Flying high: Is domestic business class worth the cost?

It’s a man’s prerogative in life to sometimes go for the little luxuries. Purchasing that mid-life crisis sports car, going for a large pizza rather than a medium with...

It’s a man’s prerogative in life to sometimes go for the little luxuries. Purchasing that mid-life crisis sports car, going for a large pizza rather than a medium with additional toppings, upgrading the TV to a 60-incher and deciding to fly business class domestically rather than economy. But is the latter worth it?

We’re squarely in the group of people that will sit annoyed but silent in the back of cattle class on domestic flights knowing that in an hour or two we’ll be at our destination and can forget the whole event ever happened. It’s even more frustrating for the EFTM crew as most of us have flown first or business class thanks to media junkets we’ve been on, making that trip down the aisle to economy class all the worse to endure.

If you want to get a taste of the high life up front, the cheapest option is certainly domestic business class, which in most cases is akin to international premium economy. But at around three-four times the price for a trip that will last no longer than five hours and often far less than that, is it worth the additional money? Having just flown from Cairns to Sydney in business class, here are a few pointers to consider.

Lounge access: Buy a business class ticket on Virgin Australia or Qantas (or a similar ticket on JetStar with all the fixings) and you’ll get access to the lounge of the airline you’re flying if it has one at the airport you’re taking off from. Totally worth it to grab the newspaper, some food and to chill out away from the crowds of airport.

Worth the money? Yes.

Seats: Depending on where you are flying, business class may be an option. If you are flying in a Qantas or Virgin Australia Boeing 737 or Airbus A330, or a Qantas 747 (some Sydney to Perth flights) or Qantas 767, the upgrade is worth it. The seats are generally quite big and the space between each row is very generous. This is in most cases, of course. There are still some of the aforementioned planes in old layouts which are far from worth it – mainly old Boeing 737s. The domestic Qantas 747 is the pick of the bunch with flatbed seats.

Worth the money? Yes, usually.

Service: Yes, it’s better. The cabin crew remember your name, you get champagne before take off, there is often one member of the crew looking after just a handful of people. But in reality, we’re likely to just want to stretch out, sleep or watch a movie, so no additional service required here.

Worth the money? No.

Food: Let’s be honest about it – no matter how many Luke Mangans or that guy with the ponytail from Rockpool you throw at airline food, it’s still airline food. And when it comes to domestic, it’s even less of a reason to upgrade. The menu will make the food out to be a hell of a lot more appetising than what it actually is. It’s not the airlines fault, really. They do what they can with what they have. But when you have to produce food that can be reheated thousands of metres up in the air, it’s never going to be that great. Fill up in the lounge.

Worth the money? No.

Speed: Last on, first off. That goes for your luggage as well, although that largely depends on whether the baggage handlers end up reading the ‘priority’ label on your checked baggage. It’s a pretty good perk as it means you can sprint out of the airport and spend less time on the plane. It also means you can spend more time in the lounge before boarding and waltz on as the doors close, knowing there will be ample room to store your carry-on baggage.

Worth the money? Yes.

Overall: On a short flight, say Sydney to Melbourne, we wouldn’t bother with the upgrade. We’re more than happy to be like all the other commoners. After all, it’s only an hour flight and the cost to fly business is substantially more. But on a flight from Melbourne to Perth, or Sydney to Cairns like we did, where you will be on the plane for more than 2.5 hours and there is solid chance of a sleep then it may be worth while every now and then if you decide you want to splash out.

Web:
Qantas Domestic Business
Virgin Australia Domestic Business
JetStar business

Images: Wikimedia Commons

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Lifestyle

Damian Francis has previously edited Australian T3 and F1 Racing magazine and wrote for GQ Australia and Men's Health. Unlike Nick and Trev, he has no kids, no mortgage and no wife, but lives happily on Sydney's North Shore with his girlfriend.
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