CNN: Serving Booze In First Class While Banning It In Coach Is “Dickensian”

Some airlines won’t serve alcohol to coach passengers, because the people flying today behave badly on board. Sure, they’ve been behaving badly while not being served alcohol but somehow there’s a link being drawn, or a fear that behavior would get even worse.

I’ve written that “all airline passengers are Spirit Airlines passengers now” with business travel still down about 75% compared to pre-pandemic levels. But Spirit Airlines has long sold alcohol on board. In fact their inflight drink menu even pitches, “Why Not? You’re on vacation.”

A CNN opinion writer takes issue with American Airlines still offering drinks in premium cabins while not serving in coach.

This generates a picture that borders on the Dickensian. Back in coach, low-born, vulgar ruffians pause their brawling to menace flight attendants with their brass knuckles and truncheons. Meanwhile, up in first class, the finer sorts of passengers are writing haikus or genteelly using their personal regurgitorium to make room for more of the pan-seared sirloin.

Never mind that domestic first class hardly means “pan-seared sirloin” or that the truly wealthy are more likely flying private than getting an upgrade to a seat with 36 inch pitch (in pre-pandemic times domestic first class was the province of middle to upper-middle class business travelers).

And they accept the possibility that first class passengers might be less likely to get into mask confrontations or less prone towards drunken assaults. However they argue otherwise,

  • That a 2016 study found the resentment of coach passengers was fueled by boarding via the aircraft’s forward door and walking back through coach.

  • Another study found “wealthier individuals are more likely to display unethical behavior” however this talks about whether they stop at crosswalks, not whether they attack flight attendants or refuse to wear masks.

Of course the 2016 study does nothing to show coach passengers are more prone towards drunken rage because they’ve walked through first class, and even if they were, to the extent airlines are banning alcohol in back that would be support for the policy unless they’re able to shift which boarding door they use. And the 2016 study didn’t suggest that seeing passengers drinking predeparture beverages was key to their rage.

Moreover the 2016 study literally couldn’t have accounted for either anger at mask policies that run counter to,

  • the low virus prevalence in the U.S. currently
  • the relative safety of the aircraft cabin combined to other indoor congregant settings like bars and gyms, thanks to HEPA air filtration and downward air flow
  • the availability of vaccines in the United States, such that anyone 12 years old or older who wants one can get one – hence little need to protect those who choose not to get vaccinated
  • CDC guidance that in other indoor settings those who are vaccinated do not need to wear a mask

The study also predates the politicization of masks as well as the events of January 6th. In other words the piece sheds little light on current events even as it seeks to stoke the flames of class warfare.

First class comes at a higher price point than coach and comes bundled with additional services, including drink service. The irony of course is that the difference between first class and coach really shrunk throughout the pandemic.

Meal service hasn’t returned in earnest to most domestic flights up front, with packaged cold items the norm on many domestic flights – and even that was an improvement over what airlines had been serving. In other words, first class passengers saw more cost cuts than those who were just buying transportation. There’s ‘an aviation angle’ to the axe any writer has to grind. But it’s almost always wrong.

(HT: Tommy L.)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. CNN should know there are always differences in lifestyle, product, how you are treated, etc. As you noted first isn’t great but I’ll take it if I can’t fly private. BTW, as a lifetime Platinum on AA (and lifetime Gold on DL) I fly a good bit in coach with the “unwashed masses” since I usually don’t see the value on domestic flights of paying for first (cash or miles) and am now in the 3rd upgrade group of both airlines (4th if you count Concierge Key).

    I guess CNN has gone full socialist and wants every airline to be like Southwest with the same seat for everyone (I would throw in Spirit and Frontier but they have, God forbid, slightly better seats at the front of the cabin).

    Must be a slow news day or CNN is inventing stuff to not report on Biden’s very awkward G7 trip to the UK.

  2. I am not sure what CNN is trying to say by using the term Dickensian, but it is clear that no matter the airline, the seat or class…the conditions often depicted by Dickens are no comparison. Sadly, these conditions still exist today throughout cities of one party rule for decades if not for nearly a century in some cases and yes along our southern border. Sadly, the conditions in these areas have worsened of late and many have chosen to just ignore or deny the existence of the very real problems others face because they are out of sight and out of mind. I am reminded of other extreme comparisons liberals make when they want to inject emotion or worse the kind of emotion that elicits anger into their readers. Jetting along at 500 nautical miles per hour or more at 34,000 ft. is a luxury even when sitting in a coach seat and sipping a Coke while nibbling on pretzels. The idea that coach may have a higher incidence of poor social behavior makes the conditions reminiscent of the scenes from “A Christmas Carol” is ridiculous. Of course, there remains many in society that accept the liberal viewpoint that Dickens was portraying a nasty, greedy and self serving hermit…. who undoubtedly was conservative ….is a massive misunderstanding of Dickens’ message. Several scenes in “A Christmas Carol” make it clear that the person Dickens is portraying is the wealthy individual, consumed by his/her wealth to the detriment of others…forgetting his past when he struggled as well to ‘make it’. The key are several quotes like when Scrooge is in the exchange and is asked to donate to help the poor and needy. He doesn’t say just ‘get a job’, but he asks about the condition of the social welfare state and the programs he pays taxes to support and demands that the poor go there. He says my taxes pay for these institutions and that is enough. Clearly, Scrooge was an example of an elite liberal of the day..satisfied to wear a ribbon, like a post, give a buck or two to the poor and yes by all means vote for programs that the government administers to help the poor rather than being a neighbor. It always bothers me when MSM misuses extreme comparisons and boy is this a doozy

  3. One thing that annoys me about coverage of banning alcohol is frequent statement that it won’t eliminate rude or bellicose passengers. That’s true, but it will likely reduce their numbers, which would be helpful. No guarantee of course, but it’s not hard to expect people who are drunk to be more disruptive than others.

  4. The CNN opinion article says, “Meanwhile, up in first class, the finer sorts of passengers are writing haikus or genteelly using their personal regurgitorium to make room for more of the pan-seared sirloin.”

    I never knew American Airlines offered a “regurgitorium” in first class. However, many passengers have taken AAdvantage of the “vomitorium” complimentary white bags located in the back of every coach-class seat.

  5. People who read CNN opinion pieces probably know what they are getting: Clickbait combined with divisiveness and hyperbole. This piece checks all the boxes. Domestic First Class has been devalued to the point where it should be labeled “a bit less miserable class.” Achieving class equity by ending alcohol service would make a fine excuse to further devalue the product.

    Instead of making ridiculous comparisons to Dickens, maybe CNN should consider Louis CK’s perspective: “You’re sitting in a chair in the sky!” That’s not exactly the squalor of 19th Century London.

  6. It’s CNN. If you are surprised, you haven’t been paying attention. Maybe their legal analyst can weigh in once he finishes and pulls his pants back up.

  7. All I can say is, I have *NEVER* seen a brawl in First Class. We’re all too busy sipping champagne and eating bon-bons.

  8. If walking past FC bothers people so much, then change boarding to board coach first.

    Problem solved and we won’t have to watch the resentful masses walk by and block our immediate access to the champagne and pan seated sirloin.

  9. It’s very simple unfortunately main stream media will never get it. Those passengers who sit in front fly more, pay more and generally follow the rules much better than the occasional coach flyer. I have news fir CNN MSNBC and the rest of the garbage networks. This is the United States of America not Cuba or North Korea. Hard work still counts for something and the rewards which come with it

  10. @cmorgan – that’s just it though. Hard work doesn’t equate to wealthy. More often than not, the wealthy were born that way. The hardest workers are usually the lowest paid often times. Studies don’t support your qualitative armchair assessment that “I have money because this is ‘Merica and I work hard”. Most people sitting in first class pre-covid were business men (not necessarily all wealthy) getting upgraded using their company money to purchase their tickets.

    Also to the others CNN bashing? Which TV news agency is more balanced? Serious question.

  11. And to you all bashing MSNBC, you do realize Scarborough is Republican as is Nicole Wallace. It’s not their fault the other side is so bat crap crazy that one cannot be balanced any longer.

    MSNBC obviously leans hard left but are there any libs on Fox any longer?

  12. No point in getting into a debate about the credibility of CNN: Anybody who claims that pan-seared anything is served in a domestic first cabin or compares the economy cabin to a Dickensian hell is clearly not serious. As one of the “businessmen” sitting up front occasionally on my company’s dime pre-covid and post, I can tell you that work travel is hardly a luxury for the privileged. Most road warriors of all genders and races work their tails off. A bit of comfort may take the edge off a week of 16-hour days away from family, but it’s hardly a luxury vacation.

    To the woke who want to see true luxury and separation of classes, I suggest flying the legacy airline of their once-beloved Soviet Union, Aeroflot. The vodka, champagne, and caviar that they serve in business class are some of the world’s finest. Conditions for the proletariat in economy are significantly worse. But at least they are not unjust like Delta, UA, and American.

  13. @Shawn

    So CNN is considered “balanced”? What kind of “balance” are you referring to? As for Scarborough and Wallace, aren’t they actually “Republican In Name Only” (RINO)?

  14. Thought this was going to be an article about alcohol on planes but nope somehow Gary brings it back to masks in yet another article on the subject.

  15. By the way someone should explain to Gary about the delta variant that is 60% more transmissible. Case counts are going up in the UK where they have a higher percentage of fully vaccinated people than we do, so yea maybe people should keep wearing the masks or require people to be vaccinated before flying.

  16. @Bill – the mRNA vaccines in widespread use in the U.S. are more effective against variants than vaccines used in the UK. If you’ve been fully vaccinated with Pfizer or Moderna your chance of contracting the virus and spreading the virus is very low. I plan to wear a mask in flu season because of flu when this rule finally goes away… not because of Covid.

  17. @curiouscat – you didn’t answer my question. Instead of just bashing please tell me which TV news network is more balanced.

    Also….only in a trump world would one consider Scarborough (elected as an tea party candidate) and Wallace (an advisor during GWB of all people) RINOs.

    Enough said.

  18. (W)hich TV news network is more balanced?

    None. As in no TV news network is balanced. The days of “balanced” news are long gone, if they ever existed. They all exist only to cater to a loyal base. The only way to achieve balance it to watch two of them at opposite ends of the spectrum and hope you’ve heard at least one sort of correct version of the story.

    How to tell you’re watching biased news? When stories are later corrected, the corrections are all in the same direction. Every news organization makes mistakes, that’s part of the way things are in a fast breaking environment. But if they were playing it down the middle, they would be wrong in both directions about equally. CNN is always wrong in the same direction, when they bother to admit it.

  19. @Shawn

    Which part of the qualifying question “What kind of ‘balance’ are you referring to” do you not get? Progressives always stick to CNN/MSNBC as their own version of “balance” while Conservatives mostly stick to OANN/NewsMaxTV/FoxNews as their version of “balance” … are you expecting some kind of “absolute” reference for what constitutes “balance”?

    As for those two RINOs, you do understand that they are still allowed to “evolve” their political views over time, right? So just because Scarborough might have supported the Tea Party of yore and Wallace had worked with GW Bush, that does not, therefore, mean that they still hold their prior political views today; otherwise, why would MSNBC give them their own show hosting spots?

  20. @kittycat – you proved my point. Instead of all these butt hurt comments bashing CNN please refer to your own comment. CNN is what it is just as Fox News so just because they air something an appropriate response isn’t “well it’s cnn”. I don’t even watch CNN but if I was asked for the most central TV news that comes to mind.

    I don’t honesty even know what fair and balanced even means. Especially with the dipshits now consuming the GOP. Why would anyone show that side. It’s a side of moronic idiots.

    Also if you actually watched then they have not changed their viewpoints. Rather they often challenge those guests in their air as they bring up counter points. MENBC is far from perfect but hey try. Instead of firing or letting go those who disagree with the general viewpoint of the viewer. One only needs to look at Fox News for that.

  21. And here I thought this was about Jeffrey Toobin’s re-emergence on CNN. When I saw the cringeworthy video I naturally thought (@Shawn) “well it’s CNN”!

  22. @Shawn

    About focusing on CNN/(MSNBC) — are you willfully ignoring how CNN/(MSNBC) do their biased reporting with respect to Real Facts? How often have CNN/MSNBC (but more CNN) gotten caught fabricating and/or perpetrating overt Propaganda, especially against Trump? You do understand what Propaganda is, right? So to you CNN represents the “Center”? And bringing RINOs (or Never Trumpers) on their shows represents “challenging their guests”? OK … that’s interesting!

    You don’t necessarily have to know what “fair and balanced” means, but you should at least know when you’re being fed provable Propaganda, no?

  23. @Shawn

    BBC World News provides the best balanced news I’ve seen on TV. Those interested in American pro sports should look elsewhere. Now, the BBC isn’t the ideal, just the best balanced among what’s available.

    Try radio news. In the three-minute broadcasts you’ll learn most of what’s essential.

  24. Historically, the BBC has a good reputation for balance, but it has lately been going the way of Wokeness. And it has a few known blindspots on certain issues as well.

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