Flying business class offers few real benefits for the money, but it does inflate the ego wonderfully.
A little more legroom, but lots more status
Business class. Rarely have two words caused such a cacophony of tedium. Countless hours have been lost to tear-inducingly dreary drivel about the hallowed turf towards the front end of the plane, spouted mainly by those who consider turning left at the cabin door among life's great status symbols.
There are many out there who have had at least one experience of it. An unexpected upgrade, a business trip, a once-in-a-lifetime treat. And without doubt it's an experience that has been used to burn the ears off anyone unfortunate enough to be within audible range.
"It was amazing, I had a bigger seat."
"And the food came on nicer plates, with metal cutlery."
"And I got to sit in the lounge beforehand."
And that's basically it. For all the piffle, business class can basically be summed up by less uncomfortable seats, less rubbish food not served on a plastic tray and the chance to make yourself a cup of tea before the flight.
And there's not much else.
You're not treated to an intimate performance of Hamlet by the Royal Shakespeare Company. Daft Punk don't emerge from the cockpit and play a personalised rendition of Around the World. Scarlett Johansson does not give you a foot rub.
You sit, on a plane, in a chair about the same size as one you might find in an average lounge, eat food that is only a few steps up from a microwave meal, and, upon landing, get off a few seconds before the people behind you.
But given the amount of overblown hoopla, you'd expect some sort of Bacchanalian orgy of wanton excess to be going on beyond the curtain. Perhaps that's why it's there - not to separate the unruly hordes with their big bags of duty free from the sophisticates, but as a Wizard of Oz-style curtain to maintain a cloud of mystery and wonder over something that isn't really all that amazing.
It's here where I should point out that - having been on the occasional press trip - I have had the pleasure of enjoying business class a few times. And yes, it was nicer than flying in the cheap seats. And yes, on returning to economy afterwards (when I was paying) the chairs did seem to have shrunk and to be unable to provide suitable support for my body (which had clearly bulked out as a result of all the foie gras and lobster truffles I'd consumed up front).
But was it really worth all the hoo-ha? No.
However, there was this one time when, due to a mix-up, I was bumped up yet another notch. To seat 1A, no less, and I've still got the ticket stub somewhere. Now, first class really is ridiculous, let me tell you.