Buh-bye first class? Wouldn’t that be nice

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By Christopher Elliott

So they’re getting rid of first class, are they? At least that’s what our friends in the traditional media are reporting.

I remember writing a similar story — in 1999.

Forgetting, for the moment, that the new article fails to draw a clear distinction between domestic and international first class, let me be the first to say that if premium seats disappeared, I’d be popping Champagne at the Elliott ranch.

It’s not that I don’t like sitting up front. Quite the contrary, I managed to get myself upgraded on a recent transpacific flight, and it was absolutely amazing. The seats, the service … all very nice.

But having a one-class configuration would simplify my life as a consumer advocate in a big way. I wouldn’t get the whiny emails from the entitlement class, wondering why they haven’t gotten their upgrade. There’d be no cases like this one, either. Because there would be no premium seats to fight over.

The new premium seats

But a careful read of my ’99 story and the latest one, which seems to be making the rounds in the travel blogosphere in all the predictable places, reveals that premium seats are still very much with us. They’re just calling them something different, like business class.

Moving to a one-class configuration might have a few other unintended benefits, which I outlined in this 2003 op-ed for (ironically) the same dead-wood publication that came out with the latest report. Oh, I know. I get around. (Here’s how to survive a long flight in economy class and avoid jet lag.)

But most of all, a one-class configuration would level the playing field and make air travel better for all of us. First class passengers aren’t so special after all. One-class aircraft tend to have more legroom and better service, seat for seat, than the two- or three-class carriers, which divide us into haves, have-somes, and have-nots.

I think it’s time to pull down the curtain, don’t you?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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