travel tips: getting the most out first class & trying to avoid barotrauma

Allow me to depart, temporarily, from my standard food-related blog posts. I still have lots of things to post about my trip to Boston, and now I want to focus on my flights. My dad drove me to GRR last Thursday. The clerk at the ticket counter insisted on changing my tickets and giving me a window seat so I could get a nice view of Boston at night. While she was searching for the best seats, my dad jokingly said to her, “Why not upgrade her to First Class?”
“Sure, I can do that. It’s just an additional $69!” Wouldn’t you know, my dad pulled out his credit card and said it was an early Christmas present, just so I could see what it’s like!

Well, since I wasn’t paying for it myself, anything little extra thing I got was awesome. But I started thinking about it…what really makes flying First Class so great? How can you be sure you get your money’s worth when you actually pay for it?


Let’s start with the things that are priceless: First Class has wider seats, more leg room and under-seat storage space. You’ll be first to board, and exit, the plane. It’s easier to get the attention of the stewardess. For some, that alone might be worth $69. But that’s not the way I think. I think more in terms of…


How many drinks and snacks I’ll need to consume. AirTran charges (its 2nd class customers!) $5 for beer and $6 for wine & spirits. I’m not as young as I used to be, so I was feeling pretty good after one little bottle of Dewar’s. However, had I paid for the upgrade myself, I would’ve paced myself and gone for 4 drinks. That’s $24. The snacks they offer (kettle chips, Friday’s Potato Skin chips, cookies, trail mix, etc) would probably be sold for $2 each in the airport…so…I would’ve needed to get about 22 snacks.


I will say, though, it was definitely a couple steps up from this (my return flight). And maybe you’d drink more cocktails than me.
And now onto barotrauma, something I’d never heard of before this past Monday night.
The week leading up to my trip I wasn’t sleeping well at all. The night before I left, I was up past 3am. Little did I know pretty much everyone in the dorms either had a cold, was coming down with a cold or just getting over a cold. As I mentioned previously…I stayed in the dorms. I was doomed.

Friday night I felt the cold coming on. Normally I would immediately start drinking tons of hot water and get lots of rest, but I didn’t want to spend my vacation sleeping, drinking and peeing. I decided to tough it out. I drank lots of cold medicine, stayed out late and had just one big mug of hot water. I didn’t get better.

I did not realize flying with a cold is kind of dangerous. Congestion in your nose can lead to swelling in your ears, which can lead to blocked Eustachian tubes. That is important because if your Eustachian tubes are blocked, there’s no way to keep air pressure between your inner and outer ear balanced. No matter how much gum you chew, or how wide you open your mouth faking a yawn, your ears will not pop. Popping is rather unpleasant, but NOT popping your ears during takeoff or landing is even worse. I seriously thought I was having an aneurysm. I mean, I told myself to get ready to die sitting right there on the plane reading a magazine (I decided there was nothing I could do anyway, so I might as well finish the article).

When I got home I did some googling. If you have to fly with a cold, try taking decongestants taken by mouth or by a nose spray, or antihistamines. You could also get steroids or antibiotics proscribed by a doctor. I read over and over again it sometimes helps to plug your nose and blow, but when I did that (just because I had a stuffy nose and needed to blow it), it REALLY hurt!!! And made a terrible, loud sound in one of my ears. Later I read you have to be really careful trying that, and blow gently, or you can cause permanent damage. Awesome.

Luckily I made it home without having an aneurysm, and my ears are almost completely back to normal now.

The End.

5 thoughts on “travel tips: getting the most out first class & trying to avoid barotrauma

  1. Wow. I don’t know what to say. That must have been painful, scary and annoying! Sooo… between 1 and 10, 10 being max quality, how do you rate first class?
    and how do you rate Air Tran? I will be going to MD next month for a wedding and may use that airline. I’ve never flown on it.

    • I think it really depends on the people working in each location. All the people I’ve encountered here in GR are really nice, but in Boston…that’s another story. I made a mistake picking a seat using the kiosk for my return flight. The woman at the desk claimed she had no way to fix it because I paid at the machine, and the machine can’t give refunds. I asked for a manager, she said there was none available (didn’t even check). When I questioned her about that, she said I could talk to “that guy over there.” The guy standing *right* next to her, she couldn’t even bother to introduce us. I had to start all over again, but he fixed it right away.

      Anyway. So it depends. If you have extra money to spend on First Class, it might be worth it just for all the extra space. Just be sure to eat and drink up!

      • wow that’s crazy. well, so far it seems like the cheapest flight i can find is on Air Tran. So i may just go for it. No first class though. I’m already tiny and I’m sure taller or heavier people can make better use of it! :-p

    • I think it really depends on the people working in each location. All the people I’ve encountered here in GR are really nice, but in Boston…that’s another story. I made a mistake picking a seat using the kiosk for my return flight. The woman at the desk claimed she had no way to fix it because I paid at the machine, and the machine can’t give refunds. I asked for a manager, she said there was none available (didn’t even check). When I questioned her about that, she said I could talk to “that guy over there.” The guy standing *right* next to her, she couldn’t even bother to introduce us. I had to start all over again, but he fixed it right away.

      Anyway. So it depends. If you have extra money to spend on First Class, it might be worth it just for all the extra space. Just be sure to eat and drink up!

      Oh, I would rate it….hmm…if I was in a mood to drink, I’d say 7 or 8!

  2. I’ve flown first class several times and quite frankly don’t consider it worth the extra expense. I’ve never flown Air Tran as I prefer to fly with Allegiant Air Lines for a direct flight to Orlando. I bring my own snacks and don’t drink on the flight. The extra let space would be nice but I’ve learned over the years to only bring a backpack for a 3 week trip. I’m cheap. I don’t want to pay the airlines anything extra. I’ve never flown with a cold but Have gotten sick after a flight so now I load up on Vitamin C and D and Astaxanthin per Dr. Mercola.

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