Upgrade to First Class Teaches Commentator about those left behind in Coach

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Airline passenger complaints are common…lost luggage, late arrivals, new fees. But, WOSU Commentator Michael Ivey recently got bumped into first class on a flight back home to Columbus and gained insight into the economic stratification of America.

A couple of weeks ago I flew “First Class” for the very first time.

First let me say – I fly a lot. At least I consider the amount I fly a lot – flying once or twice a month for the last 6 or 7 years but never First Class. That is, until my last flight.

It was amazing. Amazing that it even happened. It was an airline mess-up. They put me in 3-C. I sure didn’t do it.

First Class is a world of big, wide slate blue leather seats that lay way back. Way, way, back.

The First Class experience starts the second you get your boarding pass – the second you look down and realize that you’re in the first boarding group.

Boarding group number 1 First class means first on the plane.

I was like the fourth person on board

Suddenly the stewardess came back and pointed at my briefcase under the seat in front of me. Out of pure reflex I said, “it’s under the seat, it’s completely under the seat.” She motioned for it. Confused but not one to argue, I handed it to her AND SHE PUT IT INTO THE OVERHEAD BIN – then she handed me a bottle of water and my choice of a bag of Sunchips or a Granola bar.

I snagged the Sunchips.

This was before anyone of the other boarding groups had even boarded.

How could I even look the other people boarding in the eye? This was a flight headed back home to Columbus and before boarding I had been having the typical “How about the Buckeyes” conversation with several other Central Ohio folks waiting to get on the plane. I thought about them then looked around – They weren’t sitting in First Class. I had a huge attack of guilt.

Suddenly a group of people funneled into the plane – a couple of my new “Buckeye” buddies were in this stream of passengers – they didn’t even look down as they passed by.

I looked around again at the other people sitting in First Class.

Not one person was even looking up at the other people who were boarding.

First class passengers slip their shoes off and well, just forget about the rest of the world.

At times during the flight the stewardess pulls a curtain closed between First Class and Coach.

I’ve seen this happen for years – but never from the big, wide leather seat side of the curtain.

The view from the other side of the curtain folks – well, it’s all noise canceling headphones, pie, ice cream up in First Class – and before the party’s over you’re handed a steaming hot towel to freshen up with.

A steaming hot towel from little silver tongs it’s like a dream come true.

I closed my eyes and tapped my heels together Wizard of Oz style – instead of saying, “There’s no place like home” I was whispering – “There’s no place like First Class.”

Honestly -Your view of the world changes up in First Class once you become “First Class.”

I share this story for one reason.

Think about this – Those Wall Street, and Washington people that got us into our present economic crisis and all of those folks in Congress and the White House that are behind the big bailout deal they are people that, I’m pretty positive, always fly First Class.

The big question I have my big, hundreds of billions of dollars question do these First Class people really have any idea what everyone back in coach is going through these days?

What’s the chance they remember what like is like in the cheap seats?

I just hope they understand one thing. No one closes their eyes, taps their heels together and whispers, “There’s no place like Coach, there’s no place like Coach.”

For WOSU Public Media, this Michael Ivey.

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