What happens when you are traveling with your spouse and only one of you gets upgraded? Who gets the first class seat? What if one spouse insists on an “all or nothing” upgrade approach?
Those are the questions posed in Slate‘s “Dear Prudence” advice column. First let’s lay out the particulars–because they are interesting–
- Both husband and wife hold airline elite status
- Based on fact pattern, it appears with American Airlines
- Often, only one first class upgrade seat is available on their transcontinental journeys
- Without question, the the husband takes it, leaving wife in business class
- That’s how we know it is American Airlines, since AA is the only airline offer both business class and first class on premium transcontinental flights
- But wife wants both to remain in business class if only one upgrade clears, because she doesn’t like to sleep next to a stranger.
Her rationale is an interesting one:
I did not want the upgrade; I wanted him to sit with me. There were many times I turned first class down to sit with him…
I just want us to only take the upgrade if we both get it. Otherwise I ask them to give my upgrade to any active-duty service member or the next status holder. While I travel alone a lot, I certainly prefer on a red-eye to have him near me as I feel safer sleeping. I always sit in the middle seat next to a stranger so he can have more room.
She concludes her letter by casually dismissing the comfort of first class.
It just makes me feel like he’s being very selfish, but he does not see it that way at all. This is domestic first class, so it’s not that great, just more room, and yes, he’s taller, but to me it’s the fact that he presumes entitlement over me and disrespects my feelings. Am I being petty?
An Unexpected Response
You might think that she would receive some sympathy from Prudence. Instead, she is met with a scorn and eventually probably not the answer she wanted to hear.
It’s always refreshing to have a complete nonproblem. You and your husband are both mildly ridiculous (he is quite rude, which is worse), and the idea that the struggle is about moving from business class to first class is just … something. Also, “This is domestic first class, so it’s not that great” is going to stay with me for a long time. I am sure the people back in steerage by the malfunctioning toilet are deeply invested in this marital squabble.
If only one of you gets the upgrade: The person who gets the upgrade takes the upgrade. Upgrades are to be taken. Who would turn down the upgrade? Conversely, who would fume because his wife gets a hot towel and a quinoa salad? If you get the upgrade and genuinely do not want it, give it to your husband, who wants it. Now you have two seats, unless the airline jams someone in there, so there’s no reason for you to be in the middle next to a stranger.
Well, Prudence should stick to relationship advice and not airline advice. When someone is upgraded to first class, almost immediately the business class seat is filled up by a waitlist a mile long of lower-tier elites followed by employees traveling on a standby basis. The idea that the wife would end up with an open seat next to her in business class is fanciful.
But I like the “upgrades are to be taken” mantra. Indeed, I’ve never been able to figure out couples who are unwilling to separate on a flight, as if that shows one does not love the other.
The fact that the wife mentions taking a middle seat makes me thinks perhaps she is exaggerating about flying business class and upgrading to first class, since business class has no middle seats…
My Take On Spousal Upgrades
Throughout my dating and marriage, I’ve always flown in the same cabin as my spouse. Our first plane trip together was from Washington Dulles to Los Angeles on American Airlines. I was Executive Platinum at the time and received a complimentary upgrade, but I used a systemwide upgrade for her. I doubt that would have gone well had I waved to her goodbye as we boarded the flight!
Over the years, we’ve flown first and business class together many times…we have yet to fly economy class together on a longhaul flight, though now that our son loves airplanes and can keep himself occupied, we may try coach next time.
There was one incident, from San Francisco to Burbank on United, where I got upgraded and my wife did not. I gave her the upgrade…without hesitation. She took it (and had the baby in her arms).
I’m old-fashioned, I guess, but still subscribe to the “happy wife, happy life” mantra. And yet even that has a limit.
If we were flying American from LAX to JFK and only one of us was offered an upgrade, I would insist my wife take it. But if she refused, I’m taking it…sorry, but why should both suffer? Upgrades are to be taken. Period.
Even on American Airlines, where both business and first class still offer lie-flat beds, the first class suite is much more spacious and if you’re sleeping, why not enjoy a comfier bed?
Ah, to have first world problems like this! I view the wife’s actions as controlling and unreasonable…but of course this is a male speaking. And shame on the husband for not being a gentleman, even if he is taller.
What are your thoughts on the marital upgrade squabble?
(H/T: View from the Wing)