New poll question: would you rather fly first class or stay at a five star hotel?

It has been a while since I’ve switched up the poll question on the top right of the blog, so this seems like as good of a time as any. The last poll question asked whether reclining a seat on an airplane is a right or a privilege. Over 6,000 of you voted, and 57% of you thought it was a right.

This topic is surprisingly controversial, though I tend to agree. I think reclining your seat is a right, though believe people should still try to beĀ courteous. Similarly I believe talking loudly on your cell phone in public is a right, but people should still try to be courteous. šŸ˜‰

In coach I actually won’t recline on a daytime flight simply out of courtesy to the person seated behind me. That being said, if someone wants to recline, it’s entirely their right, in my opinion.

I sympathize with tall people, and understand when they say “but I already don’t have room for my legs.” Certainly true, though most airlines will allow you to purchase an exit row or extra legroom seat in advance, which they should probably be doing.

Anyway, let’s move on to the next question. If you had to decide between flying first class and staying at a five star hotel, which would you choose? Of course the simple answer is “neither, I want ’em both,” though that’s not always an option. So while there are many variables, generally speaking, would you rather fly first class and stay at an exceedingly mediocre hotel, or fly coach and stay at a five star hotel?

Yes, I realize it comes down to the flight length, how long you’re staying at the hotel, the configuration of the first class product, whether they offer hot nuts, etc., though use your best judgment. šŸ˜‰

Cast your vote at the top right of the blog!

Filed Under: Misc.
  1. I’d say first class simply because I don’t get a lot of benefit from staying at a five-star hotel. Most of the hotels I stay at are 3 1/2 – 4 star hotels and I think they’re amazing. Whenever I stay at a 5 star, I feel like they nickel and dime you for a lot of stuff simply because they know most people can and will pay it no matter what. So, first class for me – unless the flight is <3-4 hours.

  2. For me, flying first with out a doubt is better than staying for a 5 Star hotel for a week. I figure if I’m traveling for vacation or work, I’m not going to be spending all day in a hotel room. I’m going to be out and about pretty much all day except when I’m sleeping. Now on a flight, I’m stuck in a metal tube for x amount of hours, so I want the most comfort.

  3. For me, this is a no-brainer (caveat: assuming we’re talking about international first). If I really wanted to stay at a 5-star hotel, I could pony up the 500$. I would feel like I was wasting a ton of money, but it wouldn’t measurably impact my life. However, to fly first class I’d need a staggering amount of miles that took me literally years to amass, or well over 3000 dollars. Which I can’t afford or abide.

  4. When I travel, particularly internationally, I like to get out of my hotel to absorb as much as possible about the local culture, including dining at independent, chef owned restaurants. One can’t do that hanging around a five star hotel, so this is an easy choice: I’d take first class air to arrive refreshed, while seeking out upscale boutique, but not necessarily 5 star hotels.

  5. Flying first class is great … but it takes few hours and perhaps and day or two to reach a destination while most of our hotel stays last weeks and up to a month … and hence staying in a 5-star hotel would make more sense for this family of 4 šŸ™‚

  6. The data collected isn’t meaningful without defining the flight duration, quality of carrier and length of stay at the destination that participants are opining as to. The quality of the airline and hotel stock in the destination city also play in. US Air versus Singapore. Pittsburgh versus hong kong.

    JFK to SYD with two days in Sydney would certainly elicit a different response than LGA-CLT with two weeks in CLT.

  7. I agree with Nybanker, depends where I am going. If the flight is short then I can manage in coach. If I am going halfway around the world then I need to fly up front. And typically a 3 or 4 star hotel is plenty nice enough no matter where I am going. šŸ™‚

  8. @ Nybanker — That’s certainly true, as I mentioned in the original post. That being said, space is very limited, and there are dozens of things that would need to be clarified to make the observations “meaningful.”

    But I think the question should be viewed more from a theoretical standpoint — what part of a travel experience to you have the ability to get more out of — a nice hotel or a nice flight? Everyone can apply their own typical travel patterns to the equation, since everyone is different.

    I suppose the question could simply be “if you could fly any first class flight in the world or stay at any five star hotel in the world, which would you choose?

  9. I can answer this question easily. It is far easier for me to get a first class trip around the world that would cost me tens of thousands of dollars on massive discount, than to get a five star hotel stay of any length for a similar discount. (Important caveat; this doesn’t mean “nice hotel”, it means “a luxury hotel stay that would normally cost tens of thousands of dollars, similar to an F RTW.”)

    Ergo, I prefer what element of luxury I can actually afford to get.

    Now, if I wasn’t PAYING for said stay or plane flight, it might be a different answer. In that case, yeah, I’ll take the luxury villa in Bali for 3 weeks, and I can figure out how I will fly there.

  10., you do realize ICN has a jimjilbang, right?

    I think it’s $20. And it’s a fine place for crashing in between flights or on a stopover. (In fact, I am contemplating using it on a trip I might take that will require a <24 hour layover in Seoul- that or going into town).

    I think you were in a love motel. Eeeew.

  11. I’d rather fly the airplane and stay at the 5 Start hotel. šŸ™‚

    Since that’s not an option I’d rather fly first class since I like to get out and about where ever I am staying.

  12. If I was really rich I could do both. However, for now I’ll take first class because I’m fat/big boned, whatever and I can use the space. 5 Star hotels are generally too snooty for me anyhow and tend to not have useful things like refrigerators and microwaves in the room.

  13. at first blush my answer was going to be fly first class, for the reasons most mentioned that I spend most of my time out and about when on a vacation.
    However, after reading the exceedingly mediocre clause I can now answer it two ways:
    1)until I was 30 I didn’t care where I slept because the hotel was pretty much just a place to store my luggage. I would tour a city, eat out and dance the night away and spend anywhere for 1-5 hours at my hotel a night. So first class would add much value.
    2) Now I am older and value a good night’s sleep. I want a clean, fiendly, welcoming atmosphere. If bed bugs are truly becoming more prolific I would rather a nice hotel. If I can get a nice breakfast included with the nice hotel then I will fill up and save some money. All those perks of a nice hotel stay now help me rejuvenate to keep me going while I take in a new city (or I would assume keep someone going traveling on business too).
    exceedingly mediocre is the deal breaker for me.

  14. Neither. Cost cutting. Fly coach AND stay in shitholes. Welcome to the 21st century corporate travel policy!

  15. I chose 5* hotel. I interpreted the poll as would I rather flyer first class over coach and then extrapolated that metaphor to the hotel question. Obviously I would rather fly first. To me the logical analogy for the hotel is 5* to a motel. Even if I am out and about during the day, though especially if I am at a resort, I would prefer the nicer hotel to a motel. Of course you can find some very nice 3/4 star hotels, though I digress.

    A very nice private bungalow with its own beach in the Pacific for a week is 10k and you can split that cost with someone special. A first class ticket to get there is 7-10k a piece.

  16. I’d refund the first class ticket for say $10k and buy business class for 1/2 that, then spend the extra on the 5-star hotel. šŸ™‚

  17. It depends on your definition of “exceedingly mediocre.” If by that phrase you mean 2-star hotel, I’ll take the flight upgrade. As long as it is clean and not full of bugs, I’m pretty happy with any hotel that has a bed and a shower, since I spend little time in my room (and I agree about feeling nickel-and-dimed at four- and five-star hotels).

    A long, crowded flight in coach is pretty awful and can set a negative tone for a whole trip.

  18. Ok…to answer the other question you posed…I’d fly DL Y to CDG and stay for a month at the FS-George V (in a suite, please!).

  19. Depends on what the non 5 star hotel is – if it’s a Courtyard Marriott or Hilton Garden Inn; then the first class air travel wins.

  20. I would fly First Class than stay in a 5 star hotel. When I travel, we are in the hotel to sleep. More often than not we don’t even eat breakfast in the hotel. We like to get out and experience the city/town that we are visiting.

    Personally for us, as long as the hotel is in a safe area and clean we’re happy. Wi-fi is an added benefit. We typically go for 4 star hotels but 3 star is also fine.

  21. Assuming long-haul – first, no question. I can be comfortable enough in a 3-star (especially where I have status), but I don’t sleep well in economy.

    For short-hauls, the opposite answer. Under 8 hours, I don’t care as much about the seat.

  22. I have to agree with Nybacker, Lucky – you really have to spell out some parameters to make this meaningful. For this purpose I am going to assume you mean First Class on a TATL or TPAC international flight vs. a 5* hotel for 3 nights in a major city. Because most of us can easily survive even a 5-hour transcon in a middle seat (which I did last month after my UA flight went mechanical) and similarly don’t get much value on a 1 night stay in a 5* where we often arrive late and checkout early due to business requirements.

    Given that assumption, and assuming the worst (i.e. F on UA instead of F on SQ) I’d choose the F flight any day, because I simply won’t sleep well if at all in the economy section, putting me out-of-commission for at least a day at my destination. Whereas I can easily survive at a lesser hotel as I rarely use any of the staff at a 5* nor do I care about the threadcount or other luxury perks.

    Keep in mind however that the length of stay and purpose/location of trip are critical factors. For example, if I was flying my family (4 tix) to a resort for a week I might take the 5* resort rather than the F seats. But it’s a pretty subjective decision, you have to balance the quality of the 3* hotel (which might be mediocre in London or New York, and not great in Mexico) vs. the discomfort and exhaustion of flying with your kids in the cattle car.

    There is also the cost factor. If you are paying cash, F seats on TATL or TPAC could run your $10k per ticket, whereas I’d bet I can book a room at many 5* resorts for <$500 per night. So in reality, for most of us air travel in F is only an option if you can score upgrades or award seats vs. more relatively affordable 5* hotels.

  23. No doubt. Hotel, of course. That’s an experience. The first class is only for more comfort, but can never be compared with a stay in a Four Seasons or Aman Resort.

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