After flying business class and first class dozens of times, it’s easy to take the experience for granted. However, for a lot of people, the business or first class experience is still a novelty and something that they want to make the most out of, especially their first time doing it. So here are some ways to prepare for your first premium cabin flight, whether it be in business for first class.
Research aircrafts on specific routes
It’s very common for an airline to fly several different aircrafts which have different versions of their premium products. For example, with airlines like Singapore there is a difference between business class on the A350 versus the A380, although there’s not a huge amount of difference between the two. Also, it’s not uncommon for the same route to be serviced by different aircrafts, so always check to see what aircraft your particular flight number is.
Sometimes the business class product is lackluster compared to that on another aircraft, such as if you compare the Etihad business class product on the A380 versus what’s found on other aircrafts like the A330. Also, features such as showers and in-flight bars may only be found on the A380 and not smaller aircrafts like the 777.
Be sure to do your research before hand so that you know you’ll be flying in the version of business class or first class that you actually want to fly in. Also, keep an eye out on announcements for schedule changes since different aircrafts may come into service for your route at a later date.
Research seat maps
Go to seatguru.com and read blog reviews to get a sense of what the seats are like on your specific aircraft. Sometimes this can make the world of a difference. When I flew on the A350 in Singapore business class, I sat in the bulkhead row and had wayyy more room for my legs than other rows had and it made the sleeping experience much more comfortable.
Other times you want to be careful when sitting near the lavatories, galley, or special features like bars because the noise levels from those can be annoying and keep you from sleeping.
If you’re flying first class, some airlines offer a complimentary chauffeur service where you’ll get picked up in a luxury vehicle, such as a BMW, Mercedes, Audi, etc. Always look into this to see if it’s available because airlines like Virgin Atlantic even offer it for business class passengers (although they don’t offer a true first class).
When you’re flying premium, you’ll probably have access to that airline’s lounge or one of their partner lounges. Use an app like LoungeBuddy to find out which lounges you’ll have access to and try to figure out where they are located. Sometimes, it might not be possible to access lounges in other other terminals but often you’re allowed to go through security twice.
Arrive to the airport three to four hours early if you want to take advantage of all the amenities you can, such as massages, dining, drinks, cigar rooms, etc. And be sure to call in or go online to make reservations for spas or nap rooms, since there is typically limited availability for walk-ins. Some premier lounges are known for their exceptional dining experiences, so make sure you’re aware of what unique dining options the lounge you plan on visiting offers.
Research menu options
Some airlines like Singapore offer special services like “book the cook” where you can reserve special foods such as steaks up to 24 hours before your flight. Other times, airlines offer novelty items such as the beer Sweet and Sour – RAS No. 1 (Rare Air Series) offered by SAS, which is a beer brewed specifically to be consumed at altitude (Cathay Pacific also does this). In first class, you might be able to try out some premium liquors and champagnes, such as Dom Perignon or Krug.
By researching the foods, wines, and other options on the menu ahead of time, you won’t be overwhelmed with options when you’re set to fly and you also won’t miss out on novelty menu items.
As an added bonus, feel free to inquire with the crew members about off-menu options available. They might be able to hook you up with something unique that other passengers don’t know about.
Priority security and immigration lines
TSA Pre-Check is great for breezing through US security lines but it doesn’t get you anywhere when flying abroad. The good news is that when you fly business or first, you’ll often be given access to priority security lines and even immigration lines, so always make sure you’re lining up where you’re allowed to go.
Also, you’ll probably have a dedicated check-in line so you can avoid the lines there. If for some reason you use a kiosk or receive a thin paper boarding pass, you can always inquire with the gate agents to print you out a thicker version of your ticket so that you can have a keep sake.
A change of clothes
Sometimes the airline will offer you some fantastically comfortable pajamas, such as the Givenchy pajamas offered by Singapore airlines.
However, when flying business class you may not get any pajamas offered at all. Many people are more comfortable bringing in their own comfortable clothing like their sweat pants, shorts, etc.
Don’t be afraid to dress down in business class or first class. As long as you aren’t dingy or dirty, I’m a strong proponent of wearing what’s comfortable for you. This isn’t a fashion contest, after all.
Keep in mind that many premium cabins don’t have the little vents you have in economy where you can control the temperature of your seat. Because of that, you’ll have little control over the temperature and some cabins can be quite warm or quite cold. Thus, it’s best to have layers to wear in order to keep your body temperature regulated.
Amenity kits in premium cabins vary but they usually contain basic items like a toothbrush, comb, wipes, lotion, chap stick, etc. Nothing too special. Some, like those in Singapore Suites, come with fancy cologne and so you might want to hold on to the amenity kit. You’ll also typically receive an eye mask, slippers, and high quality noise-cancelling head phones (which you must return).
Just because you might have a lit-flat bed, that doesn’t mean that you’ll be comfortable enough to fall asleep. I still struggle a lot of times to sleep in business class and so I regularly take some form of a sleep aid. While it’s fun to be comfortable, enjoy the dining and drinks, and watch movies for a few hours, on a 12+ hour flights, it’s still nice to get some sleep.
Also, keep in mind that sometimes the bedding and pillows in business class are crap, so some people may want to still bring their own pillow.
The airlines will require you to keep your seatbelt buckled when you’re sleeping even in a lie-flat seat. In practice, I don’t always see this enforced, although I like to keep mine on just in case we ever unexpectedly hit some huge turbulence.
As soon as you find your seat (or before you even board), take time to learn how the seat controls function. Many blog reviews will often show you how to work them and it can make your flying experience much smoother. Nothing is worse than hassling with the controls throughout your flight because you never took a few minutes to figure out how they worked. If you can’t quite grasp the controls, there’s no shame in asking a flight attendant to explain them to you.
Don’t be afraid to ask for anything
If you’ve never flown business before chances are you’re used to only getting served by a flight attendant when he or she makes their rounds to you. In business and first, however, they are a lot more accommodating.
If you need a drink or a snack, don’t be afraid to flag down a flight attendant or even use the call button. As long as you are respectful, they should be willing to serve you without any complaints and if it’s a good crew, they’ll do it with a smile on their face.
Try not to get too loaded
With all of the bubbly and free booze flowing — potentially for your first time — it can be easy to indulge. Just remember that you’ll get dehydrated much quicker in a plane and usually get buzzed much quicker. The last thing you want to do is get plastered and end up sick or making a fool of yourself, so try to keep yourself in check and mix in glasses of water between drinks.
Also, in that same vein, just because you’re offered bread, soup, sides, snacks, desserts, cheese, etc., that does not mean that you have to accept it. Nobody is going to offended so long as you politely decline.
Flying in business class or first class for the first time is an amazing feeling. The service, food, and comfort level will likely far exceed anything you’ve ever had in economy, especially if you’re flying with one of the premier airlines like Singapore, Etihad, Cathay Pacific, etc. Soak everything in that you can but be prepared for it to change your tolerance level for economy flights in the future — it’s not going to be so easy to go back!
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.