Per the union's contract with the company, if they need me to fly anywhere they are obligated to send me via Business class or better. In the past I'd never really given it much thought. After all, if you're only going to be on a plane for a few hours, what's the point in spending hundreds of dollars for a slightly better seat. I'm the "average-sized" person that we were told to design things for in my engineering classes, so it's not like I really need the extra space.
But extra space is not all you get.
The 3rd Mate (Jim) and I arrived at the airport with almost three hours to spare. We were flying with All Nippon Airways. Once we were checked in (via the much shorter, faster-moving "business & first-class" line), the attendant told us how to get to their lounge. The lounge is reserved for business and first-class customers and I was just figuring it was a nice place to sit away from all of the noise of the main concourse.
I was wrong.
Inside there was free wireless internet (saving me as much as $12 compared to other air travel experiences), a buffet breakfast (saving $10 to $35), a complimentary magazine rack (saving as much as $20 depending on how much I read), and a nice coffee service along with a very large selection of complimentary soft drinks (saving at least $3 a round).
In addition to the monetary savings, there was also the sanity savings. There was no mad rush of people pressing through airport shops and restaurants with screaming children and piles of bags stopping everything up. Instead it was actually a pretty relaxing experience.
Once we were on the plane I found out that drinks were free as well. Normally I don't drink on a plane if I have to pay for it, but since it was free I figured "why not?"
"Why not," indeed. By the time I'd landed at SFO, I'd had two mimosas, a bloody mary, six (maybe eight) glasses of a very nice chardonnay, two doubles of Bailey's Irish Cream on the rocks, a shot of Cointreau, and two glasses of red wine (saving something like $90). In fact, on the first flight, I'm convinced that the only thing the little Japanese flight attendant could say in English was:
"Sir, would you rike more wine?"
That was nice.
The meal service on both legs of the trip was pretty nice too. I had a surprisingly decent steak on the first leg and rack of lamb on the second. Then there were the desserts:
So I'm not exactly sure how much extra cost is involved in flying business class, but it looks like I saved around $160 worth of little things I'd've had to pay for separately if I was flying economy. Now I just need to find out if that's enough to pay the difference. If not, I'll have to hurry up and find a way to make enough money to not notice the difference between the ticket prices.