Economy or Business Class to Europe?

Old Jan 2nd, 2006, 02:40 PM
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Economy or Business Class to Europe?

My husband, parents and I are planning our first overseas trip to Switzerland and Italy in September 2006. So many details to arrange but thought we should get our flight arrangements first. Based on recommendations of other postings and of our travel agent, we are planning on flying into Zurich (we live in Tampa,FL) and then going south by train into Italy. Having NEVER flown for so great a distance, I wonder whether it is worth splurging for business class? My husband and I are "youngish" (thirties/ early forties), physically active and "fit", but I have rheumatoid arthritis and worry that staying in a cramped space might be a problem?

I know this is a very basic question, but like my screen name states, I'm quite the novice. Thanks.
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Old Jan 2nd, 2006, 03:29 PM
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I suggest you talk to your physician. When we were very young we used to travel only in economy all over the world and stay in inexpensive places. Now we fly almost exclusively first class, at least to Europe. However, we never pay a full price first/business class. We are able to wait for those special air fares. Also, we are hikers and rock climbers but in the evening we like to return to nice hotels. Is it worthy to pay higher rates for hotels? It depends on so many things. It is worthy to us.It is worthy to pay for higher rates to fly first/business? It is worthy to us.
As you see this is my personal experience and I don't think anyone is going to make this decission for you. Is it worthy to you? Your health must take priority. I used to get a back pain on long flights to/from Europe in economy now I never exprience this. Still, in my case I think it is more psychological than physical. But at least I don't feel guilty for paying more. If you can afford go for it, if you are not certain whether you want to pay for first/business maybe bying extra an economy ticket would be the way to go? Good luck!
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Old Jan 2nd, 2006, 03:34 PM
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This is Sunshine007 using Toby1's computer.

I've flown both. There's no comparison especially if Economy is fully booked. You might look into the Premium Economy seats which have larger seats, but Economy type service.
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Old Jan 2nd, 2006, 04:03 PM
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I fly both quite frequently and while I definitely prefer business, for me coach is tolerable as long as I have a aisle. The biggest difference is the personal space.

In coach, you are elbow to elbow with whoever sits next to you. That is ok if you are not large, and two of you get the two seats in a 2-3-2 or 2-4-2 configuration.

Business class seats are wider and spaced farther apart, but many do not fully recline so you're still not lying flat to sleep either way.

I skip the food in both business and coach - always eat before I get on the plane and try to get as much sleep as possible, closing my eyes before they serve the dinner meal regardless of class.

Even if you fly business class, you'll have jet lag, be sore from sitting, but those will wear off with some good physical activity and a good nights sleep.

If funds are limited, I'd spend the extra $ on better accomodations every night and spread the benefits over the entire trip.
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Old Jan 2nd, 2006, 05:13 PM
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Hi tripnovice. Assume that you the four of you do not have enough Frequent Flyer miles so that you can all buy coach seats and then use your Frequent Flyer miles to upgrade to Business Class.

Not knowing your budget, the age and physical health of your parents it is hard to say but if buying Business Class Seats is possible (without going into debt) there is a difference between Business Class and Economy. If you have to fly Coach do get yourself an aisle seat. That will be a bit of a help. I hope that you are not immediately taking the train from Zurich into Italy immediately after arriving in Zurich.

Best wishes to you with your decision and have a wonderful time in Italy.
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Old Jan 3rd, 2006, 03:56 AM
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What is your physical size? and what is your financial situation? If your credit cards are paid off and you're over 5'11", then I would consider business. But by going economy, that will be another $2,000 each that you can use for other things. Can you upgrade to business using miles?
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Old Jan 3rd, 2006, 04:49 AM
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No matter how you slice it, flying out of TPA will involve a connection to your destinations.

BA has 1 a day, non-stop, TPA-London Gatwick flight. If you like some more legroom but don't want to spend the big buck$ for business class, you may want to look at their econ+ class. The seatpitch is ~38" (it's 31" in regular economy), but it's still economy service. The fares are usually just few hundred $ more over the cheap economy fares.

You would need to connect to/from your European flights at Gatwick, but it's not a bad airport to do that.

Just a thought, but it may be worth your time investigating this option.


BTW, if you can afford business class, then it is the way to go. Between the departure/arrival lounges, and comfort during the flight, you will feel fresh and ready to hit town upon your arrival. To some that never have flown J or F, trust me, THERE IS A HUGE DIFFERENCE!
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Old Jan 3rd, 2006, 11:30 AM
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Another option is to book the flight on the BA web site and upgrade the flight going over to Europe because it is a night flight. The return flight is during the daytime and you can sleep in your own bed when you get home. This option is available on the BA web site.
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Old Jan 4th, 2006, 12:01 PM
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How about flying TPA to ATL and then nonstop on Delta ATL to ZUR? Is there some reason that you want to fly into Zurich if you are going to Italy? Couldn't you just fly into Milan or Venice(also nonstop on Delta from Atlanta or JFK) and save the time and expense on the train? Give us some more information and we will be happy to help.
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Old Jan 4th, 2006, 12:03 PM
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I forgot to add that my daughter lives in St. Pete and uses the Tampa airport so this is how she goes to Europe all the time. Less stress and hassle about connecting overseas to final destination.
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Old Jan 4th, 2006, 12:11 PM
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dutyfree,

I understand your good intentions, but tripnovice did not ask about routings within Europe. For whatever reasons, they decided to visit Switzerland and Italy. Why start discussing/questioning why??? when it wasn't part of the question? This is an Airlines forum, so it's pretty clear that they really are not interested in others deciding their itnerary.

All they want to know is whether flying in business class is worth the money?
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Old Jan 4th, 2006, 02:48 PM
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Its too early to know what the best fares for next September will be, but I would think the most restricted tourist fares will be a bit lower in a few months, when the airlines start to worry about not selling enough seats.

I did check round trip fares from my favorite airport for September, for a two week trip (the length of your trip can affect the cost of your tickets, but you need a real maven to dope that out).

First class restricted tickets ranged from $6752 to $6994. Unrestricted first class tickets ranged from $7856 to $8078. And on some of the feeder flights, first class is not available because of aircraft configuration.

The most restricted tourist tickets were $858, but I would guess this will come down a bit, but the days of the $450 flight are probably gone unless you are very lucky.

Restricted first class tickets are, generally, hard to get, as the airlines limit the number of seats they will sell at those bargain prices. Restricted tourist class tickets are, generally, plentiful.

So the question is whether slightly roomier seats and slightly better food, and being first to deplane, is worth six or seven thousand dollars for a trip that will last perhaps 8 hours each way? Remember that this is a transient experience and will provide lasting memories only if your life is incredibly mundane.

Having said that, only you can decide whether first class is worth the money. My wife and I fly first class only when we are using miles, or get upgraded. What we do do is try to get a pair of seats (some planes offer this configuration) and fold up the armrest between us so we have a little more room. More space between you and the seat in front of you is also nice, but only a few airlines offer this in tourist, and who knows how long that will last. American Airlines made a big thing of more room throughout coach, but it seemed to last less than a year before they went back to sardine can configuration.
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Old Jan 4th, 2006, 04:00 PM
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clevelandbrown,

it's not first class the OP is looking for, it's business class. Right now you could find an open jaw (TPA-ZRH/FCO-TPA), business class ticket for ~$2200 all in on 3-4 airlines.
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Old Jan 4th, 2006, 09:37 PM
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I think Business Class is worth it. If you opt for economy, aisle seats are the way to go. When I travel with companions, we try to get aisle seats across from each other so we're close, but each still have the aisle.
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Old Jan 4th, 2006, 11:48 PM
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If you can get a discounted business fare around $2000, I think it's worth it. I personally wouldn't pay full fare business. I find premium economy a good compromise too depending on what kind of PE fare you can get. I would buy PE if it was pricing around half of the cost of a discounted business fare, but if the difference is only a few hundred dollars, I'd definitely be more inclined to go for business.
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Old Jan 5th, 2006, 02:31 PM
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Check with Orbitz--sometimes there are quite good prices for business class, but it can depend on the time of the year. There are also consolidators who handle business-class tickets at discounted prices.
And yes, it is definitely worth the splurge in order to be comfortable.
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Old Jan 7th, 2006, 06:13 PM
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Wow -- thank you all so much for the input. In response to several questions, we decided to fly into Zurich to add the train ride into Italy. Purely to enjoy the scenery. We were planning on staying in Lake Lucerne for one/two days before spending the majority of our time in Italy. Please let me know if anyone thinks this is a bad idea. (or perhaps I should post this question elsewhere. . .)

To be honest, the additional funds are a bit of a problem for our budget. However, if coach is miserable on such a long flight, we would decide to modify our budget elsewhere -- I guess it is about a three k difference (we've been able to find several business class tickets at around 2,400). We have no miles to upgrade our tickets.

My husband and I are both normal size (5'6", 6'and are not overweight) and have no problems with coach seats on domestic flights. I appreciated the comment by clevelandbrown that this is a transient experience -- let's hope our flight will be nowhere near the highlight of the trip.

Thanks again for all the good suggestions.
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Old Jan 7th, 2006, 11:55 PM
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If the additional cost presents "a bit of a problem" for your budget then upgrading to business class is not worth it. With $3000 saved you could take a couple of extra days (leave without pay, even) and stay in a fab hotel in Zurich on arrival, and still have $$$ left over.

Be sure to sign up for the FF program and earn miles.
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Old Jan 9th, 2006, 02:17 AM
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If money is a "a bit of a problem" and you decide to fly economy try to book one extra seat for you and your husband and another extra seat for your parents.

It is a huge difference in seats between coach and business/first.
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Old Jan 9th, 2006, 12:09 PM
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Is a Mercedes more comfortable than a Ford Fiesta? Yes. Is it worth the price difference? That depends upon how much you have to spend and what your priorities are.

The vast majority of passengers on any given transatlantic flight are in coach, and they survive (mostly ). I've flown over 20 RTs to Europe from the west coast in coach because I'd rather go more often than be more comfortable, and I can't afford both. (That goes for using FF miles, too -- I know you get "more for your money" using miles for upgrades, but I'd rather use the miles for more flights.)

I have managed to fly business a couple of times (once because I was bumped up due to overbooking, and once because it was the only available FF flight and the program still allowed passengers to go coach one way and business the other and split the difference mile-wise. And yes, it is a world away from coach.

I try to take the "transient experience" approach and view the flight as a necessary 12-hour evil on the way to and from a great vacation. I wear comfortable clothes, drink lots of water, move around a bit, and...take a Xanax. It's not the ideal situation, but.... Hey, it beats living in a tent in Kashmir in winter, so I can't feel too sorry for myself.
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