As often as I fly, I'd never flown first class. But I'd always wanted to, just once, just to see if it's all that.
Yesterday I finally did get the opportunity to fly first class, and it was, indeed, very nice; even better because I didn't have to pay for it.
That is to say, I didn't have to pay for it with money.
I paid for it, rather, with a couple of hours of my time last spring when I volunteered to be bumped from an Alaska Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Portland and was given a $400 flight voucher in compensation (see post from 3/26/2016).
In truth there are few things that thrill me like snagging a free airline ticket. To this end whenever I fly and the depature gate area looks crowded I keep my ears peeled for the announcement that bump-volunteers are needed so that I can be ready to spring out of my seat and be the first person at the airline counter. Sometimes I don't even wait for the announcement , I just proceed up to the gate on my own and let the clerk know that if the flight ends up overbooked I'm ready and willing to reliquish my seat.
So you can imagine my dismay when several months later I endeavoured to cash in my $400 voucher towards a Columbus-Los Angeles- Portland- Columbus trip and was informed that the voucher was only good on Alaska Airlines flights up and down the West Coast.
I don't fly up and down the West Coast. I fly cross-country.
At first I was mucho annoyed and felt as if I'd been scammed by Alaska Airlines. But then when I was planning my next West Coast trip I got the idea of looking into the possibility of booking one-way tickets to each destination instead of booking one multi-city round-trip ticket as I ususally do. In other words, one ticket Columbus to L.A., another L.A. to Portland, and another Portland to Columbus. This way I figured I could use up at least part of the voucher for the south-north leg of the trip from Los Angeles to Portland.
To my happy surprise, I learned that it's actually cheaper booking my trip this way, in one-way-ticket segments rather than one big round trip, and it would be even cheaper this time because, of course, I could use my voucher for part of the trip.
But the cost of the ticket from Los Angeles to Portland was under $100 on most airlines, about $150 on Alaska Airlines. Then I got the idea of using up more of my $400 credit by flying first-class L.A. to Portland. Turned out the first-class ticket cost $330 total.
Thus I snagged several birds in one fell swoop: I got my L.A.- Portland ticket, used up most of my Alaska Airlines voucher, and would soon be able to kick off my bucket list my desire to fly first class.
Part Two: Prelude To The Flight
In retrospect, I must say that for me the very best part of flying first class was my entitlement to make use of the Alaska Airlines VIP lounge, known as The Boardroom, in the L.A. airport before my flight.
Not that there aren't some nice places to wait around in the public area of the Los Angeles airport,
Part Three: The Flight
I quickly gathered up my stuff and hauled elbow over to my gate where the last zone was boarding in a behemoth's tail of a line. I headed to the end of the long line then remembered: I'm first class! I can zip by everyone else via the first class lane! Which I did.
By the time I boarded, everyone else who was going to be sitting in my section had already taken their seats, and so it was with great delight that I saw that the seat next to mine was empty,
Just before we were served my fellow passengers and I were presented with warm wet cloths with which to wash our hands, I presume, though I'm pretty sure that if you're serious about wanting to clean your hands you should have soap and water.
In truth I have only two criticisms of my first class flight:
1. I assumed that the internet would be free but no, one has to pay in first class, same as in economy.
2. I was cold, but when I asked the attendant for a blanket she said they didn't have any blankets but that she would ask them to turn up the heat. I wasn't sure if she was joking about turning up the heat or if she was serious but forgot to get to it; in any case, I was cold the whole flight.
And finally, this isn't a criticism, merely an observation: the bathroom in first class was exactly the same as the one in economy. I know this because I checked both out both bathrooms. But I didn't mind. I'm always grateful for any available bathroom en route.