AS I STEPPED OFF THE AIRCRAFT after my flight from Paris to Montreal, I thought to myself, There’s no way I’m getting on the next one.
Afflicted with severe flight phobia, I’d just spent seven hours being shaken about above the Atlantic Ocean, clutching a picture of my partner as my only consolation. I’d been sure I was going to die in horrible circumstances, all alone, in a metal bullet with 350 smelly strangers. I was sobbing, calling the flight attendants for help, and holding onto my neighbor for hours. The last thing I wanted to do was go through the whole ordeal for another five hours on the way to Vancouver.
During my layover, I had many occasions to imagine how horrid the cross-Canada flight would be. Thunderstorms, mechanical problems, loss of cabin pressure — I thought about it all. When I heard my name being called by the Air Canada staff at the gate, I thought, After the scene I made on the previous flight, they’re going to tell me I’m not fit to travel. But then I heard the sweetest words a budget traveler can ever hear: “You’ve been upgraded to business class!”
“No idea. Enjoy!”
“Thank you! Also, could you give me an aisle seat? I really can’t sit by the window.” Give me an inch and I’ll take a mile.
You’d think that, for what I believed were the last hours of my wonderful life, I would enjoy the treat to the fullest. Instead, I ruined it. If you want to botch up your one and only business class flight, here’s how.
1. Don’t use the fancy lounge.
All major airlines have fancy lounges where you can hang out while waiting for departure. Usually, these are lovely, quiet spaces, away from the commoners, where there are enough sockets for EVERYONE to plug in their laptop. You get free drinks, free food, and comfy chairs to sit in. You can even take a hot shower. Instead, I stayed on my hard seat, smelling like sweat, sipping my $6 iced tea and munching on my $5 almond croissant.
2. Don’t take advantage of priority boarding.
Rich people get to board first so they can enjoy champagne or orange juice while reading the business section of the newspaper. When you aren’t used to being so elite, though, you stay where you are and wait for the staff to call your row to board. Needless to say, this never happened because I should have boarded first with the rest of my wealthy friends instead of waiting until the last call.
3. Drink nothing but water.
I don’t drink alcohol, but I really should have thrown my healthy habits out the window for this flight. I saw cocktails passing by me while I was trying to enjoy my glass of Evian. I felt so out of place in business class that I didn’t even ask for a soft drink.
4. Have a panic attack.
Freak out, hyperventilate, and breathe in a paper bag for one hour out of five. That should attract everyone’s attention and make you feel terribly ashamed for the rest of your journey.
5. Watch a movie you’ve already seen.
Everybody who’s used to flying takes advantage of being stuck in an airplane for several hours to catch up on all the movies they wanted to see at the theater but didn’t. That’s just smart thinking. Instead, try to take your mind off the fact that you’re 35,000 feet up in the air by watching Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban for the third time, or several episodes from season 3 of Frasier.
6. Say no to the ice cream and fresh-baked chocolate chip cookie.
Sweet delicious treats made on the aircraft? No thanks, I’m full of expensive iced tea, overpriced almond croissant, and Evian.
7. Don’t fully lie down.
The real beauty of business class is that you can sleep properly. You can lie down completely, without anybody else besides you wanting to use the armrest, and you’re also given a fluffy pillow and down duvet. Everything is set up for you to have a comfortable snooze, but you’re too tired and embarrassed to ask how to get into a horizontal position, so all you get is an hour nap that ends in neck pain.
8. Fail to take a souvenir.
Your camera is stuffed in your backpack in the overhead compartment, next to everybody else’s Burberry coats and Louis Vuitton luggage, and you’re getting the faint impression that the passengers around you will smirk if you take a selfie. Grab a wrinkled copy of the menu to show all your friends the fancy food that was available, but that you did not eat.