On our recent trip to Europe, we wanted to give ourselves the best possible odds of not showing up for the first day a complete wreck from the overnight flight. Joe figured out that with a combination of airline miles and cash, we could upgrade to first class for the trip over but would have to go with standard coach coming back. To make the comparison even more severe, we were also seated at the very back of coach. It's amazing to realize that such different worlds exist on the same plane.
First Class - Welcome to Blah Blah Airlines. May I hang up your coat for you? Are you all settled in? Let me please offer you a glass of complementary champagne.
Coach - Come on, people, stow your stuff and let's get strapped in or you'll make us late for departure. Sir, that coat has to be stowed under the seat or in the overhead bins.
Note: Overhead bins in first class seem spacious since there are so few people using them and the seats are more spread out. Coach? Well, we all know about overhead storage in coach, especially now that the allowances/charges for checked bags are so horrible.
First Class - We'd like to offer you a selection of juices, sodas, water, and alcoholic beverages, all at no charge. If you'd like a refill, please let me know at any time.
Coach - I'm sorry, we're out of all diet beverages. You can have apple juice, Pepsi, water, or an aloholic beverage for $7.
First Class - We'll be starting with your choice of two appetizers, or you can have both, or you can have multiples of each. Next, a choice of two different salads and four dressings. Then we'll take your dinner order from page 3 of the menu. (Note: Page 3 consisted of about five different amazing entrees). Afterwards, we will offer you one of three desserts, including ice cream sundaes with your choice of toppings. Oh, and more wine.
Coach - Sorry, we're out of cheese tortellini so you can have beef stroganoff. It comes with wilted salad and your second least favorite dressing (Thousand Island). Also, you get a stale roll, some mushy grapes, and some poison cookies.
First Class - Each passenger receives a toiletry bag complete with a toothbrush/toothpaste, socks (for slipping off your shoes on the flight), an eye mask and ear plugs, and Burt's Bees lotion and lip balm.
Coach - Barf bag. Award-winning in-flight magazine featuring a partially completed (incorrectly) sudoku puzzle.
There were a lot of other differences too. Obviously seats were wider, more comfy, and more reclining in First Class. We received blankets and pillows in both, which surprised me, but there was a huge gap in quality (and size). The passenger-to-bathroom ratio was much more favorable up front. Also, the flight attendants were much more professional and pleasant. We had one woman back in coach who apparently hated flying, hated serving, hated passengers, hated life. Another difference? I think you have to be at least 18 years of age to travel in First class - no screaming babies!!!
Now I know why people say that once you've experienced the upgrade, it's hard to go back.