Flying around the world, seeing the sites, staying at fancy hotels. Breakfast, lunches, dinners, cocktail parties. Fluffy pillows and puffy comforters. The life of pleasure and luxury paid for by someone else. Friends and families throw envious comments and constantly ask if there are openings where we work. If only they knew…

This month let’s discuss class. Yes, we want to be perceived as being from that elite class of world travelers but that’s a dream. I meant class of travel.

Yes, we fly around the world. In economy class. Friends and family that means it’s the same class of travel you bitterly complain about when you make the once a year trip for thanksgiving or christmas, or on the vacation that you took a year planning and still ended up in economy class. We do that trip twice a month. On multiple airlines. On multiple days. For many, many, many hours. That is why we are silent when you complain about your once a year two-hour flight in economy.

Notice how the airlines love to talk about their new lie flat seat/bed? We walk past those on the way to economy. We walk past the passengers who boarded first and now pretend not to see us walking past them on the way to economy hell as they scrutinize the sparkle of their welcome on board glasses of wine.

The luxury seat would be nice but it is not my primary concern in economy class. I like to sit near the front. Not to torture myself with the peeks of elegance that I see whenever the curtain opens up. I think the ride is better near the front (why else would first and business class be at the front of the aircraft?). I also don’t have to see the row upon row of tightly spaced economy seats if I am sitting in one near the front.

What we worry about is overhead luggage space. Passengers who have seats at the back somehow always seem to have the most and largest carry one. Savvy travelers know this and they leave their bags in the overhead up front. Flight attendants use the bins at the front of economy for storing their own luggage, extra blankets and the useless emergency doo dads (more on that in another article). Some airlines are considerate enough to make sure the bulkhead passengers have room for storing their bags, most don’t bother.

Economy is getting better. The seats are thinner so we have an inch more leg room. At 5 feet 6 inches that inch means a lot to me; a toe length (I have short toes) means the difference from cramps starting 5 hours into the flight instead of 3 hours. I doubt it means much for the 6-foot guy.

But our biggest fear, ahead of not getting overhead bin space, is not being able to reserve our preferred economy seat in advance. We want to be miserable in a seat we chose. We travel too often to know that while our window or aisle seat might be bad enough, if we end up in that middle seat we might as well be water-boarded the entire flight. How bad do we fear that middle seat? I once was given the middle seat of the last row on an A340-600, a hell of a long airplane. On that flight the entertainment system did not work. They gave us $50 vouchers. I never forgave that airline, not for the entertainment but for the seat, and have never flown them again. I was the last off the flight… well I got off before the wheel chair passengers. I tore up that voucher. Even in economy I have my standards.

On newer, and larger, aircraft economy class means we have personal information systems, with screens as wide as the seat back, personal charging systems, sometimes a shared power outlet and elaborately folding trays that are still the same size as the standard tray. I never use the power outlet; it’s impossible to work on a laptop when the seat in front of you is reclined. It’s also hard to eat. Some airlines have learned the tray does not have to be as tiny as the meal.

The true power of economy? The positive of economy? Economy comfort. Elite Plus. Preferred economy. Whatever it’s called that special section with seats a little wider, space a little bigger, and lately food a little better. Anything that gets us some semblance of luxury. Alas, they come with a price. A price that is sometimes too high for us to even use our per diems to pay the extra cost.

In the end we all get to the same place at the same time, though some more relaxed than others. As those in front hustle off the plane full of perkiness we realize the great equalizer of us all is next; immigration and customs.