How to Have a First-Class Experience in Coach
No one likes to fly in economy, but it’s a reality for most. Even though I travel so much and have elite status on multiple airlines, I still find myself in the back of the plane about half the time. One trick I’ve learned over the years to make coach feel like first class is to reserve a bulkhead or exit row seat. Then, after takeoff, you take your carry-on bag and turn it into a leg rest. The photo above depicts what I’m talking about. I also usually put a small pillow or sweatshirt on top of the bag to make it nice and cushiony. You have to return the bag to the bin on descent or when the flight attendant asks you to, but I’ve never been asked since I know when it’s time to pack up. It’s no first class, obviously, but in the air these days, a little bit of comfort can go a long way.

BTW: A few years ago, I created a not-so-scientific but totally fitting name for the fear of flying in coach: econophobia.

Econophobia [e-con-oh-foh-bee-uh], noun — An abnormal fear of flying in economy on commercial airlines. Origin: Late 20th-century, when U.S. airlines began cutting costs, shrinking legroom and significantly reducing service.

Econophobia usually occurs when one grows up spoiled or becomes an elite member of an airline’s frequent flier program. The latter gets used to perks like free or heavily discounted upgrades. Airline executives are like your crack dealers, as they give members a taste of what it’s like on the other side of the curtain, knowing they;ll get addicted and come back for more…though it comes at a cost.

Do YOU have econophobia? Still not sure what I’m talking about? Read up here.



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8 Comments On "Travel Tip of the Day: How to Have a First-Class Experience in Coach"
  1. Alex Johnson|

    Ha! I love these kinds daily tips.

    I’ll be sure to do that next time I’m flying, and I’ll bring a super comfy leg-rest bag!

  2. Bettina Salter|

    Hello Johnny,
    I have to laugh at this tip. We have no elite status, travel 2-3 times per year, frequently on different airlines due to scheduling or destination and are old. Bulkhead seats are frequently an extra cost, it seems, and/or always filled. Exit rows the same (and I think the staff takes one look at our 70+ year old bodies and think, no way do we want you in the exit row (they may be right too!) So, our way of coping with the necessary econ seats is Zen-ing it out–realizing their is suffering ( the crowded seats) there is a cause of suffering (airlines’ moneymaking strategies and our desire to travel) there is a way out of suffering (not flying, but we’re not willing to forego travel OR spending a LOT more money) and The Way (the eight-fold path) Check it out!

  3. Ed Kushins|

    Hey Johnny, love your stuff!
    If you weren’t traveling so much maybe we’d be able to get together for dinner again.
    Another tip to make coach feel a little more like first class (that’s IF you have to fly coach, which we try to avoid).
    United has a great App that allows us to change seats as often as we want before a flight. We use it 3 ways, all seeking the same result… more room or more comfortable seats.
    1. We often try to book a flight that has a low load factor, which often allows us to have at least a seat between us to stretch out a bit more, sometimes even to give us each our own row (but that is less and less frequently available). Sometimes we help that along by booking the aisle and window seats, hoping that no one wants to sit between us and leaving us with that empty seat. But more and more the flights get booked up and even that goes away.
    2. Terry is looking at the online seating chart almost daily, and before the flight hourly, as upgrades and other people changing seats may open up new opportunities. Sometimes she changes our seat assignments 2-3 times in the hour before the flight because…
    3. Using prior knowledge (like your tip today) and sometimes other sites like SeatGuru, she can find seats on the plane configuration that have a bit more space or recline.
    Thank goodness for Terry, I just show up but I know she has made every effort to get that economy flight to feel a little more like first.
    Not politically correct, but a friend of ours calls economy… “Refugee Class”.
    Keep it up!
    Ed and Terry Kushins
    Hermosa Beach

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Thanks, Ed! I’m around for a while if you want to have dinner again. I will email you

  4. Mary D|

    Good idea but twice I have paid over $100 extra for the opportunity to choose two seats (and I chose bulkhead seats for my husband and me) and two times out of four the airlines arbitrarily changed the seats WITHOUT notifying me or offering to refund my money! They said they needed bulkhead seats for babies.

    The first time was an overnight flight to Europe on KLM. When I so very nicely protested they eventually gave me two business class seats.

    The second time, just this month, was on a westbound flight from Europe on SAS. They eventually gave me the seats I paid for and “kicked the can” to the flight attendant to resolve, which she actually did to our satisfaction.

    The seats were much better than regular economy seats.

  5. peter|

    Do most airlines now charge for bulkhead or exit row seats?

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Most do but it’s free if you have elite status and some give it free at the airport. The ones that do charge it’s a fraction of the cost of biz or first

  6. Jerry Mandel|

    With a seat in front of you, there is room for feet and legs. My experience with bulkhead seats is too close to it and no place for your feet. Bummer!

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