When buying tickets on a plane or on other forms of transportation, you often have a choice to buy first-class tickets.
You’ll typically find that first-class tickets tend to be far more expensive than standard tickets.
Considering the extra expense, you may wonder what it is about first class that makes it expensive.
Why Is First Class So Expensive? (10 Reasons)
First-class tickets can cost anywhere between $1,000 to several thousands of dollars.
Factors like better meals, shower spas, and additional services at the airport all make first-class tickets more expensive.
Let’s go into the reasons why first class is so expensive in more detail.
1. Better Food Options
One of the highlights of flying or traveling first class is that you get better food options.
You also sometimes get more meals than those who aren’t flying in first class.
While those flying coach or traveling in economy class might get a snack, depending on the airline and flight time, you will often be served an incredible meal.
Airplane food isn’t always amazing.
After all, unless you’re in a private jet, it’s unlikely that there’s an executive chef on board.
However, the food that you get in first class is worlds better than the food you get in economy class.
Not only are there typically multiple meal options so you can avoid allergens, but they also often serve alcohol with your meal.
For example, some airlines have their own wine that they serve with the meal.
This makes first-class more expensive because you’re paying more for the food.
The airline has to spend more to provide higher-quality food for you.
It also needs the right instruments to heat, cook, and store the food until it’s time to eat.
All those factors increase airline costs.
Since it costs more, the airline charges more for the experience.
Some airlines also hire a chef to create their menus for them.
This adds some prestige to their meals, and this is beneficial because they know that certain executives and business individuals might like to indulge themselves while they’re traveling.
American Airlines, for example, sometimes serves lobster risotto or even wagyu meatloaf.
They don’t spare much expense when it comes to first class, so they expect their first-class ticket holders to follow suit.
First class is expensive because of the meals that they serve.
2. Flat Beds And Turn-Down Service
A common complaint about traveling on planes and trains is that it’s difficult to sleep on them.
On planes, the seats are too close together for anyone to lie back and sleep.
You end up sleeping sitting up which can lead to some serious neck problems when you wake.
On trains, you’ll often find that it’s too busy to push your chair back.
While the seats do tend to be a bit larger on a train, the sheer number of people coming and going can make it difficult to get rest.
First class offers a comfortable place to sleep.
On some planes, the seats can lie down flat.
You won’t disturb your neighbors by putting your seat back either.
Each seat has enough space to lie down flat without interfering with the people you’re sitting in front of.
Some airlines also offer a turn-down service for you.
They’ll flatten your seat for you and essentially transform it into a bed.
You’ll get a pillow and a blanket.
Some airlines might even provide a mask to help block out any light.
On trains, you can even book a private room.
Some come with a turn-down service as well, so your seat can get changed into a bed.
Being able to travel so comfortably is something that many airlines know people will pay more for.
It can completely change their traveling experience.
Instead of dreading a long flight, someone might come to love traveling first-class because they know that they’re going to be comfortable.
Comfort has a price, however, and that makes traveling in first class expensive.
3. Private TV
Another reason that first class is expensive is that you also usually get your own private TV.
In economy class, you typically don’t get your own TV but there might be some scattered around the cabin.
You might be several seats away from the TV and have difficulty seeing what’s going on.
That problem becomes even worse if there are tall people in the seats ahead of you.
If you sit right where the TV is, then you may also have a problem.
You may not want to watch the movie, but you don’t have any choice because others are watching.
As a result, you have an annoying movie playing above your head.
In first class, since you have your own private TV, it’s up to you whether you want to watch something or not.
You don’t have to worry about turning it off and having people upset at you.
You also don’t have to worry about missing anything because your view is completely unobstructed.
That sort of luxury also comes with a higher price tag.
One of the reasons that having your own private TV makes your ticket more expensive is that the airline has to install a TV in each seat.
They’re not always small TVs either.
Some airlines use quite large TVs for their first-class fliers to enjoy.
TVs aren’t always cheap, especially if the airline is splurging to get TVs that have a crisp picture.
They also don’t spread them throughout the cabin like they do in economy class.
Each seat gets its own TV and speaker system.
Since it costs the airline more money to install the TVs, it also costs first-class fliers more money to travel.
First class is expensive because everyone typically has their own private TVs.
4. Wi-Fi Service
When you purchase a ticket with an airline, you may find that using the Wi-Fi costs an additional fee.
An airline might have different tiers of Wi-Fi, for example.
The cheaper Wi-Fi might have the weakest connection while the most expensive Wi-Fi has the most stable connection.
Airlines may also build these charges into the ticket instead of having you pay a fee.
In first class, some airlines will charge the flier a fee to access the Wi-Fi.
Others build it into the ticket, so first-class fliers don’t have to worry about it.
The Wi-Fi used in first class is typically quite good.
It is often a stronger connection than the Wi-Fi used in economy class.
That’s because the airline knows that those who fly in first class often need to take care of business even while they’re traveling.
It can be difficult to do business if you’re unable to get a secure and strong connection to Wi-Fi.
Wi-Fi isn’t cheap to install or offer on an airplane, however.
Those costs add to their operations.
To ensure they’re able to afford Wi-Fi and can keep offering to it their fliers, airlines need to charge a reasonable fee to use it.
Or, if it’s built into the ticket, then it will make the ticket price increase a good amount.
Airlines also know that first-class fliers are more likely to pay and use Wi-Fi than economy fliers.
They have more flexible budgets that allow them to pay for more.
As such, the airline can get away with charging them a bit more.
First class is expensive because you usually have to pay more for access to the best Wi-Fi possible on a plane.
5. Gift Bags
When you fly in economy, you don’t get much aside from a wave and maybe a snack.
That isn’t the case in first class.
Some airlines have gift bags that they give their first-class fliers.
There can be a number of things in the gift bag like travel toiletries and other small luxuries.
It might have a night mask that you can use to help you sleep on the plane.
You might even get free headphones or earbuds to listen to the TV or radio privately.
Some airlines might give out snacks or treats that the fliers can enjoy on their trip.
The industry calls the gift bags “amenity kits.”
You can sometimes find cosmetics and dental care items in these kits.
The more expensive airlines might even include a high-end fragrance.
Clearly, amenity kits don’t always come cheap.
It adds more expense to the airline’s cost of business.
Since they need to provide those kits to all their first-class passengers, it can quickly become expensive.
To offset the cost, airlines put a higher price tag on first-class tickets.
The more expensive the luxuries found in the amenity kit, the more expensive the ticket is going to be.
First class is expensive because passengers usually get an amenity kit filled with sometimes expensive goods.
6. Shower Spas
While there are lots of luxuries to experience and enjoy when flying first class, few are aware that some airplanes actually have shower spas in them.
Traveling on an airplane for hours on end can be a grueling experience.
You feel dirty or unkempt since you’ve been sharing the same space with many other people for hours.
You may be able to splash some water on your face in the public bathroom, but that also requires you to go inside the public bathroom.
As such, if you’re flying in economy class, you tend to just accept the fact that you’re not going to look your best when you get off the plane.
That isn’t the case when you fly first class.
Airlines know that executives often have to travel from the plane straight to a meeting.
They don’t have the time to stop off at a hotel and freshen up.
As such, airlines have tried to bring that experience to their planes.
Some of them have shower spas.
The Emirates A380, for example, has some of the best shower spas.
You’re able to book your time in the shower, and when it’s your turn, the crew will come and alert you.
They even give you a tote bag so you can carry your things to the shower instead of having to hold them in your arms.
While Emirates has a five-minute running water ration for each person who showers, you’re able to turn the water on and off to ensure you’re only using the water when you need to.
This allows you to have a private area where you can use the bathroom, brush your teeth, take a shower, and just relax.
The spa also has a TV that shows you the map of your flight.
Emirates takes it even further by serving you fruit and green tea after your shower to enhance the feeling that you just visited the spa.
Clearly, this sort of luxury doesn’t come cheap.
Since the shower spa also takes up space where there could be additional seating, it also means the airline is losing out on making money from more customers.
To make up for that, airlines with shower spas tend to have very expensive tickets.
First class is expensive because it costs airlines a good amount of money to have a shower spa on board.
7. Airport Lounges
The benefits you experience with your first-class ticket don’t start and stop with the plane either.
When you buy a first-class ticket with an airline, you also usually get access to private airport lounges.
While everyone else must congregate together on uncomfortable chairs, you can enter a quieter area.
They often have nice seats, Wi-Fi, and outlets available so you can do some work while you wait for your plane.
You get access to those lounges if you’re waiting for your plane or even after you have disembarked from your plane.
If spending time away from the crowds is important to you, then you might find the benefit worth the cost of a first-class ticket.
This makes the ticket more expensive because it means that the airline must rent that space out for the lounge.
Rent in airports doesn’t come cheap.
It costs a good amount of money.
To ensure they can pay the rent, airlines put high prices on their first-class tickets.
First class is expensive because you get access to private lounges in the airport.
8. Free Manicures/Pedicures
Inside an airport lounge or even in its own separate area, if you have a first-class ticket with a certain airline, then you might also get a free manicure or pedicure from it.
Some airlines offer free manicures or pedicures while you wait for your plane.
It’s only available to those with a first-class ticket.
Others might be able to get the service, too, but you can be sure that they’re going to pay for it.
Some salons might reserve themselves only for first-class ticket holders.
Either way, you can relax with a nice manicure or pedicure before your long flight.
Airlines offer this service to make the experience feel even more luxurious.
They want to ensure that their first-class passengers feel pampered.
This adds costs for the airline, however, since they need to pay those who work in the spa.
They also need to purchase all the ointments, lotions, and tools used in the spa.
To cover those costs, the airline needs to price first-class tickets higher.
First class is expensive because some airlines offer free manicures or pedicures.
9. Shuttle Service
To further make their first-class ticketholder’s lives easier, some airlines also offer a shuttle service from the gate to their car.
Airlines know that not everyone wants to walk all the way from the airport to wherever their car is.
They also know that sometimes executives are in a hurry.
They might be late for a meeting because the plane was late.
To further make their first-class ticketholders feel special, some airlines will offer a free shuttle service.
They’ll take passengers from one place to the next to help speed up the process.
It also saves them a bit of energy.
Because this is a convenience and not something that’s necessary, it gets built into the ticket price.
First class is expensive because some airlines offer free shuttle service.
10. Corporate Discounts
A final reason why first class is expensive is because of corporate discounts.
An airline knows that certain corporate entities are going to be able to get discounts through their agents and connections.
To ensure that they’re able to make as much money as possible, the airline will start the ticket price off high.
Even with the discount, the airline still makes the money that it needs to operate.
Meanwhile, the ticketholder believes they saved a lot of money on the ticket.
First class is expensive because airlines raise the prices to account for discounts.
Flying or traveling in first class is a great way to make traveling a lot more enjoyable.
Due to the added costs that the airline takes on to provide certain services to first-class ticketholders, they must price the tickets high to remain profitable.
While flying in first class may not be necessary for everyone, it can change your flying experience drastically.