Monday, January 25, 2010

A Class All It's Own

Late vacation approvals are ruining me. A few years ago, when I was a student on a co-op work term, I didn't think I was going to be able to go home for Christmas for more than a weekend.  So I bought a ticket to go home on Friday, and return Sunday.  Then I was told I could take a few more days off. I would still return to work as originally planned, but I could leave for Halifax a few days earlier.

When I went to change my booking, the only seats available were in First Class.  They weren't too expensive, so I bought them.

If you've never flown First Class, I highly recommend it.  It's not the same as being upgraded to First Class.  Buying a First Class ticket is different.

When you arrive at the airport, you check your bags in a different line. It's a shorter line. Then you go through security like everyone else. Then, with Air Canada, you get to enjoy complementary access to their Maple Leaf Lounge. The lounge has Internet access, a TV, free food, drinks (including wine and beer, and other alcoholic beverages). (Okay, it's not free. It's included in the price of the ticket.)

When it's time to go to your flight, you can board at anytime. You get a bigger seat with more leg room  You always have either a window seat, or an aisle seat. You get a meal with complementary alcoholic beverages. It's a much nicer experience.

Then, when your flight touches down, you're amongst the first off the plane. When you get to the baggage claim, at some airports they have a special carousel for first class bags. From the moment the plane comes to a complete stop, they have a certain amount of time before the first "priority" bag appears on the "priority" carousel. When I worked at Pearson in Toronto, they had a special priority carousel. They don't have one in Halifax. I had to wait for my luggage with everyone else.

That year, when I flew back to Ottawa I flew coach. I left first thing in the morning. I had a three hour stop-over in Montreal. My first class experience made that all the harder.

I haven't flown first class since - until this year. Our vacation approvals came in a little close to the requested dates. When I checked flight prices I could have flown pretty cheaply, but I would have had another three hour stop-over in Montreal, and an arrival in Halifax after midnight, which is like the middle of the night to me. In order to get a flight at a decent time, it was only a few dollars more to get a ticket under Air Canada's new "Lower Executive" class. It has a few more restrictions than their full Executive class. But, for all intents and purposes, it's First Class.

I'm glad I did get those tickets.  My flight to Halifax was delayed by 7 hours.  My flight back to Ottawa was delayed by two and a half hours.  Let me tell you, if you have to spend 7 hours in an airport, you want to be in the Maple Leaf lounge.

Here are a couple of videos to highlight the differences between First Class and Economy: