When is first class worth it?

biz classThe Home Warrior sent me an interesting article the other day that asks the question: Is first/business class worth it? The author then goes to list 11 reasons why it may or may not be. In the end, he declares that for himself, it is definitely worth it. I’m pretty sure that if there were a choice, almost everyone would choose business or first every time—assuming no cost. However, that’s not real life, and unless you have the highest status there is always a cost. (Pictured: My business class seat from DFW to NRT. Worth it.)

For some, it’s the actual monetary cost. For others (including me), it’s using points or upgrades for one flight instead of another. So while it would be great to sit in first for every flight all the time, here are the situations I would prioritize:

Longer flights. For flights to Europe or Asia, it is definitely worth it. This is especially true if you have to work as soon as you land. Lie-flat seats, much better food, more room, and overall a more relaxing atmosphere mean you are more equipped to hit the ground running once you land. Even longer domestic flights are worth it, but I won’t usually request it for anything under 2 hours.

When you need to work. If you are on a deadline and you have to get stuff done, you will have a far more comfortable work environment in first than coach. More room to spread out, a bigger seat, and fewer interruptions will help with productivity.

If you’re tired or not feeling well. Late in my pregnancy, I tried to sit in first for every flight. It was much easier to rest in larger, well-padded seats with a decent recline, plus more attentive flight attendants to bring beverages. Whether you’re exhausted or have a migraine, it’s worth it to upgrade.

And a few scenarios I put at the bottom of the priority list:

Short flights. If you’re on a plane for less than an hour, there’s no reason to squander your upgrades.

Flights with no agenda. If you’re going to be passing the time reading or watching a movie, it’s not as important to be in first.

Of course, lately the flights have been so full that I haven’t gotten an upgrade in months. Luckily, I’ve been able to get a seat in Main Cabin Extra on American most of the time. It’s definitely not first, but the extra room does make it easier to work.

Readers, when is first class worth it to you? Or are you one of the lucky ones who sits in first all the time?


  1. When I’m using miles and I can get a First SAAVER for the same price as economy, since there’ no more ANYTIME awards left for the flight I want.

  2. When traveling alone. I typically fly first/business when it’s just me because it is easier to justify the high cost vs. Multiple seats, plus I won’t know the person next to me.

  3. When I travel alone and on flights longer than 8 hours. I live in the east coast and flights to Europe tend to be redeye flights that are only 5-7 hours. I’ve flown redeye TATL flights in first, business, and coach and in all 3 — I never get good sleep. Dinner service in first or business tends to take 2 hours and the breakfast service takes 1 hour; thus shortening the sleeping time to 3-4 hours. That’s definitely not enough for me. I tend to use business/first whenever I travel longhaul over 8 hours.

  4. I only use points with a) companion voucher so I can get 2-4-1 and b)on long haul flights. Occasionally there are some great deals to be had in Europe with a flat rate of tax at £35 or £50 for business which can make these worthwhile but otherwise it isn’t worth squandering them on the shorter flights.

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