In Transit Trooper Travels

How to Take Advantage of a FREE Upgrade to Business Class

November 16, 2019

I texted my friend the airline upgraded my flight to business class and I didn’t know what to do. “Do like a business class,” he replied.

Ataturk International Airport, Istanbul, Turkey
Ataturk International Airport, Istanbul, Turkey — March 15, 2019

I recently purchased a 6:50 a.m. flight from Jeddah to Istanbul. However, I learned that there’s an earlier flight for the same route so I went to the airport eight hours before my original flight so I’ll be three hours earlier than the earlier flight.

Yes, airlines usually allow you to take an earlier than your booked flight so long as there are seats available and you don’t go barging in as if they owe you more than what you paid for.

Being used to traffic in Manila, I usually arrive at the airport four hours before my flights. Waiting for another four hours is an easy task in case I had to.

I went straight to the airline office when I reached the airport and the kind airline personnel advised me to be present when the check-in counters open. I’ll be a chance passenger and they’ll let me in the earlier flight if a seat will be available.

As soon as the check-in counters open, I was there. Far enough not to bother the people checking in, but close enough that the check-in crews will see me without calling their attention. A few more minutes before boarding time, the lines for the check-in counters were empty.

The airline personnel signaled for me to wait further.

A few more minutes and one of the crews called me to check-in. The other crews were teasing me to give a treat as they have reserved for me a business class seat.

I told them I would have but they’re already calling for boarding. We all laughed.

For over fifteen years, I’ve been flying economy class and have mustered all the proceedings. But when they suddenly put me in business class, my decade and a half of preparedness flew out of the window.

What follows is an open letter explaining the proper decorum on a business class seat you did not pay for.

Dear Miss 05F on Flight TK95,

We both perfectly know we didn’t pay for a business class seat, we’re just lucky to have gotten an upgrade.

How did I know, you might ask. The in-flight meal gave you away.

Passengers who actually paid for business class decline the in-flight meals, they’re there to sleep. That’s what they paid for — bigger seats and longer leg rooms. So they can recline their backrests and lie down comfortably. They don’t eat.

But for us who were lucky enough that there were empty business class seats and had been good boys and girls enough to earn the favor from the ground staff, we savor the perks we didn’t pay for. And the least we can do to acknowledge their kindness is to not sleep.

But there you were, sleeping as soon as the plane took off and spoiling what could have been my epic Instagram post.

But I’m not writing to assault you for photobombing. I’m writing to educate you on the proper decorum the next time you get handed a business class upgrade.

First, the in-flight meal.

In the economy class, we pre-order our in-flight meals online. And it is just as important that we pre-select the window seats. That, so when the flight attendant comes confirming our names and seat numbers, we ensure that the people seating at the middle and aisle seats will hear it. And we’ll sound a little more different.

Especially when our food arrives. People on the middle and aisle seats will put down their tray tables, thinking it’s mealtime, but will not receive their food until an hour later. They’ll look at us confused and we’ll tell them what just happened. This ensures we’ll appear to them as seasoned travelers.

That’s how we do it in the economy class.

But at the time, we were in the business class. And unlike the others who have actually paid for to be in the quasi-elite section (elite means first-class, or whatever is the equivalent), we did not have the option to pre-pick our food. And even if we did, we will no longer prefer to have them.

That is why when the flight attendants ask us to choose from the menu, we have to be a little careful.

In economy class, the appetizer, the main course, and the dessert are served all at once. In a single dull tray. Whereas in the business class, the appetizer, the main course, and the dessert are separately served and sophisticatedly plated.

So we don’t get to order from the main course when we’re merely being asked for what appetizer we would like to have. Which was what you exactly did.

And please… what’s with the orange juice? In business class, we don’t do orange juice. We do wine, baby! Red wine.

Even in the economy, we say “Red wine, please. Thanks!” Red wine commands class. It implies we would have opted for the business class had there been a seat left. A full seat probably never really happens in business class, but that’s not the point. We may not even like wine so we sip it ever so slowly until everyone else is done with their meal.

It would have been better if you had just declined everything all together. Orange juice is for the economy class, which is where we actually paid to be in, but that’s not our point.

You did not even touch your in-flight entertainment screen.

In the economy, we struggle with a small screen we had to tilt up and down each time the passenger on our front would tilt the backrest our screens are attached to. We struggle to dim or brighten the screens depending on whether the people around us will open the windows or the reading lights.

In the business class, we’re handed bigger, wider entertainment screens that are not attached to the front seat’s backrest and you chose to put on your eye mask?

If that isn’t being ungrateful then I don’t know what it is.

And lastly, and probably the worst. You actually opened the in-flight kit and used what’s in them?

Oh god, that’s our business class souvenir!

That was your last straw and I don’t even know now what to say anymore so I’ll leave it all here.

But here’s a thing…

I saw you tucked the in-flight magazine in your bag on our way out. I just lost mine and I seriously want yours. Send me a message if you happen to read this.

Your seatmate,

05E on Flight TK95

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