Note: This article was originally written in May 2013.

There’s a dirty little secret amongst frequent fliers: We don’t like to fly economy. Especially on long-haul flights. Some of us may even have a fear of  flying coach on any length of flight and it’s becoming a growing trend.

Since there doesn’t appear to be a scientific name already, I would like to introduce a new word into the English dictionary:

Econophobia [e-con-oh-foh-bee-uh] — Noun. An abnormal fear of flying in economy on commercial airlines. Origin: Late 20th-century when US airlines began cutting costs, shrinking legroom and significantly reducing service.

Econophobia usually occurs when one grows up spoiled or becomes an elite member of an airline’s frequent flier program. The latter gets used to perks like free or heavily discounted upgrades. Airline executives act like crack dealers since they give members a taste of what it’s like on the other side of the curtain, knowing they will get addicted and come back for more…though it comes at a cost.

Getting upgraded isn’t easy. There are times (more often than not, for  me) when the first/business class cabin is full, the fare rules on the ticket don’t allow for upgrades or it’s just too expensive.

This is when it can get ugly for econophobes as they tend to pull out all the tricks, coming up with all kinds of excuses to reservation agents, check-in agents, gate agents and flight attendants about why they need to get upgraded: I’m on my honeymoon, I’m too tall, I hurt my back in a car accident. Just full-on begging.

Related: Here’s How You Can Really Get Upgraded to First Class

Are you or anyone you know an econophobe? Leave a comment below.


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20 Comments On "Econophobia: Fear of Flying Coach"
  1. vivian deuschl|

    Totally. When I worked for Ritz-Carlton would make sure to smile when asking about upgrade and take out my business card telling them to call me when traveling and I would see i I could help out. No firm promises, but it did work at times. I limp up to the counter so they can see how bad my knee is and sometimes that will get me the first row in coach, which on domestic flights is ok as long as you have food.

  2. Hitha | Hitha On The Go|

    I suffer from econophobia, and have been since I was given a taste of international first class at age 6 (thank you Dad and your TWA upgrades!). These days, I save my systemwide upgrades and book full fare coach when I know I need to get some rest on a flight. Otherwise, I ply myself with wine and board the flight in a tipsy stupor so I fall asleep immediately in steerage…ooh, I mean coach.

  3. John|

    I’ve got a bad case of econophobia. I have been an elite flier since I was 22 and have had Platinum status for about 5 years. I often take it personally when I don’t get the upgrade but have been getting better about it. Especially when I fly to DCA or BOS and am just one of 60 or 70 on the upgrade list! So many elite fliers on fewer airlines makes scoring the upgrade even harder. At least we have economony plus seats.

  4. naoma|

    Usually fly “business” to Europe once a year but this time went COACH. NIGHTMARE. Plane was freezing. All night all those TVs that are above your head in the middle aisle center were on all night. All that “black and white” flashing. Not a good trip. It was also an “older” plane.

    1. Lee Richardson|

      First, please know that I mean no disrespect. As an educator with 32 years in front of a classroom, I can’t help making gentle grammatical suggestions. Would you register at a hotel with your “husband”? Quotation marks are reserved for written conversations, video and magazine titles, and questionable statements. Thanks for reading my note.

  5. Jennifer|

    I have flown to the Middle east from the states 2x in the last 2 years. Both economy. I would love the opportunity to see the difference. I had no problem on Emirates from NYC to Dubai economy. but the nest time from Washington DC to Qatar to Male’ on Qatar air was a nightmare!!!! At least on Emirates we were treated with respect.

  6. Katherine Belarmino - Travel the World|

    I am afraid I do have econophobia, and yet I have only enjoyed first class on a hopper between Hawaiian islands during which I just had enough time to toss back my complimentary champagne before we were landing again. I have dreams of flying first class again.

  7. RMF325|

    Depends on how far I’m going. For anything under 3 hours, coach is fine. If it is a cross country flight or to western Europe, I want economy comfort. Anything over 12 hours, I really want business or first class. I wouldn’t say I have econophobia, but I won’t fly Southwest. That whole “scramble for a seat” plan is more than I’m willing to endure. I flew to and from South Africa (22 hours) and to and from Australia in coach, in middle seats; I think I’ve suffered enough.

  8. Christophe|

    Business class is addictive and it’s true when that when you start getting used to it it’s hard to go bak behind the curtain ! I have not flown eco on long haul for a long time and hope to be able to continue this way.

  9. Brooke|

    I admit it, I’m an econophobe. When I was a young traveler I always flew coach so I never knew the difference. As I grew older and more fortunate I was able to start flying in business class. Not I’m hooked. I cringe when I’m forced to fly coach, to me the business/first class experience is worth the extra money. Although, if I’m flying only 1-2 hours I don’t mind coach as much. I also stay away from Southwest. There’s no other option than flying business/first on long-haul flights. I guess I’m spoiled.

    1. Ana Silva O'Reilly (@mrsoaroundworld)|

      we should start a club!

      1. Brooke|

        Yes, a club! we’ll meet in the first class lounges at airports. Speaking of First Class Lounges, I don’t sit in the main terminal waiting for my plane anymore either!

  10. Victoria|

    I gave up my business class seat to someone in the economy so they could sit together. Did I miss out on something?

    1. Ana Silva O'Reilly (@mrsoaroundworld)|


  11. MaryAnn|

    Yep! That’s me…once you start getting those uogrades , it’s hard to sit in coach!

  12. Anne Reilly|

    Business class is like a drug and it didn’t take too many tries to get me hooked. But, still, I prefer to go in economy rather than stay home!

  13. Ana Silva O'Reilly (@mrsoaroundworld)|

    I am afraid I have a very acute case of this disease. I actually refuse to fly economy long haul – I won’t go.

  14. Zaid|

    I’ve flown Business class a few times at my company’s expense. Most of my flights are economy. I could never justify the cost of anything but an economy seat. I hate economy on lomg haul flights but I wouldn’t consider myself an econophobe even though I struggle to sleep on planes. As long as I’ve got an aisle seat to get up and stretch when necessary I’m okay.

  15. George|

    jezzz, I suffer so badly from Econophobia, I won’t even fly from Sydney to Melbourne (60 minute flight) in economy, and will not hop on an international flight if there is no bed. I now plan to claim the cost on medical insurance

  16. Victoria|

    I’ve been calling it cattle class for years!

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