Last fall I wrote a review of flying ANA Business Class on their Dreamliner from San Jose to Tokyo. In one of the pictures, I was shown wearing shorts, and this started a bit of a debate. Comments flew in from both perspectives, from supporting my decision to be comfortable, all the way to veiled threats. This topic was revisited lately when a friend of mine who works at a small airport in the western United States said:
You wore flip-flops…in business class? I’d drag you off the damn plane.
So that led me to once again wonder about business and first class etiquette, and also to wonder…why? Why is dressing comfortably for an 8, 10, 12+ hour flight so looked down upon? And if it really is, why do airlines give you slippers and pajamas in upper class and actively encourage you to change into them before departure? If you’re wearing pajamas for most of the flight, does it really make a difference if you board the plane in a button-up shirt & slacks, or in shorts and flip-flops?
A lot of people choose to dress up when they fly in premium cabins. That’s fine. I totally respect their decision to do so, but I would hope they would share that respect of people who choose not to. This isn’t the 1950s and 60s, when flying was an event with more of a “social club” vibe. Now you’re either crammed like a sardine in economy, or you get lie-flat sleeping quarters in front. In either case, why look down upon someone choosing to be comfortable?
I think the far more important factor is how you act, and not how you dress. Despite often wearing shorts and flip-flops on planes, I am well-manicured, polite, courteous, and respectful to both the airline staff and fellow passengers. In exchange, I’ve always received the same top-notch service and respect as anyone else on the plane.
The bottom line is that I understand why some people choose to dress up for upper class, but I do not understand why they pass judgment on others who don’t. It’s a personal choice, and should be more about how you act than whether you choose to dress up or dress down.
Michael Prodanovich is a contributor to Point Me to the Plane, and author of The Ultimate Guide to Free Travel
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