Are (Paid) Short-Haul Business Class Flights Pointless?

A columnist for the Economist wrote about a recent flight a client purchased for him.  It was a short-haul trip from London to Norway, and about 90 minutes in length.


The client opted to buy him a ticket in business class.  While the author enjoyed being in business class, he decided that paying for this luxury was pointless.

“Still—and without wishing to sound churlish—on this occasion, it seemed like a perk too far. The posh tickets were for a flight of barely 90 minutes from London to Norway, the evening before the conference. No chance of jetlag hampering my performance in this instance. Which invited the question of what utility business-class travel brings to short-haul flights.

The answer is very little.”

I’ve personally flown a lot of short-haul flights in either first or business.  And while a lot of those times were due to free upgrades, I have paid for some myself.  And after calculating whether or not it was worth it, I realized (in some cases), it was.

In his case, he was on a European short-haul flight, which is substantially nicer than a (US) domestic one.  There was probably food–real food, though the author lamented a lack of outlets.

short-haul business classIn the past, I’ve taken luggage into consideration.  When I was flying on Hawaiian Airlines between two islands, I opted for first class.  I had two checked bags with me and no status.  Once I did the math, the extra legroom, boarding first, and cocktails were only tens of dollars more.  I was sold.

One of my friends took her personal well-being into consideration.  She had injured her knee before a trip and was in a lot of pain for the outbound flight.  When returning, she looked into the cost of upgrading at the gate and compared that in her mind to the cost of whatever would make her feel comfortable post-being in coach.  She was able to stretch her leg out and keep it (relatively) pain-free.

I’ve also read about tall people (being tall…. I wonder what that’s like!) who swore by getting the upgrade–even on the short-haul–to make sure their knees fit.  To them, it wasn’t about the drinks or the other perks the author talks about, it was about being able to physically fit in the space.

Where do you fall on this spectrum?  Do you think short-haul business class flights are pointless?  If not, what do you think gives them value?

About Jeanne Marie Hoffman

Former bartender, still a geek. One equal part each cookies, liberty, football, music, travel, libations. Stir vigorously. +Jeanne Marie Hoffman Jeanne on Twitter

Check Also

flight cancellations

How to Handle Sudden Flight Cancellations

How do you handle sudden flight cancellations? A few years back when I regularly flew …


  1. @Jeanne23 Since most Euro short haul flights have biz in coach seats (front, w middle seat blocked), no extra legroom, so no.

  2. It’s as worth it as it ever is, which is to say if you value that type of experience then yes. I know some people who would rather redeem 60,000 miles over 120,000 and save the rest for another trip. I also know people (myself included), who value it more. After years (yeeearssssss) of mileage running…mattress running…manufactured spend–I’m done. The only trips I take are the ones I want to take. I pay to fly in premium cabins and I stay where I want. The [very much intended] consequence of all of this is that I’m actually saving TONS of money, and I don’t have to check upgrade lists anymore! It’s great!!!

  3. It’s arguing routine utility based on NEED, but I’ve done it post shoulder surgery. More room, less risk of being bumped.

  4. LAN-Latam service between FRA and MAD is a great bargain.
    Factor in the lounge access at either end…the $150 ish fare cannot be beat.

    I’ll be doing it again…this time on the 789.

  5. Depends on a few factors:
    1. Fare difference or upgrade cost
    2. Baggage fees
    3. Airport benefits useful at this airport (priority security lines and lounge access)

  6. I’ve experimented with this a little for several trips. It’s sometimes worth it: with the extra time and elbow room that comes from sitting at the front of the plane I can get a solid 20-30 minutes of additional Real Work done per segment. I’m also pretty tall, so the extra room means more to me than a lot of travelers. While the beverages and snacks are nothing to scream about, I really like that I can get through a cup of coffee and a page or two of writing/editing/whatever during time I would otherwise spend standing in line and checking email on my phone for the dozenth time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.