Ten annoying First Class passenger habits

I’ve been lucky enough to sit up front on the plane more than I deserve, and in those flights I have come across some pretty bad behavior from my fellow passengers.

Don’t think the worst offenders are the ones in the back of the plane, because it’s the ones up front that really can’t behave themselves!

“Do you know who I am”

Surprisingly, there are still quite a lot of passengers that equate first class tickets with royalty. They’ll make outrageous demands from the ground or cabin crew, and fully expect their needs to be met. The “do you know who I am” line is the best in the book, as I’m convinced it is an instant directive to the crew to ignore this passenger for the rest of the flight.

And just so you know; yes, the cabin crew does know who you are, and they also know your status and whether you are on a mileage ticket or an upgrade. So behave yourself!

The mobile phone screamer

Yeah, I’m on the plane now, yeah, I’m getting in my seat, yeah, lemme put my bag away, yeah, I’ll be there around noon, yeah yeah yeah…

The part the follows this usually involves me grabbing their phone and beating them with it. At least that is what is going through my mind. For some reason, passengers traveling in premium cabins tend to have louder and less interesting conversations than those in the back. I have absolutely nothing against someone making a last minute phone call saying goodbye to the folks at home, but the people who feel the need to document every single move they make, or walk on board pretending they are closing an important deal really push my buttons.The “my luggage is more expensive than yours” passenger

I have actually run into this kind of creep several times. They are the ones that stroll aboard the plane with $2500 luggage, and will remove any bags that get in their way. On a British Airways flight, I actually sat in my seat watching a lady remove all the other bags from the luggage closet, just so she could store her bag without any of the “cheap” luggage touching it.

When she was done, I got up and placed my rolling bag right back where it was. Needless to say that did not go down too well.

Step aside please – I am an elite member of this airline

Ugh. Nothing annoys me more during check in, than when someone tries to cut in front of me waving their elite status card from a lanyard.

My best experience with this was at LAX when someone actually pushed me aside claiming “she was a top level elite”. Of course, it turned out that she was not a top level elite, and the check in agent made it very clear that she was to head down to the regular check in desk. Chuckles all down the queue.

The bathroom is mine mine mine

Travel up front is usually quite peaceful, and with just 12 passengers on average, most of the cabin tends to sleep during the flight.

Sadly, as soon as the cabin lights are turned on towards the end of the flight, there are always some passengers who feel they are entitled to use the bathroom for the next 45 minutes. I’ve witnessed passengers carrying their beauty case into the bathroom and stay there for an hour.

The flight attendant hassling passenger

Let it be clear – I love flight attendants. And no, not in the way that begins with “Dear Penthouse”.

I’ve been on enough flights to know that they have a tough job, and I’ve seen them harassed by enough passengers to forgive them if they spill something or forget a drink order. But it’s the harassing passengers that really grind my gears. Spending $4000 on a plane ticket does not entitle you to annoy the flight attendant, nor does it give you the right to make unreasonable demands for 14 hours.

Some of the silliest things I’ve heard these passengers demand are “french fries” and yelling at a poor flight attendant to clean up the vomit mess they just made in the bathroom (really!).

I do not need to see you in your underwear

One of the perks of flying an international first class flight, is a set of fluffy PJ’s. Sadly, most US based airlines don’t believe in this amenity, but any top class foreign airline still provides them in almost any size requested.

Common courtesy would expect you to be discreet and pop into the bathroom for a quick wash and change. However, every now and then I still run into someone standing in the middle of the aisle, stripping down to their underwear and changing into their PJ’s. Of course, it’s also never a supermodel performing this strip tease…

Smelly feet on the bulkhead

You have to wonder what is going through someones mind when they get on board, take off their shoes, and rest their smelly sweaty feet on the bulkhead. Perhaps they think nobody in the cabin cares, or perhaps they are convinced their expensive ticket entitles them to being obnoxious.

I’ll never know, but it is one of the most disgusting things I see when I fly.

Bring the kids, but stick them in the back (and keep them there)

There is nothing wrong with bringing your kids on a trip with you. I’ll even forgive you if you got yourself into the first class cabin, but stuck the kids in the back of the plane. But please do not let that give you the idea that it’s fine to let your kids join you up front for dinner and a movie.

If the larger seat of first class means so much to you that you are willing to dump the kids in steerage, then you’d better be prepared to be separated from them for the rest of the flight. The first class cabin is not a social club.

I’ve had several flights where I was trying to sleep, only to be disturbed by a family having their usual Sunday dinner right next to me when they dragged their kids (and their meals) from the back of the plane.

I’ll sit here thank you very much!

I’m by no means an elitist, but sometimes I’ve arrived in the cabin and come across someone who I just know does not belong there. They are often pretty nervous, and are constantly looking around every time another passenger boards.

These are the seat stealing passengers. There are 2 kinds of seat stealers; those that know exactly how the system works, and those that are just plain stupid. The stupid ones don’t realize how the seat assignment system works, and figure the plane is like a bus; grab the first and best seat you can.

The other kind knows exactly how things work; they’ll grab any seat in the cabin, and when the real occupant of the seat arrives, they’ll simply grab another one. They’ll rinse and repeat until all the seats are taken (and they go to their real seat), or till the doors close and they relax in their new first class seat.

Thankfully, most airlines have a flight attendant directing people to their correct cabin, or doing a seat count, but the smart seat stealers will always try. After all, with a little effort they could be sitting in comfort instead of in the back.

10 reasons why first class air travel is the best way to fly

Call me a snob, but when it comes to flying abroad, there is nothing like sitting up front in the first class cabin. Sure, it may still be the same metal tube the rest of the passengers are traveling in, but there is something to be said for three course cuisine over a bad sandwich, or 1 flight attendant for 6 passengers instead of one per 50.

Unlike the 50’s and 60’s, when flying in first class involved wearing your best suit, nowadays the front of the plane is occupied by all kinds of passengers. You’ll still find the well dressed CEO, but you’ll also run into the roughneck oil worker on his way home from a 6 month gig. Of course, “F”, is also the cabin of choice for most celebrities. During some of my trips, I’ve sat close to celebs like Naomi Campbell, Sir Elton John, Reverend Desmond Tutu and even No Doubt, on their way home from a concert I had seen the night before!

If you have never had the pleasure of sitting up front, let me list ten reasons why I consider it to be “the best way to fly”.

Elite check-in lines and security

The “F” experience starts as soon as you reach the airport. In front of the terminal are usually signs telling arriving passengers which door to use, and you’ll often see that first class passengers get their own little corner of the massive departures area, where they can check in with a little more dignity.

Once you are checked in, you can usually proceed to a dedicated line to have your bag inspected. Of course, these premium check-in and security lines are also available to passengers flying coach who have elite status with the airline.

Do you want to experience flying a premium airline, in a premium cabin? Check out our Gadling 4th anniversary giveaway where you can win 2 PREM+ tickets from New York to Amsterdam on OpenSkies!

Lounge access

Which would you prefer? Sitting in the departure area with 500 other passengers fighting over a seat and tripping over other peoples luggage, or sitting in a serene lounge with top shelf booze and full dinner service?

Yeah, me too.

The lounge is often a tranquil place where you are surrounded by others flying in first or business class, who just want to relax, have a drink, and wait for their plane to board.

Most North American lounges are fairly basic and run down, but airports like Hong Kong and London Heathrow have lounge facilities with everything from a spa service to a noodle bar.

In some lounges you will also find the tools you need to get some work done, like free wireless Internet access, and even a business lounge with computers and printers.


Gate lice. No, this is not contagious, nor does it really involve lice. It is a phenomenon best described by our own Grant Martin in this article. Gate lice are the people that gather around the departure gate area, in the hope of pushing their way onto the plane before anyone else.

They are usually the ones carrying the most bags who plan to run onto the plane and grab all the overhead bin space. Gate lice are also the ones who have probably never flown before, because they don’t realize that most airlines call passengers aboard based on their cabin and frequent flier status.

What this means to you, as a first class passenger, is that you’ll usually be one of the first to board the plane, probably right after families with small children are aboard. What this also means, is that you can slowly stroll onto the plane, without the fear of running into a full overhead bin, or someone trying to sneak their way into your seat.

Walking onto a plane and being greeted with a glass of champagne and some warm nuts is so much more civilized than walking into a cabin with 200 people trying to claim their space.

The seat

Ah, the seat. When push comes to shove, it is the seat that makes the first class ticket worth its money. The first class seat is usually a highly adjustable leather recliner, with a large fold-out table. Some seats feature lumbar support and even built in massage controls.

Many seats convert into a fully flat bed, often with quality bedding and plush pillows. Leg room in an average coach seat is measured in centimeters, in most first class suites, leg room is measured in meters.

The amenities of a coach seat usually include nothing more than a folding arm rest and a pouch for the vomit bag, but in a first class suite you’ll have ample storage space, folding drink holders, several magazine pouches, a large table, a foot rest and more. With some first class suites, the first 10 minutes after boarding are spent figuring out how to take advantage of all that space.

Power ports

Don’t underestimate the importance of being able to work during the flight. Having access to a power outlet at your seat can make the difference between 10 hours of boredom, or 10 hours of productivity.

Of course, not all of us fly for work, so having power at your seat also means you can charge your iPod or other media player. In addition to regular power outlets, some airlines have started adding USB power jacks, and even network ports.

The food and beverage service

An average coach class menu still has a strong emphasis on the old “chicken or beef” concept, and while some airlines are even working on removing that amenity, the first class cabin is still where you’ll find the good stuff.

Premium cabin passengers are usually handed a menu when they board, and you’ll almost never have to worry about them running out of your choice when it is your turn to order.

I’ve been fed some of the best Asian food I ever tasted (at 35,000 feet), prepared for me by a famous Chinese chef who had access to his own airplane rice steamer.

Many premium airlines also stock top shelf alcoholic beverages, and serve a scrumptious breakfast prepared exactly as you like it. Forget that soggy cheese sandwich at 5am, waking from a long nap in your flat sleeper seat to a freshly prepared omelet is just such a better way to start the day.

Better entertainment options

Entertainment options on most airlines have greatly improved in recent years, but the best in entertainment is still reserved for the first class cabin. Many airlines have at least switched from antique video tape systems to computerized video on demand libraries, offering thousands of hours of entertainment. On some airlines, you’ll even find in-seat games, Internet access and iPod connectors. The better the cabin
, the larger the screen, so some airlines currently offer flat panel screens as large as 15″ in the first class cabin.

Flight attendant to passenger ratio

As I mentioned earlier, the larger the cabin, the more passengers there will be for each flight attendant to look after. Flight attendants are awesome, and I’ve been treated like royalty by many of them, but when each poor flight attendant has 50 passengers to attend to, it’s not surprising that it may take a little longer to get that bottle of water.

In most first class cabins, there will be one flight attendant for about 5 or 6 passengers. You’ll also notice that they have more time for the little touches, like making sure your drink is never empty, or placing a bottle of water next to you in your suite, for when you wake up from your nap.

Room to work

Thankfully I have never become the victim of a “reclining seat related laptop injury”, but I do know several people who have lost their precious laptop when the passenger in front of them decided it was time for a nap without looking back, slamming the top of their seat into the laptop screen. Laptops are not designed to be crushed by a seat, and the seat usually wins the battle.

Thankfully this problem does not exist in the first class cabin; you usually have your own table, and it is impossible for the person in front of you to get even remotely close to your screen. Room to work means room to be productive. Especially on daytime flights, being able to plug in, sit back with a drink and some music, and get some work done can be more productive than any time you’d ever spend at the office.

Quieter cabin

No, the first class cabin is not completely sealed off from the rest of the plane, but there are two things that make it a quieter environment. The cabin is almost always up front, away from the jet engines, and there are fewer passengers. There is also no nice way to put it; there are also fewer loud passengers. In a coach cabin with 200 people, there will always be some people that are inconsiderate of others, the first class cabin tends to be a slightly more sophisticated place, where passengers are more aware of others.

In an upcoming article, I’ll describe several ways you can fly first class, without having to take out a second mortgage, or sell one of your kids to scientific research.

10 tips for smarter flying