Bonus Rant: Cheap Seats (and a Ray of Hope)
I hate walking through first or business class on my way to the cheap seats, especially on long flights. The people sitting there swirling their mimosas always seem so smug. As I struggle into my middle economy seat and the guy in front slams his seat into my knees as the woman next to me struggles with her howling baby and the 300-pound fella on the other side happily oozes into my seat (and onto me), I just want to scream, "Why? Why can't I be one of the chosen few in the front of the plane?"
And then I close my eyes, plug in my iPod and keep repeating my Zen mantra thing about saving thousands of dollars for a few hours of inconvenience. Still, if I ever win the lottery, I'm never going to sit in the cheap seats again.
But a bright spot: Maybe we all will soon be able to afford better seats without breaking the bank. OK, there is still going to be bank-breaking required, but it is getting less financially painful.
Air France announced Monday that it's going to permanently reduce the price of its business-class seats. The new Business Class Leisure fare, which will be available year round, has to be booked 30 days in advance, and it will save about 50 percent off the airline's normal business-class fares. For example, a round-trip flight from Dulles to Barcelona will be $3,470 round trip, including taxes, and a round-trip flight to Paris will be $3,254. Still sounds like a lot of money, but when you consider that United's biz class seats are more than $7,300 round trip and that an economy seat to Paris in summer is running about $1,500, it doesn't sound half bad.
We've seen other airlines, such as British Airways, also reducing its business-class fares, especially to London. The move to cheaper good-seat fares started after several all-business-class airlines, such as Silverjet and Eos, started offering reasonably priced (about $2,400 round trip during high season) service from New York to London. Again, sounds high, but economy seats from Washington to London this summer are more than $1,000 (and if you want to purchase an economy seat that would be upgradeable to a business-class seat using miles, you'd pay $1,800 plus 60,000 miles).
So what do you think? Is it worth it to pay up for the better seats? If not, how do you handle it when you get stuck in economy on a long, full flight and the guy next to you hasn't bathed in a week or the gal next to you hasn't or has (fill in the blank)?
By Carol Sottili |
February 27, 2008; 7:15 AM ET
Tales from the Road
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