A woman writes to the New York Times ‘Ethicist’ saying that she appreciates being able to travel, and “love[s] going places” with her husband and two children, but he books the tickets and:
- Her husband always upgrades into or buys himself first class
- While leaving her and their two kids (aged 12 and 16) in back
He says it’s too costly to get everyone premium cabin tickets, and he doesn’t want to buy first class for his wife because then their “kids might feel alone.” And she wants to know if this is unfair?
First, I suspect she’s actually referring to the husband flying business class not first class. She notes that sometimes they fly “economy plus” which is United’s brand name for extra legroom coach, and United doesn’t offer a first class cabin.
I also wonder whether the 12 year old should be left in coach without parental supervision. It really depends on the 12 year old, but United requires children traveling alone or without someone over the age of 18 to be classified as an unaccompanied minor. However,
- Premium cabin for a family of four is expensive
- And perhaps the husband feels like the kids need to be with a parent and that he’s incompetent to be that parent?
- Upgrades shouldn’t be declined! But it seems like the two parents ought to at least trade which one takes it on a given flight?
The husband’s solution? He could travel “alone on a different flight ahead of us so that we don’t feel badly about the disparity,” suggesting that if they don’t see him doing it they shouldn’t mind? I actually think it sounds like he doesn’t want to be married.
Several years ago I wrote about husbands who fly business class while their wives fly coach. The Washington Post‘s relationship columnist has covered the issue, telling a woman whose boyfriend flies up front while he pays for her to fly coach that she should dump him: “His wife sat alone in coach: His epitaph writes itself.”
That said, spouses do not always need to sit together. But without extenuating circumstances they should probably share the parenting duties. Here’s a basic rule when only one seat up front is possible. When upgrades are offered, you take them. And if only one upgrade is available, the default may be that it goes to the person that was upgraded. However just as the parenting should be shared, the upgrade should be as well. Why not trade off?