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Unfortunately for most of us, the class system is alive and well in the travel world. While society’s elite manage to fly in luxury with impeccable service and gourmet nosh, in comparison the rest of us are slumming it back in economy with our peanuts and plastic wine cups. A painful experience when you know all that separates you is a thin curtain.
But while most travellers are well versed in the nifty gadgets available to help fend off jet-lag and ways to exploit hotels to get perks in order to make the most of their trip, it’s only the most experienced ones who know how to experience first class splendour while sitting at the back of the airplane. And once you know these hacks, your economy class flight will never be the same again…
1. Spring for exit row seats
If you’re travelling alone, look to book a space in the emergency exit row. Sitting here will guarantee you have a little extra space and added leg room. Although some airlines choose to hike up the price for these seats, it’s definitely worth it.
2. Be strategic with your booking
If you can’t get the exit row seat, and are travelling with your BFF, go for the window and aisle seats. That way anyone who is booking after you will most likely avoid choosing the free seat between you. Worst-case scenario and someone claims the seat, just see if you can switch with the stranger so you and your best bud can sit together.
3. Befriend the flight attendants
After dealing with hundreds of rude and uninterested customers on a daily basis, a friendly smile and thankyou will go a long way. In the eyes of a flight attendant, making an effort to be accommodating, understanding and helpful in any way possible will set you apart from other jet setters and could see you scoring a few bonuses. Read: faster service, extra drinks, better headphones or if you’re lucky, travel advice.
4. Take a morning flight
Morning flights, particularly international, are often less crowded than ones leaving later in the day. So if you’re willing to get up at the crack of dawn to take a 6am plane, there’s a higher chance of sitting next to an empty seat, meaning more room to get comfy and a flight attendent to passenger ratio skewed in your favor.
5. Bring the day spa with you
If the first class service won’t come to you, bring it on board yourself by packing a carry-on kit of spa-worthy beauty products. Pop on some soothing under-eye masks before you drift off to sleep then wake up refreshed pre-landing by spritzing yourself with a quick spray of a fragrant hydrating mist.
6. Create your own cocktail
Vodka with some watered down lemonade doesn’t exactly scream luxury. So if you want to drink like first class do, bring along your own carry-on cocktail kit and mix it in with your complementary drinks to feel like a true celeb. You’ll also make your fellow passengers seriously jealous, which never hurts.
7. Pack a neck pillow and blanket
If you’re not comfortable when you’re flying, you’re definitely not going to enjoy your experience in the air. Instead of relying on flimsy economy class blankets, grab your own along with a neck pillow for a couple of bucks at any airport store (you can even make your own neck pillow on the cheap with a sock and some dry white rice). To up the luxe factor, add a couple of drops of a sleep promoting essential oil like lavendar oil. It’ll be worth every cent when you don’t arrive at your destination with a cramped neck and no sleep.
8. Bring noise cancelling headphones
First class travellers typically don’t have to deal with economy class annoyances like obnoxious fighting families and screaming babies. So to recreate your own calming oasis, drown out the sound of children crying, bustling trollies and whinging passengers with these bad boys.
9. Order a special meal
If you’re travelling internationally, skip wait times like a true first class celeb and get your meal up to an hour earlier than everyone else by selecting a different option to ‘Regular Meal’ when you book your tickets online. Most airlines offer up to as many as a dozen alternate options from the standard meal on offer at absolutely no extra cost, including vegetarian, kosher, low-fat, Indian and dairy free. They’re equally as delish as the regular meals, and because selecting one will add you to the ‘Passengers with dietary requirements’ list, the attendants will serve you ahead of everyone else to ensure you get your correct meal.
Images via W&P DESIGN, LLC/PUNCH, thrillest.com, ausbt.com.au, thebellevoyage.com, jollymom.com and quantas.com.au.
Isabelle is a writer who has a hundred-and-one side-splittingly funny stories about growing up at an all-girls boarding school, with a chocolate habit that requires constant monitoring. Follow Isabelle on Twitter.