I Hate Business Class

I’ve been flying a lot lately.  About a week and a half ago, I was reminded how much I hate that there is class division on airplanes.  Yes, there was a specific happening that reminded me of this anger I’ve been keeping inside.  As I boarded onto the plane with my roller suitcase, I looked ahead to the overhead bin above my row and knew I’d better store my suitcase ASAP.  So I mustered up all the energy I could and hoisted my suitcase up over my head and into the compartment that spans first class and economy.  Phew!  I continued on to my aisle when suddenly, the flight attendant shouted after me: “M’am!  M’am!  Where is your row?”  I pointed that it was just a bit further.  “I still have people boarding in first class, so you’re going to have to move your suitcase further back.”  Are you kidding me?  In this Rosa Parks moment, I contemplated standing my ground.  Why can’t your first class people just walk a few steps further to store their luggage?  I decided not to make a scene.  After all, I hear those don’t go over so well on airplanes post 9/11.  So I pulled my suitcase down, continued on to second class, and stored my bag.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been angered by business class.  An excerpt from a journal entry when I was fourteen:

June 15, 2001. The last flight was not bad.  I was in the first row of seats of 2nd class, which (to me) is THE worst seat.  I feel like everyone behind me is glaring at me like I think I’m better than them because I’m closer to the front of the plane than they are.  At the same time… I’m staring on to the “cream of the crop” – first class.  Oh wait! – excuse me – I’m NOT staring on to them because there’s a freaking CURTAIN separating 1st and 2nd class!

This is not just a silly frustration.  As far as I’m concerned, this is the most blatant example of classism in America.  I mean… we even label it first and second class (err…business and economy, if you fall for that)!  And the only thing that separates first and second class (other than The Curtain) is our relative affluence.  How is no one else bothered by this?????  It is very clear to (most) people in our society that it is no longer okay (err…was never okay) to ask a black person to sit in the back of the bus.  But it’s somehow okay to ask a poor (or even upper middle class) person to sit in the back of the plane.  Make way for Prince Ali!

Does anyone else ever think about this?  At my work place, we talk a lot about power and privilege, especially recently.  Speaking of recently, I have lots of thoughts on grad school and privilege, so I’ll get back to you soon on that one… enough ranting for now.

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9 thoughts on “I Hate Business Class

  1. Meh, first and business class tickets overpay for a couple inches and make our coach seats easier. This situation is a mere symptom of our consumerist, classist society.

  2. Hi Amanda. Your second cousin here. 🙂 I have a different take. I am certainly not rich and I am certainly not poor. But speaking specifically here re: airlines…they are a business and like most businesses offering a product or service, they want to offer options, choices. So, people have the option of spending $400 on a ticket or spending $1500 on a ticket that will take them to the same place in the same span of time. I fail to see what there is to be angry or resentful about. Some people wish to spend more to be comfortable and be waited on more. It IS, to me a huge waste of good money. I would way rather spend my $$ when I reach my destination, doing fun stuff.

    Also, no one asks or tells anyone to sit in a certain place on a plane. You make the choice what you want to spend and you buy the ticket. The airline has nothing to do with it.

    Another thought if I may. Sometimes, quite often actually, the person you see as having power and privilege is a person who has taken great risk and assumed great responsibility and they, too, are making their choice and buying their ticket. Do you not believe these people have a right to do as they wish with their own money? Are they to be punished or judged because they have been successful and have a bit more money?? These people very often have built companies or products and employed thousands. Every healthy country needs these people and I for one am grateful for those who put it out there and take the chance to be great. Many people benefit.

    Just my opinion. Different perspectives are inevitable and good. I respect that you see things differently and I enjoy your writing a lot. Good luck with grad school and your future plans. I have no doubt that you will be successful and even extraordinarily so. 🙂

    (oh yeah, and if your post was actually tongue in cheek, then, well…
    nevermind but it sounded like you were serious, so…)

    • Hey Glenda, thanks for your comment. I do recognize that by having people spend extra money on their seat, it’s making mine cheaper. And if they want to waste that much money, let them do it! I suppose my issue is with the bigger problem of systemic classism. What you describe above about people working hard, earning their money, and having the right to spend it as they wish is part of the American Dream, which says that anyone that works hard can be rich! Sounds nice! But in my work at Luther Place, I get to interact with many different classes, and some of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen are in the lowest class, and unable to move upwards because of race or gender or ability or religion or you name it!

      As I was thinking about all of this and reading your comment, I came across a quote from a book we’re working on at Luther Place and wanted to share. From Luther Place member Dale McDaniel: “God’s priority people are really the people at the margins, and that’s not what I grew up with. I grew up with the idea that being an American and being a Christian were kind of the same thing. If you go to church and move forward and upward, that’s what God has in mind. He wants you to strive to be at the top. But in reality, what I’ve learned, and what I think the Bible says, is that we should be on a downward journey. We live a life in which we take more than we need and give back less than we’re called to, when we should be giving up. So the downward journey is not a very popular view. And yet that is what I’ve learned…and it has completely changed my life.”

      So I suppose that is what I’m trying to say… that God’s Dream is different from the American Dream. And I believe in God’s Dream! But our society does such a good job of continuing to divide people and rewarding those who are in a place of privilege, which is, as you pointed out… sometimes earned… and sometimes not. And quite frankly, it’s hard to make sense of it all when you work with people who were not born into privilege and have been given limited – if any – opportunity.

  3. Yes, there is classism (and with classism read- racism, ableism, agism, citizenship status-ism(?)…) embedded in our transporation “choices.” We take (or refuse to take) many things into account when choosing our method of transportation- time, comfort, convenience, financial cost, environmental cost, availability, safety… Some people do not give those choices much thought- for example a white upper-middle class US citizen who has a free weekend and a few hundred dollars to spend on a plane ticket. For others choosing their transportation method is a little more planned out- for example a person who does not have US citizenship and cannot travel by plane, who doesn’t have a few hundred dollars to spend because they get paid less than they deserve, who has to save up their vacation days all year so that they can take that trip by bus- which takes 8 times as long- each way.
    At this point it would be hard for people like you and me to change our privileged status- the question for us now is- how do we use our privilege in a productive way? When we think about transportation how can we make the best choice for ourselves, our neighbors and our world?? Maybe that means taking the bus instead of owning a car? Maybe that means taking the train (which costs more than flying!) instead of flying- which is terrible on our environment? Maybe that means choosing to not be spontaneous- choosing to plan- which many of our brothers and sisters are forced to do by situation?
    They are hard choices all around. But I’m not going to jump on board and rant about the plight of those who have to sit in second class on airplanes. They’re atleast on the plane- which means they have a lot of privilege to begin with. The thing I will say is that conversation around this topic is one way to raise awareness about privilege in our lives- and it could be used to push people to think about where they are in the privileged position… and where they are not. -k

    • YES! Thanks Kristen, for highlighting the point that if you are flying at all, you are in a place of privilege. And I understand that because that means ME (among many others), my rant is just that…a rant. It’s certainly petty and perhaps a bit trite. My negative plane experiences have helped me think a bit more about class, so I do appreciate that. When you’re in a place of privilege and riding high, it’s easy to not think twice about it all. But when you see someone step ahead of you, you give second thought to those even further behind.

      I am lovin the conversation!

  4. Me again, Amanda. Your statement: “What you describe above about people working hard, earning their money, and having the right to spend it as they wish is part of the American Dream, which says that anyone that works hard can be rich! Sounds nice! But in my work at Luther Place, I get to interact with many different classes, and some of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen are in the lowest class, and unable to move upwards because of race or gender or ability or religion or you name it!”

    My response: I actually would NOT say that anyone who works hard can be rich or will be rich. To many people, working hard is at the very heart of their dignity; to do less than work hard and give their best is not even trying to fulfill one’s great potential as a human being. Also, of course it is true that a person can work very hard and give their all and not achieve or move up due to all kinds of “walls” or obstacles of one kind or another. My opinion about this conundrum is very pragmatic and will not be satisfying at all and may even sound defeatist (I don’t mean for it to…I am not certainly NOT a defeatist or fatalist) but with any large group of humans and with the infrastructure, prejudices and evils of our culture that are in place, there will ALWAYS be those who either had the misfortunate of starting their life as an underdog in one way or another or falling on to hard times or just plain being in the wrong place at the wrong (or right?) time. I certainly pray for these people and I love that there are those who are trying to fix that and help those people directly (such as yourself). This is good and admirable and of course, helpful. I simply do not think, however heroic and well-intentioned the effort and the thought, that these efforts will ever abolish the unfairness and inequities in this mortal life on earth. It is not perfect and we are not perfect. Only He is perfect and I think he must have had a very good reason for creating an imperfect world. Perhaps to try and bring out the best in us. hmmmm, idk, what say you. ?

    I love the conversation as well. You are in a different place from me and hearing your “take” certainly gives me much to consider and opens me up to other ways of thinking.

    So THANKS! 🙂

    • Hmmm…you’re right…tis a bit defeatist for me! I believe that God calls us to try to create heaven on earth (Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, right?). Yes, we are totally imperfect, but it’s a journey that we must continue to walk with each other. And as Kristen mentioned above, one of the best places to start is with ourselves. How can we change/simplify our actions, taking less so that others may have more?

      • I just don’t see it that “because” I take less, someone who needs more will get it. Realism here. Just doesn’t work that way. However, just because I think that way does NOT mean that I do not try to make my little corner of the world a better place, every day in all of my actions and contacts. Obviously if everyone did that, the world WOULD be a much better place. Unfortunately, there are many people who do not give a damn as well as people who are evil and people who will do and take whatever to get ahead. I’m sure my realism must sound like fatalism to you but I call it like I see it and I pray a lot. 🙂

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