Husbands Who Fly Business Class While Their Wives are in Coach

The Daily Mail carries what they contend is a ‘trend piece’ on an increasing number of husbands and wives traveling together — with the husband in business class and wife in coach. Really it’s just a collection of stories, not data, and not offering any comparison with the past to make the case that this is more common than it used to be.

American Airlines B/E Aerospace Super Diamond Business Class Seat

Nonetheless the stories are interesting.

  • A husband travels business class for work. His wife comes along so they can have a holiday at the end of the trip. They aren’t going to pay out of their own pocket for her to travel business, but there’s a reason his employer is paying for business class — so he can go straight to meetings. That all seems pretty reasonable, until you learn it’s his company.

  • A husband who is so insufferable to travel with, complaining so much about economy, that they only way they enjoy their trip is if they don’t fly together in the same cabin. The wife insists he fly business class so she can get some peace. And he feels guilty over it so he’s extra attentive while they’re on vacation.

  • A guy who just seems like a jerk, with homes all over the world, he flies the woman he’s dating with him in coach while he flies up front — until she gets pregnant. While she’s carrying his child she gets premium cabin tickets. It seems how much he’d invest in her tickets depended on what he thought of her at the time.

Before I got married I was given the cliched advice, “happy wife happy life.” And I’m fortunate to have plenty of miles.

It’s clear though that some couples simply don’t like each other.

‘It just didn’t work. I wanted to chat, while Arrun was totally preoccupied with his work. He had to ask me to be quiet. It felt very awkward.’

…’Even when we get off the plane we’re like strangers to each another. Arrun will have a chauffeur waiting for him. The car whisks him straight to meetings.

I have to find myself a taxi. At least he does text me to check I’m en route to our hotel.’

…Arrun is unashamed about his love for business class travel without his wife. ‘I love travelling this way. I dine well and always get a good night’s sleep,’ he says.

American Airlines Economy on a Legacy US Airways Airbus A320

The other problem is that these men traveling for work make poor use of their miles — airline miles redeemed for hotels?

‘No, I don’t mind that we travel in different classes — though Tina has used my Air miles on a couple of occasions to upgrade. Generally, though, I prefer to keep them to bring down the costs of my hotels.’

American Airlines Boeing 787 Economy

Do any of the three stories seem reasonable to you? How would this go over in your relationship?

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. I’m about to find out. Booked CX F to the US before the AA deval. Fiance gets a tourist visa to the US so obviously will join the trip. No availability for another F or J award ticket. Also the price in miles is significantly higher. So…

  2. Reminds me recently flying NYC to HKG on CX in PE. You should have seen the look on the oldest daughters face (maybe 14-16) when the dad told her she had to take care of the younger daughter (maybe 10-12) in premium economy while the father and mother were in business. This information was obviously just told to the oldest daughter for the first time during boarding, and she was was not happy.

    Hey, at least “happy wife, happy life” ! HA !

  3. When we travel, it’s a matter of whose “turn” it is. If she “owes” me for say a week of solo parenting recently or something, then I’m sitting up front. And vice versa.

  4. I’ve done this before with my former girlfriend. But hey, women are independent and strong and stuff so they can figure out a way to get up there on their own. And hell, she did once, while I was back in economy. And once or twice I did blow miles to get us both up there.

    Also “Happy wife happy life” has always sounded like a veiled threat to me. It sounds like “Give me stuff and I won’t make your life miserable.”

  5. I see this happen all the time. The husband who is the frequent flyer gets the bump to 1st class (for the short domestic flight) and the wife and kids are the ones in the back of the plane. There have been times when I have worked w/ the people at the gate to give my wife the upgrade instead of me and they have accomdated me well. Give the wife/mother a break and sit w/ the plebes for the 1 hour flight. Its not that big of a deal

  6. I fly F, wife flies F, 8-year old flies F, 5-year old flies F! Or J if no F (or no miles seats in F).

    Even when we’ve taken our nanny on holiday, we put her in F or J with us rather than sticking her down the back with the kids.

    I’m just soft, clearly 🙂

  7. ^^^^^ What Jonathan said.

    I’ve had upgrades clear and had to work with the gate folks to get it fixed. I’d rather sit in back and let a stranger sit in F than face my wife after sitting in F.

  8. And I thought when you are rich and you have kids the parents travel in style while the nanny takes care of the kids in coach 😀

    But honestly, if you travel on vacation with your partner you should always sit next to each other, no matter the cabin.
    Getting yourself a better product cause you can (financially or for whatever other reason) is just a dick move. If you can’t stand sitting to your partner for a longhaul flight, maybe you are not meant to be.

  9. Many middle aged and over men are so large that they are doing themselves, their partners and other passengers in coach a favor by flying in business class. 17 inch wide seat – no way.

  10. Wow. Am I literally the only one appalled to see this? I understand cases where there is only 1 F/J availability, but choosing to choose cost savings over comfort for your child/spouse sounds completely unmanly to me. Yes, I said UNMANLY, and I’ll say that this shows a complete lack of modern chivalry. Even if there is 1 seat, if you’re a man, GIVE THAT SEAT TO YOUR WOMAN AND YOUR CHILD. I don’t care if you have to go to work right after. She has to care for your child the whole time, which is equally crappy traveling across the globe.

    I’m gay, and I hate when straight men treat their wives like this.

  11. I’m the frequent traveler in my marriage. My husband usually sleeps through the flight, so if I’m bumped up to first/business, I take it. Turned it down one flight and watched him sleep the entire time. He doesn’t mind, so I take advantage of it.

  12. I once got split up from my S.O. when my UAL upgrade cleared at the gate on a rarely seen on this route 3 cabin 777 doing SFO-HNL. Her upgrade didn’t clear and she got stuck in Economy. I felt bad but there was nothing I could do except recline my lie flat seat and go to sleep.

    Well…ok…I did split my free breakfast with her…not easy to do since I had to dodge flight attendants to get it back there to her.

  13. How about v.v. – wives in business & husbands in coach? I’m a frequent business traveler & get upgraded often. When I’m traveling with my husband I always offer him the seat in the front. He usually won’t take it – says it doesn’t much matter to him (it really doesn’t seem to) & I fly more often so he thinks I should have it. Sometimes I insist he take it, especially if he’s not feeling well or is much more tired than I am & needs to sleep. We do share. Please don’t forget, Gary, that it’s not always the husbands who get the upgrade!

  14. You trying to get me to DDOS your blog, Gary??? 😉
    You’re making me look bad!

  15. “Booked CX F to the US before the AA deval. Fiance gets a tourist visa to the US so obviously will join the trip. No availability for another F or J award ticket. Also the price in miles is significantly higher. So…”

    Might explain why you had to go to the third-world to find a fiance.

    “I’m gay, and I hate when straight men treat their wives like this.” So married = straight? Reggie Love might have something to say about that.

  16. “It seems like some couples don’t like each other” ROFL

    For example one its reasonable because he may be able to write off his business ticket or get reimbursed by a client/customer but he cant do that for his wife’s ticket. Scenario two is the wife basically requiring the guy to fly business. Im wondering if he would let her fly business too or if she doesn’t even want to sit with him. If he is that intolerable he should feel bad but still the wife made the call. Scenario 3 the guy is just total scum and the women should leave him otherwise they have nobody to blame but themselves for how they are treated.

  17. “But honestly, if you travel on vacation with your partner you should always sit next to each other, no matter the cabin.”

    Not every couple, feels the burning need to rub elbows every second to prove how together they are. We both find it odd when people fight to be “together” when they are already on the same plane going to the same place. My spouse can sleep just fine in a coach seat, even non-reclined. And cares a lot less about “luxury” in general than I do. Thus my spouse is more inclined than me to insist and say “you take it.”

    Every couple is different, thinking otherwise is delusion.


  18. @UnLuCkY

    “Might explain why you had to go to the third-world to find a fiance.”

    LOL. Perhaps. Though for all the trips I’ve known we’d be flying together in advance, we sat next to each other in J or Y. Maybe she is just luckier than you.

  19. We usually fly Southewest when we travel with the kiddos so obviously that isn’t something we have to worry about but just recently we flew almost all the way across the country on American with the kids (hubby is ExPlat) and his upgrade cleared on both legs. The first leg cleared the night before so we knew going into the flight. He used miles to upgrade my daughter so she and I sat up front while he had our oldest and youngest in Economy. The second leg didn’t clear until we were already boarded and he still let me have it while he sat in the back with all three kids.

    I honestly felt bad for taking the upgrade until I remembered that he was flying back for work alone on AA and would likely get the upgrade again.

    It was really fun taking my daughter (3) in first though. She is a great traveller and she thought it was a blast.

  20. Had 4 Y tickets flying with wife and small kids LAX-JFK on DL. Split up the reservations so my wife and I were upgraded. She got the last J seat by waiting at the gate instead of boarding. I let her and the baby sit in the full flat J and I stayed in E+ with our 4 year old. Had one of the best “family flights” of my life.

  21. My company restricts J to 3rd flight per year of 7+ hours. Flew from DFW to LHR in Economy (employer paid ticket) while wife flew non-rev F on AA. She only came back once to check on me and tell me they were making up her bed. Didn’t even smuggle any booze back for me.

  22. I stay together, even if it means flying in Y. I would much prefer sitting in Y next to my spouse or a friend than to take a chance of either of us ending up next to a stranger who may have any number of issues….. Illness, bad body odor, obnoxious, music, loud lap child, etc.

  23. Quite common for muslims to do this. Husband if comfortably up front, molesting the flight attendants and wife in back trying to wrangle their large brood of ankle-biters. It’s a sickening display of culturally edified misogyny.

  24. This is kind of a running joke with me and my wife, that didn’t start as a joke. She has never flown Business class, and has had no issues doing economy trips from EWR to Hawaii back and forth. I’m a pretty muscular and broad built guy (I weight lift regularly) so coach seats mean I sit scrunched up, and my shoulder still juts into the aisle. So there’s no way I’m doing international that way. So when it came down to planning out an upcoming trip to Ireland, I didn’t have the points to pay for TWO trips in Business, so I planned to put her in Aer Lingus coach, and me in Business.

    Apparently – This is a VERY VERY bad thing. (I still don’t think it is) I tried to point out “Hey – You’re going to Ireland for free! Isn’t that something?” The answer is No… It’s not.

    When brought up among other couples at dinners and BBQ’s and such – There was ZERO people who agreed with me. Even my guy friends were like “Wow.. If you manage that you’re awesome. But yeah, still pretty fucked up.” What I have learned is that an unofficial list of histories worst villains looks something like this….

    1. Hitler
    2. Man who flies in Business/First class while his wife flies economy.
    3. Genghis Khan
    3. Stalin
    4. Chairman Mao

    Morale of the story: I am currently using my British Airways/Chase Ink cards on *ALL* of my spend in order to not make the above list.

  25. George – If you pull that off, you may actually be tied with Hitler for first place.

    Back when I was barely treading water, I dated a much older man who would fly first or business and put me in the back in economy. He had an established career and generous expense account which allowed him to accumulate over 1M miles. He felt they were too valuable to use to upgrade me, but not himself. It was painful at the time, but what could I do? Actually, I could change my situation and so I did. I eventually ended the relationship.

    Fast forward just a few short years and I fly myself in upper class on various extended vacations since I’m now retired. We rarely see each other, but I *let* him collect my mail while I’m off traveling. He would love to get back together, but as I’m “too busy” and he has to work, I figure that’s the least I could do. 😉

  26. Recently did this for the first time, with wife travelling in coach and me in business from Beijing to Taipei . . . on separate flights. We had our AA flight Beijing to Dallas cancelled and had already overstayed our 72 hour TWOV and taken 3 hours to rebook the flights we got, so we were taking anything we could get. I had 3 of our children with me on an EVA flight and she had the oldest with her on China Air. They managed to get everyone but my wife a business class seat. And then her flight was delayed by 4 hours, while mine was only delayed by 40 minutes, so we were on separate flights Taipei to LAX too, when she missed the connection (I made sure they had rebooked her on the EVA flight 5 hours after ours before I boarded in Taipei). Luckily, all of us in Business class on EVA for the long flight, so still a pretty good way to travel. Must say, I am curious what it cost AA to put us on EVA and CA for our “free” flights.
    On the way over, we intentionally had my wife and I in first on CX and the teens/tweens right behind us in business Chicago to Hong Kong

  27. I am 6 foot 250+ish. My fiance is 5 foot and 95 pounds soaking wet. Any complimentary domestic upgrades she would not accept and insists I take the upgrade.
    International we generally fly together either up front or hopefully on a330 with the 2 seat rows.

  28. I’ve seen this the other way around where the working trip spouse sits in coach because they are on a corporate ticket while the wife or husband is up front on paid or award seats. many corporations don’t allow business class.

  29. Did a mileage run with my wife, I got upgraded to first on the JFK to LAX Transcon. So I updated her coach seat to be where I wanted to sit, and swapped with her. Of course.

  30. US men are so whipped. It’s absurdly reasonable for spouses to fly in different classes, esp. if one spouse is larger and/or the breadwinner. If one has the means, sure, include the other, but if there’s 1 award, or points/money are tight, why should both suffer? That this becomes an emotional and/or control issue offends me.

  31. Happy wife = happy life.

    If your ticket is in C/F, get hers there as well. If you’re in Y and you get upgraded, give the C seat to her. If there’s only one award seat up front, it’s hers (you’ll get upgraded anyway due to your top tier elite card – or book yourself for cash and get the mileage.)

    Don’t ever sit in a higher class than you wife does on the same flight.

    So simple.

  32. I know long time, happily married couple that can’t travel on same plane. She flies Star Alliance (1K) and he flys OW (EP) and they meet. No kids. Seems weird but their tempos are too different to sit next to each other on a long haul. Works for them.

  33. My husband and I have the opposite problem when traveling together for business. We work for the same organization but are in different departments and therefore are always booked on different record locators when we travel on the same flight. Our employer requires us to book Economy but each of us gets automatic status upgrades fairly regularly. (My husband is Concierge Key on American and I am Executive Platinum.) When that happens, we would rather stay together in Economy than have one of us in Business and one of us in the back because sitting together makes the trip so much better for both of us. We try to request a “no split” upgrade to avoid the situation where he gets upgraded and I don’t, but the AA system has had many challenges with this when we aren’t on the same record locator. My husband has given away his upgrade to whomever gets assigned his Economy seat when he gets upgraded – always a nice surprise for someone, but unfair to others on the upgrade list and something that I hope AA can fix.

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