When flying economy these days it’s fairly common to get an email offer to bid on an upgrade. Typically I place the lowest bid possible and figure there’s no chance I’ll get the upgrade, because what have I got to lose?
So imagine my surprise when Aegean actually accepted my lowball bid on a flight from Stockholm to Athens. For 100 euros I could experience the glamorous lifestyle we’ve all dreamed up, shoeing away the plebes as I lived it up like the king of the skies.
After checking in on the Aegean app, I noticed my boarding pass said “Fast Track” on it. Sure enough at the security gate I bypassed the line (to the extent there even was a line) and got cleared to enter the secure area within a minute.
Next stop: the airport lounge. The first problem was finding the right one as the Stockholm airport has three lounges. After some poking around I found my pass gave me access to the Star Alliance lounge. To enter I had to scan the boarding pass on my phone before the gate would let me in. This went off without a hitch.
The lounge was surprisingly large — and busy. Turns out many other folks have access to this exclusive world of luxury, including random looking people wearing t-shirts and families with far too many upset babies. Yet it wasn’t all bad. There were a plethora of outlets to recharge my laptop and phone, reasonably fast wifi, and a buffet not unlike a continental breakfast at a hotel — but with the addition of beer and wine.
The last part about the buffet is probably the secret sauce to it all. Between the janitorial staff accidentally ramming my chair no matter where I sat and the babies who couldn’t stop screaming, give me a little cheese and wine and I’ll let everything else slide.
Meanwhile, my flight was delayed three times. “No worries,” I thought to myself as I stuffed another buttered roll filled with cheese into my mouth. “It’s a Greek airline. Of course they’re not on time.”
When the screen in the lounge eventually said my flight was boarding, I bolted to the bathroom to pee out all the coffee and wine in my bladder before heading to the gate. As it turned out the flight was still a good half hour away from boarding. When boarding did begin, business class was first, and I was in the front row! So I got to watch all the economy class ruffians scuttle past me on the way to their inferior seats.
On this particular flight the business class seating arrangement wasn’t the luxury I’d imagined. The first row of six seats had been converted into four seats, with the middle seats serving as small trays. That one row — for a total of four seats — was the entirety of the business class section. We did have a special bathroom, and of course the curtain to shield us from the unwashed masses behind us.
The four of us had our own flight attendant who began the flight by offering us water, juice, or wine in a glass — an actual glass! — before collecting them and handing us warm cotton cloths to clean our hands with. Only the best for a posh lot like us.
I was just getting into a movie on my laptop when the flight attendant returned with my appetizer.
At this point I’d seen the menu, and realized something was amiss; the passenger next to me had requested the meal of her choice, but I was never presented with the option to take a specific meal plan. Perhaps something got lost in translation with this upgrade auction.
For the appetizer this was fine; grilled squid over a fava bean puree met my pescetarian diet restrictions, and although I’m not a fan of squid in general it was grilled to perfection and presented as though it were a fine dining restaurant quality dish. I enjoyed it. When the option of a beef or chicken entree came around, I was jealous of my neighbor whose vegetarian order scored her vegetable pasta. I opted to skip this meal and hoped the staff enjoyed it instead.
In the interest of honesty I’d gorged myself at the lounge so much that food wasn’t high on my list of priorities anyway. By the time the deserts came around and a large baklava was sitting in front of me I could barely finish half of it.
Is it possible to get bored of luxury, I wondered? If only they’d let me have another glass of wine or two, would I have realized the folly of this class divide and run down the aisle of economy class yelling “let them eat baklava?”
In all seriousness what I got most out of my business class travel was not on board the flight, but waiting for the delayed flight in a nice airport lounge. In hindsight perhaps the smart move would have been to pay the lounge’s entry fee when I realized my flight was running late. After exiting the airport my status dissipated anyway, and I had to shove my way onto an overcrowded bus just like everyone else.