The woes of flying coach

Alice Bustos-Orosa

Alice Bustos-Orosa

Cramped like a sardine in economy on a long-haul flight is a reality most of us can only grin and bear. The funny thing about flying coach is that it seems to affirm the long-standing class differences—a distinct portrayal of the stark disparity between the ones who can vs. those who can’t afford such luxury. I honestly always feel the discomfort of walking through some business class passengers with their seemingly haughty and peering looks thrown at hapless passing passengers who must make their way to the back of the plane.

As more and more people fly from pole to pole across the globe in recent years, the travails of flying coach have become a shared experience among many of us. Even on Huffington Post, the viral video about how some passengers have made flying unbearable including the nightmare of being seated with a stranger who decides to take off his shirt for the entire flight, or worse, the sockless smelly feet hoisted up against your headrest. If only for these reasons, I’d say that staying in business class does have its snooty perks.

On a recent long-haul flight, our friends narrated how completely shocked they were at a sizable group who took to their seats boisterously, shoving oversized baggage overhead, and refusing to heed the “fasten your seatbelt” sign as the plane prepared for takeoff. Even the flight attendants had to scold the rowdy group a bit as the captain made the call to take their seats. Out of frustration, my friend enquired with the flight attendant, “Are they going to be this noisy for the entire flight?” To her surprise, the attendant answered, “We’re used to it. Don’t wor-ry, they will all fall asleep after the meal.” My friend retorted back, “Well, if you’re used to this, we’re not!”

The etiquette of flying must have evaded Emily Post 50 years ago as flying then meant traveling in style. I remember how my parents used to plan their wardrobes for intercontinental flights they used to take. My dad would be beefed up in his best suit for the long-haul flight to New York and back. As we would meet him at the airport then, strutting towards us in his wool suit, he looked like a true New Yorker traveling in style. It made us all even more curious about how the other half of the world lived.

The one reason well-heeled travelers can be so condescending is perhaps because we’ve seen how a growing lot don pajamas, slippers, overly-loose shorts, tank tops with bra straps showing, get on board planes even on intercontinental flights. If traveling required bedroom apparel, then a lot of people these days take it literally well. When have socks become outdated after all? Most people probably forget that for safety reasons, people are advised to wear closed shoes or well-strapped sandals during flights in case of emergencies.

But far from the utilitarian reasons that we should dress well, dressing up nicely too will inherently deflect stereotypes about one’s country and culture. That’s the simple reason why that despite flying coach, I try to look as well-put together as I can in the most comfortable ensemble I can find. After all, first impressions last forever.It’s interesting how we bear the discomforts of flying in coach by far if it weren’t for the inherent rewards that travel brings. Believe me though, coach or not, I’ve never regretted a single day of traveling the world over.


Please follow our commenting guidelines.


  1. I think I recognize you as someone I knew from way back based on your picture and your name Alice Bustos -no Orosa at that time yet. Anyway, you were already a snob even then. Now, this flying coach thing is one way for you to let us, readers, know that you travel a lot. Any news about how your travel can help others?

  2. You reminded me of the years that I have to go back and forth the US. I have learned to dress well when travelling because I am Asian and my experience, if I don’t dress well, there are more harassments I encountered, one is a flight attendant’s comments within my earshot that she has a hard time serving people of color. I have learn to tolerate, not accept these attitudes, as far as I am concerned, they have a problem not me. And flying business or first class, I have experienced both, my husband will always insist flying business class but I refuse, first I don’t want to get used to it and second, we will all arrive at the same time.