How to Fly First Class Even in Coach
How to Fly First Class Even in Coach

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 U.S. 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 always 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 out begging.

On my flight from London to Miami this past week, I noticed that the front of the cabin on American Airlines was wide open but when I contacted them to see if I could upgrade, they said I couldn’t since my ticket was purchased through British Airways, a code-share partner, which was offering a much lower price.

Even if the upgrade were allowed, it would have cost me 25,000 miles, a $350 copay and the Great Britain tax for the higher cabin. No thanks.

So what did I do? Instead of begging or coming up with an excuse, I secured the best seat in coach using these tactics:
Six ways to get the best coach seat on an airplane.

It took some time to get the seat I wanted but I was able to get 31B on American’s 777-200 and it was AWESOME. All four seats in row 31, an emergency row, are comfortable thanks to the extended legroom. But the two aisles are prime time. Even the flight attendant sitting across from me on takeoff and landing said, “You have the best seat in economy.” Now that’s what I like to hear.

Tip: To find out which seats are the best on a particular aircraft, go to or

One trick to make that seat and others like it even better is to take your carry-on bag and turn it into a leg rest, after takeoff, of course. The photo above depicts what I’m talking about. I would have been even more comfortable if I had fully reclined but that would have been just cruel to the passenger behind me.

So for those with econophobia, there are ways to fight your phobia without acting like a fool or succumbing to the airline executives by breaking the bank.

Are you an econophobe? Let me know what you think and what tactics you’ve tried to avoid this condition.


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33 Comments On "How to Make Coach Feel Like First Class"
  1. Tom Hawker|

    Another option is to try for the Economy Plus type of seat. A recent trip on Delta exposed me for the first time to their upgraded economy seating……! seats recline more than any coach or premium coach I’ve encountered. Well worth considering on long-haul flights.

  2. Charles Sessanga|

    I’m an econophobe one of my tricks to get a better seat in the economy is i purchase ticket as early as possible,then i can go in the flight virtual seats chose the seat/s in the economy class with more leg room but pay a little fee which is normally between $50 – $150.
    That works great for me.

  3. Hampton|

    A good site to read is Australian Business traveler. Not only do they tell you the truth about the different types of seats in all classes but they give you cabin maps of seat placement that tell you which are best. Join “One World”whose partners include, Emirates, Cathay-Pacific, Singapore, Eithad, Quantas, Finnair and American. United still has awful trans-Pacific service.

    1. Ben|

      Oneworld doesn’t include Emirates, Singapore and Etihad. Qantas is not spelt Quantas either.

      I agree on the awful transpacific service from United… Why no TVs in the seats!! Will always fly a non US airline anywhere if possible. Why are US airlines so terrible. British Airways, Air NZ, and Qantas are all examples of great airlines operating in the anglosphere which have similar cost bases

      1. Dan Nainan, Comedian|

        After the ellipses, you should not capitalize the word “why”. “Will always fly a non US airline” is a sentence fragment and requires the pronoun “I” at the beginning. “Why no TVs in the seats” is a question and should be followed by a question mark. “non US” should be hyphenated as “non-US”. “Why are US airlines so terrible.” is another question and should also be followed by a question mark. “Air NZ” – no such airline; it’s Air New Zealand. Anglosphere should be capitalized. You have no period at the end of your last sentence.

        1. Anonymous|

          Your not funny Mc Gee!!!

          1. Proofreader 2|

            “You’re not funny, McGee!!!” is corrected reply to the above post. You forgot the apostrophe and the comma needed.

  4. Jim Allen|

    Have a look at Seat Guru online at
    It will help you with finding seats based on passenger input and experiences for all the airlines.

  5. naoma4|

    Great suggestions. Will keep those sites on my travel page.

  6. JA|

    There are more than 4 seats in row 31; there are actually 9. The middle five C-D-E-F-G are standard economy seats. its only A-B-H-J that have the extra leg room. For the middle section you want row 30

  7. Nikos|

    If available I do try and pre order a meal upgrade if the airline supplies it. Does tend to make the inflight meal side of things a little more bearable, and might actually make your fellow pax a little jealous. Only down side not a lot of airlines are offering these meals, just a handful of them. I’m with Charles too, will pay for extra leg room too!

  8. alba|

    I love how $50 – $150 is just a “little fee” to some people.

  9. Marcelo|

    Take your own food in coach and ask them t heat it up when the service is over.
    Use china dishes from first if you can they can be found at thrift stores bring nuts pillows and blankets with you and your noise canceling headphones.

  10. Robert|

    I find that not stressing about the flight or where I’m going to sit makes it a more enjoyable experience overall. Last overseas flight on Air Pacific to Fiji the Gate Agent changed our seats (travelling with my Dad) that she said were “better”. They ended up being a front row, with a wall way too close in front of us so we were really cramped. I didn’t let it get to me even though that was over 13 hour flight. So I guess it’s not always wise to trust the Gate Agents that they are taking care of you.

  11. Judy Colbert|

    I thought exit rows seats didn’t recline at all. What am I missing?

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Only the ones that would lean back a an exit row

      1. Rob|

        would you say 31a would be ok for ord-pvg? I normally get exit aisles, but all are spoken for. This one , 31a, just popped up, so I grabbed it. With the legroom, I think it still is good enough and I could still get up when I need to. Thoughts?

        1. Johnny Jet|

          Grab it and then try and switch to exit row at the last minute

  12. Callum Pragnell|

    Love this! A common problem for many people , including myself! I will bear this in mind for the future.

  13. nsvok|

    I believe that writers like you need to go in economy all the time so you can write about how awful travel is for retired tourist like me. If the airlines start getting a lot of bad press instead of glowing reports from your travel in first class and the hotels get bad press from your stays in ordinary rooms rather than suites, maybe they will start upping their game.

  14. Molly Simon|

    Not all the seats on AA’s premium Economy have the extra legroom yet. Two weeks ago on a flight, I sat in the section and noticed that I was still squeezed in. When I asked the Flight Attendant about it, they said not all planes have the extra legroom yet.

  15. Anonymous|

    One more thing….
    I think that all airline executives should be forced to fly in coach on each and every flight they take.. Maybe then they’d give more comfort in coach!

  16. EvanG|

    When even coach is full, and you have a bad seat tell the gate agent that you will board last, after upgrades have been made, and that if someone in coach has been upgrade you would like their seat. This works virtually every time. You have to be nice to the sgent though because this gives them one more task as they try to close the flight.

  17. Dan Nainan, Comedian|

    I admit it! I have a severe, severe case of econophobia! I am Diamond Medallion on Delta (and Executive Platinum on American thanks to a status match), and on the rare occasions on which I am not upgraded, I’ve even resorted to de-boarding (getting off the flight) and taking a later flight!

    Fortunately, Delta has a very liberal same day confirmation policy.

  18. Leigh McAdam (@hikebiketravel)|

    I do ante up for exit row seats on long haul flights. The service will never compete with the front of the plane but at least I’ve got legroom. I am dismayed though at the creep in prices for these seats in the last few years.

  19. John F|

    I’ve been lucky enough to secure that seat on a LAX-LHR flight and it’s great for economy! One question, though: Did the flight attendants let you keep the bag on the floor in front of the emergency exit door? I would’ve thought that impeding access to an emergency exit like that would not be allowed.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      They did let me keep it. But (obviously) not during takeoff and landing

  20. Brian Schweitzer|

    1. Checkin as early as possible. Often you can checkin online and choose the best seat (isle, window, or exit row with more leg room).

    2. Bring your own entertainment. Use your Ipad and save some films to watch, do some work, or play a game. It is always better than the in-flight entertainment.

    3. Earplugs – Crying baby? Tired? Two chatter bugs keeping you awake? Tune out from the noise with earplugs and relax more.

    4. If all else fails take a sleeping pill and ask the flight attendant to wake you up just before landing.

  21. naoma4|

    Re flying: I usually travel with my husband, but if we get separated re seating — no big deal. And I choose an aisle seat. Do not enjoy sitting next to huge people who want the arm rest raised and then “spill over” on me — do not enjoy having children next to me. But, my likes are not everybody’s and so let me have them, OK?

  22. The Guy|

    As a frequent business traveller on business class tickets for long haul flights I am certainly an econophobia type of guy. I just admit though I accept the ticket I have is the ticket I have. I don’t play the all the tricks in the book card, my ticket is priced as it is for a reason, it is not premium.

    I do enjoy my high frequent flyer status cards and they are beneficial. Numerous times I’ve been upgraded without asking, even upgraded to First Class on Emirates without asking :-)

    I think if you plead and try to get something for nothing then you’ll only get the back’s up of the airline staff.

    Admittedly, if your ticket allows, then paying for an upgrade with cash or points (or even both) is certainly an option to consider.

    As for me, well I just have to suck it up tomorrow. I’m flying with a discount carrier so nothing to upgrade too!

    I do agree that seat guru is a great tool to use.

  23. Bethany|

    Maybe stop being a diva and be appreciative that you can afford to fly, instead of giving advice and encouraging someone to lie, beg and essentially grovel in order to be upgraded. If you can’t afford to fly business or first class, then you need to accept it and stay in coach. This generation is soooo needy and in the frame of mind of me, me, me. No home training. Wow.

  24. Deann|

    Thank Johnny, this really useful for me.

  25. steve|

    Problems are people normally getting around the emergency exit area, doing exercise, playing
    with the babies etc. Also near the bathrooms.

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