I decided to take a musical tour of Vienna, Prague, and Leipzig (for the Bach Festival), followed by a couple of weeks at my club in London. As I wanted to blog the trip, I thought it would be fun to write about going first class to compare it with the trip I took on the Queen Mary 2 for this column last year.
First of all, while first class on an airplane is clearly more luxurious than economy, you would hardly know it from the customers. The last time I flew it was to Japan in 2014, and I could only manage “Economy Comfort.” This time I upgraded to first class. On the whole, traveling first class, like all things, is worth it if you can easily afford it. I have an Amex card whose points cushioned the blow, and I must admit free food and drink in the Delta Sky Lounge is an argument in favor. But as I say, you would never know you were in first class from the customers. On the Queen Mary 2, I had to tog up in a dinner jacket. In the Atlanta Airport, of which it is said in the South that even the dead have to change in Atlanta, I saw only one male in suit and tie. His turban suggested he may have been a Sikh, but I hope he wasn’t carrying the traditional dagger as I doubt Security would allow it. To be honest, the clientele looked as if it had dressed for a long bus trip: tee shirts suggestive or not, clothes with the purveyors’ logo as free advertising, and all sorts of trousers, included jeans in various states of disrepair. I even saw one lady in red sweatpants sporting bright yellow stiletto heels, which seemed to admit of poor understanding on someone’s part. I prefer my boat shoes, even with my wearing socks, which is not comme il faut with boat shoes. Now we men like women in high heels, which must be uncomfortable. Lin Yutang once pointed out that high heels imparts the same sway as bound feet, which is rather a sobering observation. Men like the sway, but few of us would wear chopines for our own beautification.
On the whole, I prefer the dress code of the Queen Mary 2, which has better food in any case, at least so far. Frankly, the food in the Sky Lounge is not worth dressing for dinner; though it was edible and copious, M. Alain Ducasse need not worry.
I am writing from JFK, where Delta landed me an extra day when it refused to hold the flight to Heathrow even just a few minutes. At least ten of us (and possibly more) were delayed about ten minutes due to a number of delays out of out Atlanta connection that were due entirely to problems with Delta. A delayed plane was only part of the problem; Delta decided to allow a good deal of the hand luggage in the cabin, which cost us the connection. A free hotel and a paltry offer of 2500 frequent flier miles is just not worth the aggravation of over-packed plans and bad planning. Had Delta held the Heathrow flight for even ten minutes for at least ten people, all would have been well. At this point, the travel advantages of Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2 make Delta look pretty miserable. About a ten-minute delay would have saved them money and ten passengers wear and tear. I will have to pay for a penalty for a room in London I couldn’t use and miss dinner with a friend. Apparently holding a flight a few minutes for ten people is not a Delta priority.
So right now, the Cunard Line seems by far a better way to travel, and even in season, it can be as low as a first-class airline fare. Out of season, it is a real bargain.
Not everything is cheaper on the Queen Mary 2; I had a massage on board that cost more than a couple of hundred bucks, but in the Delta Sky Lounge, I could have had a long massage from the Asanda Spa Lounge for half that. I could also have had facial and head massages, skin treatments, and even a Deepak Chopra Dream Weaver procedure in which the advertisement says that the combination of lights and sound induce a state of meditation “without the months of work to achieve a blissful state.” When googles can replace meditiation (if the advertisement is true), it does rather call meditation into question. However, I am sure that the meditations of the Athonite monks are rather more advanced than colored lights and “audio.”
Despite the stress of missing an international flight (did I say by about ten minutes and at least ten unhappy customers?), Delta did put me up in a motel over night. It was hardly luxurious; somehow one expects first class to provide something on the order of the Waldorf Astoria. On the other hand, the Chinese take-over of that famous hotel makes some people worry about privacy. That seemed less of a worry at the place near JFK, though I could be very, very wrong.
I am just about to go from the utilitarian décor of the Sky Lounge to the purported luxury of Delta One. My club has arranged a taxi from Heathrow for me, but I will continue to be stressed until I can join the tour on Sunday, June 3. Until then, I feel a bit as though I might not be that all that much unhappier in cattle class (paying a bit more for extra-comfortable cattle seating), though I could be wrong. Of course, I did not know that my bag would later have to be recovered from Leipzig, which is another difficulty in the modern travail of traveling.