Is flying business class the answer to a great holiday for autistics?

I recently saw an Instagram post that advised autistic people to ‘save up’ to fly business class when going on holiday and I was quite upset about it. It does suggest to me that autism is such a profound disability that we’re not going to cope in standard class and I really do not agree with it. I used to be frequent traveller in my 30s and most of my travels happened before I found out I’m autistic so I didn’t even use noise cancelling headphones or earplugs. Also most of my flights were with budget airlines that don’t even have business class.

I travelled in premium economy once, when I had my first psychotic episode and the Polish Airlines LOT website was being funny with me and didn’t want to sell me a standard class ticket. I was grossed out when it turned out they had no meal options I’d be happy with and I had to eat buckwheat with fish. Not fun!

Anyway, even though I never travelled in business class, I believe I have enough travelling experience to tell you why flying standard class will be good enough for most of us:

1. The actual flight is only part of your journey. Whether you have a business class or standard ticket, you still need to get to the airport and while in the airport you need to follow the right steps and get to your gate on time. Your luggage needs to meet your airline requirements or you won’t be allowed to board. Then, when you get off the plane you need to get to your accommodation. It’s a lot of planning and you need to be aware of what is happening around you for the entire time and keep making sure that your luggage, passport, purse and house keys are still with you.

When I was going to the airport on National Express to get the flight to Malaysia the couch got broken and we all had to wait for another one. Thank god they are every 20 minutes so it made no difference really. And what if you’re planning to travel by train that only goes once per two hours? If you miss it or it gets cancelled, how are you going to get to the airport on time?

When you are already sitting in the aircraft then the only thing you have to do is to fasten your seat belt, and if you’re having problems with it, the crew will do that for you and it is the pilot job to get you to your destination. Also, it is impossible to get lost on the airplane but you can get lost on the way to the airport, on the way from the airport or if you’re really unlucky, even in the airport itself.

I’m not saying that to discourage you from travelling but to make you aware where the biggest risks are.

2. Airplanes are noisy. You’re unlikely to have any less noise in business class.

3. Food on the plane doesn’t taste nice at all. It’s apparently due to the fact that our taste buts work differently due to high cabin pressure. If you get a standard quality supermarket meal it’s going to taste better than what you get on the plane so keep your expectations in check.

4. Some destinations are only served by budget airlines that don’t even have business class. If you think that flying business class is what you need, you will either never go there, and that feels very limiting, or you have to get on a train or a coach after the flight, which will tire you out more than flying in standard class.

5. Travelling can be challenging at times and when we’re stressed, our sensory issues get worse. I really do not think that spending money on business class is the solution here. What you need instead is to get more experience with travels so that you don’t get easily stressed. If you never really travelled before, start small. Go to places on a train or a coach first for just a few days. You will see what you are good at and where you need to improve.

6. Another problem that I see with suggesting business class as a solution to travelling stress is that some of us love to assume things and jump to conclusions. I certainly fall into this category, lol.

‘Passport? What do you mean? I left it at home as I didn’t want to loose it. I thought that if I booked ticket in business class, I don’t need a passport’ – this is an extreme example that I just made up but you probably know what I mean. When you fly standard class you automatically understand that everything is going to be pretty basic, you have to rely on yourself and that makes you more alert.

7. Let’s talk about costs now. The cheapest one way August flight to Lanzarote in Spain from Bristol which is the closest airport to me is £48 for regular fare with Ryanair, which allows you to take small suitcase and large handbag into the cabin – which is enough for a holiday (please read Ryanair luggage policy before booking). It can cost twice as much, depending on the day.

And now the best bit: I don’t even know how to get to Lanzarote in business class from where I live. Maybe it’s not even possible because Lanzarote is a tourist destination and not international business centre and tourists always want to save money on fights to have more to spend in their destination. Heathrow, the biggest airport in the UK doesn’t even offer flights to Lanzarote, so I took Barcelona, a city in Spain for comparison. Business class ticket for one way trip with British Airways is, well… £930. And remember that you still need money to come back, not to mention to spend when you are already there.

The flight is just over 2h. Do you really think it’s worth the money?

What is the business class for then? Well, it’s for business people. It may be because their time is so precious that they work on the plane, or just to show them that they are important, if it’s their company that pays for the flight. Obviously there are people out there that can easily afford the difference in price and will still have money left for other purposes but most of us don’t really have that much and I really don’t want anyone to give up on what can be a very positive experience because of limiting beliefs about our disability.

I found an excellent article for you that discuss business class vs standard in more details and it’s very honest.

Is business class worth it? What not flying coach is really like!

The article also states that sometimes people want to convince others to fly business class because they have their own agenda. I’m autistic so I’m not good at recognising hidden agendas therefore I won’t comment on that, but I guess we can’t reject this possibility. Have a great time on your holiday, however you get there 🙂

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