Following the airline industry’s finer and finer parsing of classes has made me wonder where it will end. Suites Class, First Class, Business Class, Delta One, Economy Comfort, and Main Cabin Extra are just some of the terms being bandied about to entice travelers to pay just a wee bit more for (supposedly) a tiny bit more service and comfort. Of course if you pay less, you also get less. I got to thinking about Extreme Fare Class Parsing, and here are my ideas for what we have now and what we might see in the future:
Suite KYA Class (long-haul international only) – Pitch off the scale, service unlimited. Chilled bottles of Dom Perignon positioned even in the lavatories at seated levels for easy reach, Krug Vintage 1998 served with Beluga, Ossetra, and Sevruga caviar starts eight-course dinner. We’ve all seen the photos. Private butler with English accent. If you have to ask about the fare, you can’t afford it.
First Class – Pitch 84” or better, real lie-flat seats, service not bad, but the salmon can be a bit dry. Though the fare is steep, forget about caviar. French Champagne is served, but only nonvintage bruts, and catered with only a small number of bottles per flight, so drink up quickly or switch to red. Fares usually not over $20,000 (one way, of course). Boarding after KYA Class.
Business Class – Pitch 70” or thereabouts, lie-flat seats–sorta–but at a weird angle, too close to the guy next to you, and impossible to really sleep in. Seat mechanisms often broken anyway, so who cares if they are uncomfortable when “flat”? No French Champagne, but Spanish Cava is served (usually a bit warm and sometimes not bubbly) in flimsy plastic glasses with the airline’s cheery logo; salmon “patty” is at least pink and bears a resemblance to real salmon, and a few cashews and peanuts are served warm as if that constituted real luxe. Fares not more than ten grand one way. Boarding after First if the gate agents remember to announce it.
Economy First Class – Pitch 36”, and, well, it’s as good as it gets in coach. Right behind Business Class and with free movies (when the AV system works) and complimentary drinks, albeit the same cheap swill they call wine in the rest of economy and usually served from milk cartons. Decent pitch, but still nine across on widebodies, so seats are very claustrophobic. Less uncomfortable if you are missing an arm. Seats go back a bit more, but then your neighbor cannot lower his or her tray table and will curse you. Fares full fare coach (outrageous) plus a big premium to get in the seats. Ambien extra. No special boarding.
Economy Comfort Class – Pitch 34”, similar to Economy First Class but less pitch. You probably wouldn’t notice because of the discomfort side to side, so go for it! It’s still better than what’s behind you. Same tired meal and beverage service as EFC, but the movies you really want to see cost $5.95 each. Fare premium over coach still stupid.
Economy Sux Class – Pitch 31”, the usual uncomfortable and cramped coach seat, with the same minimal service. Elementary school kids get better and more wholesome snack choices. Bring your own antacid for indigestion. Fare ridiculous, but at least you don’t have to pay a premium.
Cattle Class – Pitch 21”, a new saver class with no legroom and no room side to side, as seats are arranged 12 across on widebodies, 9 across on narrowbody aircaft. Once in, you are there to stay for the duration. Service nonexistent, but you do get the same safety briefing as everybody else. No carryon allowed; checked bags charged at $100 each per thousand miles traveled and not guaranteed to be on your plane, nor the next one. Not recommended for large people, or even medium-sized people. Fare 20% below full fare economy.
Galley Cart Class – No pitch; seated on galley carts as rolled up and down aisles. Can be wet and uncomfortable. Wear moisture-proof pants. Lots of getting up and down and standing in aisles while carts are in use. Not allowed to share aisle space with Aisle Class (see next). Get to board last with some of the lesser classes and to store carryon under the seats of those in Cattle Class. No service, so bring own food and water, though allowed to salvage scraps from returned food. Fare 30% below full fare coach.
Aisle Class – Pitch irrelevant, as there is no seat; standing space only as galley carts permit. Sometimes marketed by airlines as “Vertical Seats” Not allowed to sit on carts or jump seats, but leaning against bulkheads is permitted. Wear comfortable shoes for long periods of standing. No service, so bring own food and beverages. Safety not guaranteed, so must sign liability release form. Proof of insurance required in the event of inadvertent injuries to airplane cabin, other passengers, or crew during turbulence. Fare 40% below full fare economy.
Jump Seat Class – Pitch irrelevant, as seat only available when FAs are not seated for safety reasons. Not permitted to stand in aisles or sit on carts when occupied by Aisle Class or Galley Class customers. May scrounge leftover food when available, but otherwise, no service. Must sign same liability release as Aisle Class passengers. Fare 45% below full fare coach.
Overhead Bin Class – Vertical pitch 21”. A good choice for smallish people who like to sleep in the fetal position and don’t mind pitch black dark spaces for hours on end. Allowed to board before Cattle Class in order to claim empty overhead bins and to store carryon under the seats in Cattle Class prior to those folks boarding. Not a good choice for the claustrophobic individual, as latches do not open from the inside. Recommend customers wear extra-capacity Depends to prevent accidents and leaks through to those below. Fare 47% below full fare coach.
Lav Class – Pitch irrelevant; seat available only on takeoff, landing, and between uses; expected to clean toilet and change paper. Recommend bringing own disinfectant and wearing rubber galoshes to assure personal hygiene. Also rubber gloves. Allowed to lean against bulkhead when lavs occupied, but not to stand in aisles or sit on carts. Fare 48% below full economy.
Belly Freight Class – Pitch irrelevant; comfort variable depending upon size and shape of cargo and luggage which are to be used as seats; expected to bring flashlights and heavy down parka as compartment is pressurized but not heated. Recommend wearing NFL-certified football helmet to prevent injuries from flying luggage and belly freight. Air carrier not responsible for back or neck injuries or broken bones. Fare is a whopping 49% below full coach.
Wheel Well Class – Pitch irrelevant, but you get a unique view on takeoffs and landings. Required to bring an arctic down parka and down pants certified to 100 degrees below zero and own oxygen supply sufficient to last through duration of flight at 34,000 feet. Must supply own safety harnesses to counter gravity pull from open wheel well. Airline not responsible for frostbite to extremities, nose, ears, or face. Airline not responsible for delays causing oxygen supplies to run out short of destination. Saturday stay in wheel well required. Fare is a generous 50% below full fare economy.