Whenever I announce to my friends and family another international destination I have to travel to for work, I can’t help but think that people imagine me joining the group of suit-clad men answering emails in the elegant business lounge before enjoying free drinks and the full recline of the wide, comfy seats of the business class. I can’t really blame them considering that media continues to feed everyone those fancy pictures, presenting business travel as way more glamorous than it actually is.
I have to admit, some business trips can be exciting and fun. I have absolutely loved my trip to Singapore, had great time in Luxembourg and Hungary and even managed to squeeze in some sightseeing when I was in Berlin with work for less than 12 hours. I won’t pretend that I wasn’t a little bit excited when I was told I would be going to Thailand on my next business trip. But I also knew that it meant working long hours and that any attempts to explore the city would have to be well orchestrated. I also wasn’t particularly looking forward to the 12 hour flight from London to Bangkok. I’m not a huge fan of flying and the mere thought of the air travel makes me uneasy. Luckily however, I was flying business class.
Contrary to popular belief, the business class is not as glamorous as most imagine. Of course, the level of “luxury” depends on the airlines you’re traveling with and the business lounge you’ve got access to, however I can’t help but feel that except for the few top-ranking flight providers who cater to the dreams of many businessmen by providing exceptional standards, many airlines these days are more focused on cost-cutting than in the past when the notion of business=glamour must have came from. Nowadays, business class means simply a bit more comfortable way to travel, from the start of your journey to its end.
After a good 15 minutes of walking to what felt like the end of the Heathrow airport, I finally arrived at Air Canada Business lounge (Eva air I was traveling with doesn’t have their own lounge at Heathrow and like many other airlines provides access to the business lounge closest to the boarding gate or that is has an alliance with). The light wooden panelled walls and the soft lights created an ambiance of calm and luxury, but this is pretty much where the glamour many anticipate was finishing. Except for the delicious tomato juice and water with cucumber slices, the complementary buffet food was disappointingly average. True, the lounge had good speed wi-fi and the quiet surroundings were definitely more pleasant than waiting for the flight in the main departures hall, however it is not something I will be fondly reminiscing while waiting for my flight together with the other economy passengers when I travel. Aside from the free buffet and decent wi-fi, the business lounge provides free magazines you can enjoy while waiting, has a slightly nicer toilet than the rest of the airport and more comfortable seats. So while it was nice, I’m not sure you’ll be missing out on much if you were to wait with everyone else. The only perk of business lounge I see is that it makes working more convenient as you can place a laptop on the table in front of you and eat and type your emails at the same time. Rather than any status or luxury factor, to me business lounge is simply a matter of convenience when it comes to working.
While I don’t necessarily see that much value in waiting at a lounge, I do think that business class makes a big difference to the actual journey. It is not just about the seats that double as beds (so invaluable on an over-night flight), but the comfort of your overall travel. First of all, holding a business ticket gives you priority access to the plane but most importantly when going through security and at immigration upon arrival. Not having to wait in the long queue significantly cuts down time spent at the airport, thus allowing you to enjoy your new destination for a little bit longer. The good night rest and lack of waiting also mean more energy and less jet lag upon disembarking.
To me, the whole beauty of the business class was in its comfort and convenience. The little shelves and multiple pockets fitted around the seat meant I could have all the items I needed throughout the flight at an arm’s length. I could lie with my feet up and still eat or work comfortably thanks to the large table that could be easily folded if I fancied curling up on my little bed to read a book or watch a movie on a wider than usual screen. At night, the pyjamas and slippers we received from the flight attendants allowed to switch into the sleeping mode and enjoy the night enough for me to function like a human being the next day. Something that was also made possible thanks to the cosmetics bag everyone received with everything needed to make themselves presentable in the morning. Tasty meals and unlimited green tea and good quality coffee where a nice perk too.
While I enjoyed traveling business class beyond any experience I’ve ever had in the economy, I’m not sure all the comforts justify the inflated prices of the tickets. I wish airlines could provide a higher standard of service and more comfortable seats to everyone, making business class stand out by providing free wifi during flight and priority lane access, so that employers can decide if they want their employees to do some work during the flight and thus they’re willing to pay a bit extra, or they want to save costs and let their staff rest during the time spent on the plane. In either case however, it would be great to see people traveling in comfortable conditions when spending 12 hours in the air. Until that happens however, let us all highlight the importance of business class travel to our companies when going somewhere far with work. Trust me your body and quality of work will see the difference!