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Do you prefer to fly first class?

This Air Tran ad touts its popular and affordable business class, which new owner Southwest plans to eliminate.

This Air Tran ad touts its popular and affordable business class, which new owner Southwest plans to eliminate.

Numerous aviation blogs had a good chuckle at this Dallas Morning News story about Southwest CEO Gary Kelly flying first-class on Delta the other day. He was returning from Atlanta after the launch of Southwest, with its no-frills business model. (Southwest doesn’t fly nonstop from Atlanta to Dallas at the moment).

Southwest, of course, has acquired AirTran and plans to eventually eliminate its business class. It isn’t really what you’d call deluxe – first crack at a pack of cookies and a pre-flight drink – but neither is it very pricey to upgrade. The upgrade fee starting at $49 has made the roomier environs of business class an easily attainable mini-splurge.

But that’s not the Southwest way. Goodbye, roomy. Hello, “open seating.”

Not everyone is excited about this change. The publisher of a travel newsletter predicts business travelers will migrate to Delta.

On the other end of the travel spectrum The New York Times ran a great story mourning the end of first-class airplane cabins replete with starched linens and gourmet chefs. These days, the article lamented, an attendant might hand you a lukewarm “bargain washcloth” masquerading as a hot towel and act like that’s first-class service. Hmmff.

To our great relief, the Times’ story was accompanied by an article that can only be described as travel porn, detailing amenities (mostly on international flights) ranging from fresh orchids to on-board showers and double beds. Well now, that’s more like it. If you can spring for many thousands of dollars for an airline seat. Or suite.

What do you think? Is the price of a first or business class seat worth it? Would you like to see business seats retained on AirTran planes? Or is the cheapest seat always the best seat?

- Jennifer Brett/The Buzz/jbrett@ajc.com

95 comments Add your comment

MOMMA WAS RIGHT!

February 20th, 2012
6:29 pm

I prefer dos XX

Dave

February 20th, 2012
6:32 pm

The worst things about Southwest taking over are in order of importance, cattle call boarding and no business class. The first horrifies me, the second is the loss of a nice perk every now and again using points. I do love that the CEO sprung for first class on Delta but doesn’t offer it to his customers. I guess its a “do as I say…” kinda deal.

FlyBaby

February 20th, 2012
6:34 pm

Personally, it depends on how long the flight is. A flight under 2 hrs is not worth it. However, if I am flying from Atlanta to L.A, then yes I’d upgrade.

tman

February 20th, 2012
6:41 pm

If 6ft and over it is tough sitting in those seats business class provides leg room.

Bobby

February 20th, 2012
6:45 pm

Delta was ready when Southwest CEO Kelly was. Apparently SWA wasn’t ready though.

Christina

February 20th, 2012
6:46 pm

Yeah. He is the CEO of a bargain airline. Hello! Do you think the CEO of McDonalds eats that crap? Do you think the CEO of Walmart buys their clothes there? Get real.

Charles

February 20th, 2012
6:52 pm

Gotta agree with Christina, do we really expect the CEO of a bargain business airline to eat, travel and shop as the patrons. It never happens. Get over it. If I own the company, I would travel 1st Class as well if I had his dough. WTF!!!!

John

February 20th, 2012
6:55 pm

I will sorely miss the business class upgrade for Airtran. Beyond the simple amenities mentioned in the article is that you are able to board first and not have to fight for the overhead bins. With the extermination of business class by Southwest I will be switching back to Delta (at least I will have an assigned seat instead of the “whomever checks in first wins” or “pays for the honor of an assigned seat” mentality of Southwest.

Ken

February 20th, 2012
7:05 pm

Can you really blame the guy? Why fly on a cattle car when you can afford to fly premiere Air Line?

Larry

February 20th, 2012
7:09 pm

A multi million, for platinum flyer here that hasn’t traveled as much the last year so now Delta expects me to pay $150.00 plus fare difference to change to a flight a couple of hours earlier or later with plenty of seating while charging another regular fare to take my former seat. I can change a seat online in a few seconds. Plus, many poor souls have to pay baggage fees simply to carry their luggage on their flight they so handsomely paid for.

SWA, welcome to Atlanta!

Larry

February 20th, 2012
7:11 pm

edit: A multi-million, former platinum medallion flyer

Another Voice

February 20th, 2012
7:14 pm

He probably didn’t even pay, because airlines provide courtesy fares to each other’s executives. The employees have “non-revenue” seats when available, but big-wigs get priority — and in some cases, even over paying customers. There are industry-wide rules for non-rev travel … lowest level is a D-something, which means not paying, originating in that location, all the way up to A-1 … which would be a CEO, flying on the airline where he/she works, for business purposes.

Ken

February 20th, 2012
7:27 pm

So what’s the big deal…Several years ago and several months apart I was seated next to Herb Kelleher on flights from DCA to Dallas. At the time he was Chairman & CEO of Southwest. Airline CEOs, managers, pilots, flight attendants and other employees are allowed to fly on other airlines on a space available basis. I will say that Mr. Kelleher was probably one of the most interesting persons I have other met…a 2 ½ hour flight felt like 15 minutes.

BW

February 20th, 2012
8:09 pm

People

Due to the Wright Amendment (look it up), the Southwest CEO cannot take a direct flight from Dallas to Atlanta until 2014. It’s as simple as that.

Caught you Larry

February 20th, 2012
8:37 pm

Dear Larry, Multiple millions of miles on Delta would earn you a gold medallion status for life. Gold medallion would award you complimentary same-day confirmed or standby changes. Please take your lies elsewhere.

Delta Guy

February 20th, 2012
8:41 pm

Larry, If you are multi-million (3 mil or more) on delta you are platinum. Get your lies right.

Larry likes to be caught

February 20th, 2012
8:56 pm

Yeah Larry…go back to your closet, you typical lying male flight attendant.

Larry

February 20th, 2012
9:05 pm

Idiots,

If you are a million miler, platinum flyer, you can only fall one level to Gold in the next year. However, if you do not fly at either the gold or platinum level in that second year, you can fall to Silver status, the lowest ever for a million miler. Then, even as a million miler, as a Silver you have to pay the change fees.

Plus, idiots, even as a Gold or Platinum you have to pay the change fees if the flight change is NOT on the same day. This is called “same day confirmed,” idiots!

Delta just loves blind, loyal idiots like you that use their company’s expense account to pay for your fees and privileges, just to keep your status! I would fire you for just being stupid!

SWA Screws AirTran Employees

February 20th, 2012
9:09 pm

Gary Kelly is a weasel CEO just like the majority of other CEO’s in the US. He has royally screwed the AirTran employees out of many years of seniority. One of SWA’s rules: Treat others the way you want to be treated. LOL. If that’s what you want Gary, that’s what you’re going to get and you’re not going to like it. Why would you want to piss off thousands of employees? Just to protect your own? Well the integration of the two employee groups is not going to be easy. You’ve created problems that will last the rest of our careers. Things could have been different. Your culture is toast because you wanted to screw AirTran and take their seniority. Good bye LUV and your precious culture. You can blame yourself for the problems that you created.

Matt

February 20th, 2012
9:19 pm

Email this bastard and let him know how you feel. I was AirTran Elite, and have not/will not give one dime to Southwest.

gary.kelly@wnco.com

Triodethom

February 20th, 2012
9:28 pm

Larry Hope you enjoy SWA . Don’T forget to bring lunch and get there early cause the middle seat your going to be in is so comfortable . The most telling factor that you are not a million miler is the structure of the replay . Calling some one who outed you an idiot is not the reply of the well educated high power frequent flier . Hater just keep hating . It is at best whimiscal to think an industry will go on while losing money as a whole . The cost of fling must reflect true cost like it or not. The idea that you have employees let alone are able to fire them is LOL.

Prootwadl

February 20th, 2012
9:38 pm

I hate not being able to choose a seat. When my wife and I fly, we want to sit together, and airlines like Airtran allow us a chance to pay a little bit more for priority seating in coach, which means we can get on board and stow our bags before the rush. Southwest is taking all of that away…

Weary Traveller

February 20th, 2012
9:46 pm

Sorry guys…Larry is right on this one. I’m not a million-miler (yet), but I am a Platinum Medallion flyer…and unless it’s on the same day (within 3 hours of the flight time) there is a $150 change fee PLUS the difference in fare. If you change on the same day, then it’s free, but it must be within 3 hours of the flight. For Silver on down, there’s a $50 change fee for same day confirmed.

That said…there’s no way I’d fly Southwest over Delta. No upgrades, no preferred seating, etc = not worth the savings (though like Larry said, I’m not paying…if it was my money, I might consider it).

Jason

February 20th, 2012
9:47 pm

About five years ago I did contracting work for American. Their travel office often put me on flights from other airlines. When I asked, I was told that if another airline has a cheaper seat, they’d rather buy the cheap seat for me and sell AA’s higher priced seat to another customer since they almost always sell out. When you see the CEO of Coke drinking a Pepsi, then you’ll have a news flash.

tod wonser

February 20th, 2012
9:53 pm

ah my heart weeps first midwest, now airtran, next fries at micky d with them in your hands or a container. we all can fly on a wing with fed, or ups

Mikey

February 20th, 2012
10:36 pm

Gotta agree with Dave. The cattle call boarding absolutely terrifies me. I did it once and was just appalled. People who came prepared for the chaos had small personal items they would throw two to five rows back to “save” seats. Couples and groups were saving entire rows of seats and there were items flying past my head. As someone who spends a lot of time on planes, the idea of doing that 2-3 times per week would literally give me nightmares.

I understand there are some ways around it if you pay up, but getting extra fees through expense reports and client billing is tricky, even if the total cost is in line with Delta. Bottom line is if I fly as often as I do, (and yes I know how arrogant this sounds), I do need to be treated differently than someone who flies once or twice a year.

Loyal Delta Flier

February 20th, 2012
10:45 pm

First off, “Multiple millions of miles” means that you are a diamond medallion member (and not platinum) and yes, you cannot drop below gold (for life) after reaching medallion status. I fly at least twice a week everyweek and I absolutely love Delta.

Loyal Delta Flier

February 20th, 2012
10:46 pm

Correction: After reaching diamind medallion status

Wally

February 20th, 2012
10:53 pm

I dropped Delta 5 years ago due to extremely poor service and very rude employees. I will miss the assigned seating on AirTran but not enough to fly Delta again. I support all ATL based companies except them.

darb

February 20th, 2012
10:57 pm

Im all for Southwest coming to Atlanta, no matter what it takes. None of us likes change, but Airtran changing to Southwest is a good thing.

Flyboy

February 20th, 2012
11:16 pm

Anyone who believes that the consumer will benefit from the merger of 2 discount airlines is either very, very naive or simply stupid. I was a loyal Air Tran customer, but will switch my loyalty back to Delta.

tiger

February 20th, 2012
11:22 pm

its all about price for this retiree, i can put up with just about any rule any of the have.

Sara

February 20th, 2012
11:38 pm

Flying is definitely not what it used to be, I guess at the end of the day you pay for what you get!

Atlantarama

February 20th, 2012
11:40 pm

I used to love to fly, because even economy seats got a hot meal on long flights. It’s not fun to fly to L.A. anymore, so there’s no incentive for me. Delta should at least offer some of the old amenities at extra cost. I’d be willing to pay an extra $15-$20 just to have a hot dinner in coach on a cross-country flight.

I Fly Rice

February 21st, 2012
12:11 am

Yo, Atlantarama …… you obviously haven’t flown in a good while b/c DELTA does in fact offer food.

It’s called “Food-for-Purchase” and, depending on the offerings/sizes, they are box meals I think for around $7-15 … as much or more food than the old, nasty meals of the past.

Or you can still nibble on Delta’s warm, salty nuts.

Allen

February 21st, 2012
12:13 am

AirTran’s business class will be sorely missed . . . it was a great perk at a reasonable price to upgrade on flights — even right before boarding — when there was availability.

Chris

February 21st, 2012
12:30 am

I just paid $1,500.00 for an overnight trip to California in first class on Delta. I am not rich but I am an adult and want to be treated like one. Southwest does things that remind me of a Springbreak trip which I hated even when I was 19. I was a loyal Airtran Elite member and when Southwest completely takes over, I will never fly on any of their white trash sky buses. Until people can get on an airplane, put their bags up, sit down, fasten their seat belt and turn off their phones without being told a hundred times, I will pay to be the first one on and the first one off while the amateurs in back fight for overhead space because they brought too much sh*t onboard.

Required

February 21st, 2012
1:05 am

I fly between chicago midway and atlanta. Last year i switched from delta to AirTran solely based on price and service (AirTran being much better). I flew southwest a couple years back and the cattle call was awful. Have never flown them again. I suspect that to be able to compete between Chicago and Atlanta, delta and southwest will be very close on price. Welcome back delta! Unless there is a huge price difference I won’t fly Southwest.

Rob

February 21st, 2012
1:40 am

I just got off a Southwest Airlines flight. I checked in two bags, and paid $0. I had checked in online last night on my cellphone before going to a movie, and was one of the first people on the plane. I got a seat in the third row, even though I was one of the last people to reach the boarding area. I was a little worried I may be running late, but then I remembered that it’s not a big deal if I miss my flight because there are no change fees. I think Atlanta will get to love Southwest just fine, once they realize what it DOES offer–an economy class seat and first class service.

j l madara

February 21st, 2012
1:44 am

Atlantans are not used to upscale accommodations. Southwest should suit them fine.

Rob

February 21st, 2012
2:07 am

Atlantans are used to a great value, honest customer service, and dislike nickel and diming. Until pretty recently, Delta and AirTran did that. Then they cut meals. Then they started charging for bags and put in crazy change fees. Consider that at least 80% of customers do NOT fly first class–those passengers are getting more amenities for a lower price. Heck, they’re getting more amenities than an aspirational first class customer on Delta–and much better customer service too.

When a low-cost carrier offers more features than a “full-service” airline, that’s an indictment of the other airlines, not Southwest. Step up your game, Delta!

Martin

February 21st, 2012
2:24 am

I’m appalled by the spelling and grammatical errors. Please review what you type before pressing submit. Otherwise, you run the risk of looking rather uneducated! Thank you.

Jason

February 21st, 2012
3:19 am

Until SW begins service to Europe, Delta seems to be the cheapest, most direct to Atlanta and least comfortable of any major US airlines. Delta, please clean up your act, encourage your check-in staff to be more courteous and less likely to lie their way through your 2 minutes with them, and get rid of your exorbitant change fees, especially with 20+ year frequents fliers. There is no reason to be proud of being Atlanta’s necessary evil.

Jason

February 21st, 2012
3:23 am

By the way, with Air Tran all but gone and the sensibilities they offered customers now gone as part of the SW switch…it is high time a new budget airlines appeared, based on the same model as Air Tran’s. the SW cattle call, ala EasyJet is furthering the demise of what used to be be an enjoyable experience.

Try Again

February 21st, 2012
6:03 am

For all you that have had some poor customer service and unforseen delays, all I can say is that DELTA has become a new airline and I suggest you give them another try. They have invested millions to change they way they use to do business. I’m just saying!

Airline Brat

February 21st, 2012
7:13 am

I would like to stand up for Delta and its CEO, Richard Anderson, I think Delta is doing a decent job in this ridiculous economy to provide a good product – definately better than most. Mr. Anderson, by policy, only flies coach when flying on business. In my eyes, it shows that he is engaged in understanding his company’s product and perhaps how to improve the experience for his customers (and employees). It is a nice reminder of the days of the famous airline bosses like Eastern Airline’s Eddie Rickenbacker, who flew coach often to observe his employees and passengers alike. There are a few stories about Mr. Rickenbacker banning passengers from flights for mistreating his employees. Wouldn’t that be refreshing? As far as Southwest’s CEO flying Delta Business Class – he should have considered the optics of such a move for half a second.

Me

February 21st, 2012
7:43 am

I personally don’t care what it costs — I will simply always choose to fly business/first even if it means changing flights. And I certainly won’t be partaking in anything that Southwest has to offer – although, other than lower fare which matter not to me, they offer very little. So, please feel free to contact me for the story. Not even the “business class” on AirTran qualifies as anything special other than a bit wider seat.

Me

February 21st, 2012
7:45 am

As an addendum to my post above — no, this is not always business travel and, no, my company does not pay for, nor reimburse me for flying business/first.

Kim Huffman

February 21st, 2012
7:50 am

gees, you idiots, don’t you think he could travel by private jet?, maybe he’s checking out the competition ( laugh ), and thinking of other offerings SW could offer..like warm nuts and warm dishrags as does Delta in first class.
I have flown over 2 million miles on Delta, and an can tell you the most important thing on any flight is to get it over with….I often commiserate with the flight attendants that we have all grown older, less patient and larger in the 20 years of flying…..and they would say poorer, too.

Tell The Truth

February 21st, 2012
7:52 am

I missed the part where consumers lost their ability to choose Delta or Southwest. When looking at options, consumers will either value the amenities or the lower fares. On long/international trips, the amenities of a 1st class seat have greater value. However, if I’m only in the air for 3 hours, I can deal with open seating.