How the One Percent Gets Around

Here’s my dirty secret: I’ve ridden in a private plane, and it was spectacular. I loved it. I try not to think about it because it makes flying in coach, or even that time I got bumped to First, such a sub-par, disappointing, and dirty experience. It reminds one that there is no justice in the world, like when the awesome guy dumped you and the only men you meet for months smell funny and just wanted to stroke your hair. You are reminded of what was, but will not be.

Even though it’s guilt inducing to ride on a private plane — the wealth! the leather! the carbon footprint! the children who live in poverty! — you should still say yes to your friend’s great-uncle’s offer to fly across the country with them for the weekend. Although you will become less tolerant of the plebeians on day-to-day travel, you should still take up the offer, because the plane is flying anyway and you’ll have internet access so you can look up exactly how much carbon the plane is emitting and how you are ruining the planet.

Here is how the experiences of flying coach, first class, and via private plane compare:

Coach First Class Private Plane
Security The line could take 45 minutes or 5 minutes.  You strip to one layer of clothing and prepare for a pat-down. You’ve paid for TSA pre-check, so the line is about 63 seconds long and you are spared the dignity of removing your shoes. Private planes leave from a separate terminal where everyone is on a first name basis with the agent.
Boarding You will inevitably be in zone 5 and have to climb over two people to get to your seat. You board first and get settled with a free drink. A little windy going to the tarmac, but you feel glamorous deciding when to leave.
Seats Your seat doesn’t recline but the person in front of you decides to recline the whole way, leaving you with negative space. No elbow wars going on with the shared armrest. Seat reclines back a comfortable amount. Wide, cushy, leather chairs that recline far back. More comfortable than any chair you own.
Storage It’s possible you’ll beat the rush and be able to store your bag overhead. If not,  your bag gets gate-checked. There is always enough overhead space for you, and if you want to check, the first two bags are free. Want to bring 70lbs of luggage? Carry on liquids, scissors, or a gift of kitchen knives for a friend? Not a problem.
Snacks Cough up $5 for some Pringles. The flight attendants come around often to ask you what other food you would like. There are cupboards full of food, drinks, and snacks that you really like. It’s magic.
Bathroom After you finish waiting in line, the bathroom will smell and be out of soap. Ratio of passengers: bathroom is 12:1. Possibly your elbows can breathe. Not an crowded or dirty experience; almost pleasant.
Fellow passengers You could win the jackpot and have quiet seat mates, or you could be next to a loud person/child/pig. Either quiet or you enjoy a pleasant networking session with your seat mate. Family, friends, or work colleagues. You have enjoyable conversations or all work independently.
Flight attendants See: choose your own adventure. They come by multiple times to offer new (free) beverages.  Your water has a fresh lime each time. No need for specific beverage service, and the pilots would help you out in the event of danger.
Landing Unhappy babies whose ears are popping and you can’t listen to your music. One of the first off. Whenever, wherever, you want. Turns out you can listen to your iPod during landing.
Cost NYC – LAX, six weeks out: $327 NYC – LAX, six weeks out: $1060 Tens of thousands of dollars.  At least.

The only real downside is the awkward social situation that ensues when your friends ask you what time your flight leaves or which airport you are flying out of. Still, a small price to pay to taste the life of luxury.


Ellie A. aims to visit all the continents, even if she has to fly coach.



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