You see them breezing through the security checkpoint while you wait in a mile-long TSA line, notice them stepping through the frosted glass doors of the airport lounge as you search for a seat in the gate area, and watch them sip a cocktail as you haul your carry-on to the back of the plane. Elite passengers definitely have it better than those of us stuck in coach, but are the perks you get when you fly first class really worth the extra cost?
In some cases, yes, especially if you value a more comfortable, streamlined travel experience. Even better, you don’t necessarily have to pay an arm and a leg to get those benefits. The price of first-class airfares has fallen in recent years, The Wall Street Journal reports. In April 2015, the average first-class fare was $577 more than a coach ticket, compared to April 2012, when the price difference was $805. Sometimes, you can upgrade your coach class ticket for as little as $100 or $200 (though the complimentary upgrades frequent flyers used to get are becoming less common). And if you planned on shelling out for extras anyway, like a checked bag or additional legroom, first-class starts to look even more affordable.
Of course, not all first-class cabins are created equal, and airlines sometimes make it difficult to determine exactly what you’re getting when you buy a first-class ticket. Frequent flyers also know there’s a world of difference between domestic and international first class. On the former, you get some nice, though not necessarily luxurious, perks, like priority boarding, better entertainment options, and complimentary meals. International first class is far swankier. You’re more likely to have a seat that converts to a bed or even private suite, for one. The food is probably better and there might be amenities like a lounge and bar area or a shower for passengers.
But even if you’re flying domestically, first class may still be worth the upgrade, especially on longer flights. If you’re not sure if you should spring for a premium ticket, consider these six benefits you get when you fly first class.