travel classes

I have heard references to various designations for air travel classes: first class, business class, economy class, tourist class, and coach (am I missing any?).

However, I have never actually seen any differences other than first class and “the rest of the plane.” I have traveled by air all over the U.S., long flights and short, on all different sizes of planes. My international travel is limited to one trip on a C-5 Galaxy (in which I was seated in “cargo” class).

So what’s the deal? Are there really all these different options? If so, what do you get for the difference in price? I know pretty much about first class, but not where the others come in.

For those of you who have personal experience with this topic, what are your opinions concerning what you got for your money?

I’ve seen people boarding the plane earlier than me because they had acheived some special status somehow, but they sat in the same seats I did and ate the same chow. I can’t imagine paying any significant amount for that privilege. OTOH, when I’ve finally boarded the plane most of these folks were in aisle seats or exit rows, which have a little more room, so maybe that’s the advantage. I would pay a small premium to guarantee an aisle seat in an exit row.

That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.

Some of the larger planes have a first class, a business class, then coach. The business class has larger seats and better food than the coach class. Having never gotten higher than “business” class, I don’t know what the amenities of first over business are.

I think economy, tourist and coach are all names for the same thing.

I’ve never seen a plane that had more than first class, business class, economy class.

First Class is the front part of the plane. It has bigger seats and better meals (or it may have a meal when the rest of the plane does not). It also has better service (higher flight attendant to passenger ratio) and things like alcoholic drinks and headphones for the movie are free.

Coach is the back part of the plane. Seats are smaller and closer together, you may just get a packet of pretzels for your meal, there are fewer flight attendants and you have to pay for alcoholic drinks and the movie headphones.

Business Class is available on some airlines, usually on international flights. It has better seats and service than coach but less than in first.

“Economy Class”, “Tourist Class” and the like are common terms for diffenances in tickets within Coach. There are several “classes” of ticket within Coach class. (Within First and Business too, but they are less used there). Within Coach the differences have to do with how flexible you can be with your travel plans. “Full Fare” coach tickets can be purchased at any time up to the time of departure. If you miss your flight you can use it to get on another flight or you can get a full refund of your ticket price. Other coach tickets have restrictions on them. They must be purchased a certain number of days in advance (14 days and 21 days are the usual break points) and they are less flexible; you can’t use them on flights other than the one the ticket is for without paying additional fees (if at all) and you may only be able to get part (if any) of your money refunded if you don’t show up for the flight.

There are also special tickets that are used for groups, for when you get airline tickets as part of a package (say for a cruise), for when the airline has an arangement with a convention (like Comdex or the CES say) or for any number of things.

In general, moving from Coach to Business to First you get better seating and better service. Within a compartment the more you paid for your ticket the more flexible you can be with your travel itenerary.

“Drink your coffee! Remember, there are people sleeping in China.”

Dennis Matheson —
Hike, Dive, Ski, Climb —