Norwegian is actually one of my favorite airlines, and that flight was amazing. Seeing the Hudson Bay and Greenland during the midnight sun from the Dreamliner’s oversized window was incredible. I’ve flown Norwegian both long haul and short haul, and their planes are spotless, their staff is always friendly, and Gardamoen airport in Oslo has the best candy selection of any airport I’ve ever been to. However, their planes are painted to look like dog penises, which is odd.)

That’s a plane in the photo, not a Samoyed getting excited.

Other times I’ve been in first class were just on short legs, so nothing to write home about. I flew Alaska Airlines first class from SEA to SFO a few months ago on one of those $50 upgrades I bought myself as a treat. My review of that flight is that the seat is wider and they give you a snack. (A quick aside – a friend of mine had asked if I could bring back some of Alaska’s bloody mary mix, since it’s supposedly really good. I hate bloody marys so I wouldn’t know. Anyway, I asked the flight attendant for some, and she very politely declined, explaining that it comes in a big carton, not individual bottles. But, after the flight as I was deplaning, she poured some into a lidded cup for me. I thought that was really nice, and it makes me like Alaska Airlines just because a flight attendant has never been that nice to me before. Once I got off the jetbridge, I stood over the garbage can right by the gate and decanted the cup of bloody mary mix into an empty Aquafina bottle… I can’t even imagine what the other passengers on the plane thought I was doing as the saw this upon deplaning.)

Alaska is going to run this plane on their new Seattle to Tulsa route just to fuck with little kids.

Okay, so anyway, back to my original point about reviews… I’m taking a trip to New York in a few months, and I used 50,000 United miles to book it in first class. Normally I wouldn’t waste the miles, but SFO – EWR on United is on their fancy “premium service” trans-con 757, so I thought it would be worth it. This will definitely be the nicest hard product I’ve ever flown, and I’m pretty excited. Plus, 50,000 miles for a $1200 ticket is over 2 cents per mile, which isn’t bad for a domestic redemption… especially when I don’t have a spare $1200 sitting around (or even really a spare $400 for economy).

Once I booked the flight, I excitedly looked up reviews of United’s trans-con premium service, ready to read how mind-blowingly amazing it is… and most reviews aren’t very positive. The gist of them is that the seat is nice enough, the food is meh, and the service is blah. Picky picky. First of all, I’m vegan, so I won’t be able to eat the food anyway. Second of all, I have a lot of social anxiety and don’t enjoy when people go out of their way to talk to me, so I don’t really care if the service is aloof. Maybe I should ask them for some extra bloody mary mix as a sort of controlled experiment. One review I read even criticized United’s snack bar, saying something to the effect of “hopefully you like Milano cookies and pretzels.” My response when reading this was to say, “Yes, I do like Milano cookies, and you’re telling me that there’s a snack bar where I can get Milano cookies whenever I want?” Different expectations indeed. (I realize Milano cookies aren’t vegan. I should have said I’m mostly vegan – don’t tell PETA.) My only concern about this flight now is that I booked a window seat, and if the person on the aisle goes to sleep, he’s going to be annoyed with me crawling over him every half hour to get Milano cookies.

I don’t really plan to review travel products on this blog, but I’m sure I’ll talk at length about how great United’s trans-con service is, since it will have been the first and only time I’ve been on a flat bed seat on a plane. This is like the Emirates shower suite for me, seriously.

Requisite question designed to spur a flurry of responses in the comments section: Do YOU like Milano cookies, and do you know what flavors United offers?

1 Comment

  1. Lisa M. says:

    I completely agree with your thoughts on the reviews on premium cabins on some of the big sites. Many of the points are bogus. I like your take on it. You mean I get cookies! Haha.


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