Flying business class is a bit like investing in cryptocurrency – no one wants to hear about it.
If it goes well, people will be jealous. If it goes badly, people will have little sympathy.
Suffice to say, unless you’re very savvy with your frequent flyer points, or swimming in disposable income, flying at the pointy end is a rare occurrence for most people.
Relatively few Australians will opt to fly business class or first class – in normal times.
The pandemic has shaken things up, however. Now you have normally frugal expats wiping out their savings on $7,000 business class tickets home (for fear of being bumped, which happened various times to Economy passengers last year when there were passenger cap squeezes).
There is now also a small number of Australians flying abroad for essential/compassionate reasons, taking advantage of the lack of outbound passenger volume to score pointy end upgrades for as little as $630 (AUD).
DMARGE spoke to one Australian resident who recently travelled from Australia to Europe for essential reasons. They told us they were offered business class upgrades for $630 (for the Doha to Madrid leg) and $1,500 (for the Sydney to Doha leg).
The return economy ticket itself cost some $4,500 (AUD).
Our source paid $630 on top of that, to upgrade to business class for the Doha to Madrid leg of the flight, and was then allowed to use “three first-class” beds, free of charge, “because no one was in them.”
They also pointed out it was a good call not to take the upgrade for the Sydney to Doha leg, as “that flight was pretty much empty so I could lie down in Economy anyway.”
The Doha to Madrid flight was a little more crowded (in Economy), however, so it was worth getting the upgrade, “which I would have never considered [doing] in normal times.”
“I felt very spoilt.”
The attraction? The price, and the privacy.
In these virus-ridden times, more and more people who have never flown business or first class before are now considering it (and flying it), thanks to hygiene being front and centre of our minds.
It wasn’t all wine and cupcakes though. Our source’s debut pointy end experience took place during the worst moment in the history of commercial aviation. Though the industry is now dusting itself off, the last year and a half has been the toughest economic challenge the sector has ever faced, having lost anywhere between $84 and $118 billion US dollars (depending on whose reports you read) in 2020.
On a personal level, flying first class also has the potential to ruin you for life, as our source attests.
“It’s going to be so annoying on the way back hahaha.”
Other insights included: the dearth of passengers in Sydney’s international terminal (we suppose there’s a bit more volume when there are flights to New Zealand)…
…as well as the quality of the beverages on offer during the flight (“the wine omg”).
Recent Instagram posts under the Doha International Airport hashtag (like the one below, by Instagram user @dr.jun.tanaka), suggest our source is not the only one enjoying drinking vino at 40,000ft.
We’re just happy they enjoyed themselves. As we’ve previously reported, the same isn’t true of everyone who flies at the front of the plane (see: Why Flying First Class Is Actually More Stressful Than Flying Business Class).
On a more serious note, our source points out how grateful they were to be able to travel. Even though they too are facing some tough circumstances at this time in their life, they point out many in the world currently have it a lot worse.
Business-class and first-class upgrades are currently this accessible (and outbound flights are currently this sparse) due to Australia’s international travel ban.
Pressure is mounting on Australian authorities to find a more efficient solution than our current hotel quarantine facilities, in order to potentially ease this ban, and enable more Australians to see loved ones (and loved countries) overseas as soon as is safely possible to do so (without losing our ‘safe haven’ status).
New Zealand, for instance, has been a similar success story, yet is not currently imposing an international travel ban on its citizens.
Meanwhile, new virus outbreaks like the latest one in Melbourne prove how important it is to get this right, and how crucial it is to get the country vaccinated, in order to enable this to happen.