Let’s be honest with each other, just for a moment. The real thrill of a first- or business- class seat on the airplane doesn’t come with the hot towel or the freshly baked cookie. It comes before takeoff, as you nestle into your seat, sip your champagne and pretend not to notice the hordes of unfortunates squeezing by. 

You stare idly out the window, or flip through a copy of the in-flight magazine, as the river of sad passengers flows on, hands full of babies, boxes and oversize carry-ons, wheeling and pushing and dragging their possessions to a seat barely big enough room in the overhead bin for a paperback book. 

You pretend not to notice, but you do. And you notice them noticing you, and you feel their envy and maybe their anger and – let’s be very, very honest here-it somehow makes the seat you’re in even more spacious, and the champagne you’re drinking just a little more bubbly. It’s human nature, I guess, that the best way to enjoy the things you have is to enjoy them directly in front of someone who doesn’t have them. 

Or maybe it’s just what the not-so-rich do when they’re lucky enough to cadge an upgrade. Because rich people, actual rich people, as opposed to people who travel a lot on business aren’t all that crazy about consuming conspicuously. They’re not even on the plane, sipping champagne and rolling their eyes at the steerage class. They’re on their own plane, sipping whatever they want to sip, going wherever they want to go. And where they’re going, you won’t run into them. The superrich tend not to think in terms of renting a hotel room, but of renting an entire island.

Even when they do decide to go slumming at, say, the Ritz in Paris or the Four Seasons in Maui, you can be sure that they don’t stay haplessly at the front desk, waiting to check in. They’re whisked away to their suites, shielded from the prying eyes of the poor slobs who have to check in the regular way. Of course whisking and cosseting is something experienced by those who are in $2,000-a-night suites, the big ones with names, and not for those paying $800 a night for a standard room with no view. 

But that’s how it must feel to the guy in business class who snickers about the wretches in economy just before he notices how nice it is up in first. Or for the guy in first who gazes smugly out of the window and notices a small Gulfstream V jet ready for takeoff. But even the guy in the Gulfstream, settling into his private cabin, is aware that he doesn’t own the plane. It’s a time-share deal. And if he glances out of the window at the right moment, he might see Paul Allen, one of the founders of Microsoft, pulling up in his Boeing 707. Excuse me, one of his Boeing 707s… 

Adapted from Newsweek 


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