So, it's been a while since a person has flown and they've splurged on a flight upgrade to first-class. Now what? While all of the typical feelings - excitement, exhilaration, slight arrogance - are in order, it doesn't mean the buck ends there. While it's never tasteful to brag outright about something like a $300 seat upgrade, there are even more unspoken rules to follow once a person is sitting in that (super comfortable, luxurious) first-class seat.

First-class seating comes with a plethora of perks, such as better food, access to a nearly full bar, exclusive bathrooms, ample personal space, and a selection of high-end tech options. Sometimes, passengers are even rewarded for their choice to upgrade with amenities such as PJs, slippers, and spa-like products.


*Note: These 'rules' come from the testimonies of first-class passengers and the reception of flight staff in regard to certain behaviors or actions. 

Boarding The Flight

It's completely understandable that there's a level of excitement that accompanies boarding a plane when the destination is first-class. However, there is a difference between boarding a plane in a way that makes it known to everyone else that the excitement is tangible, versus boarding the plane in a normal way like everyone else.

Don't Get Overzealous

There's no need to hover by the doors to the plane ramp. First-class is one of the first boarding classes so logically, it doesn't even make sense to do this. Additionally, one's first-class seat is (obviously) reserved - so it's not like there's a mad dash to find the best one.

Once boarding the plane, it's still important to remember that not everyone is at a passenger's beck and call. It's a common misconception that travelers flying first-class have everything done for them, including lifting their luggage into an overhead compartment. If there's a legitimate reason for this struggle - such as a medical condition - then it's no problem. In any other circumstance, it comes off as needy and expectant.

If a flight attendant offers to take a coat or a drink order, it's entirely fine to commit to one or both of these things. However, there's a way to do it that doesn't require a haughty attitude, as well.

Do Observe Your Surroundings

Those new to first-class will probably be a bit thrown by the new arrangement of things, from the seating to the bathroom location. It's totally fine to familiarize oneself with the lay of the land, so to speak! As long as it doesn't interfere with the other passengers or get in the way of a staff member doing their job.

While observing things, it's also a good idea to take in the body language of fellow passengers. If most people are keeping to themselves and reading, listening to music, or napping, chances are, it won't be a social flight. However, if there's a buzz in the air, a conversation or two might be doable when the plane gets off the ground.

Related: Should You Use Airplane Mode? & Other Phone-In-Flight Tips

During The Flight

One of the most important things to remember about flying first-class is that the ticket doesn't grant special service to one person - it grants upgraded services to the entire cabin. This includes things such as free drinks and an upgraded, often specially-curated, food menu.

Common Practice When Ordering Food & Beverages

It goes without saying that ordering an excess of beverages is highly frowned upon, not just in first-class but anytime on a plane. Just because drinks are free does not mean that they're meant to be handed out like candy.

In regard to food and ordering, there are some things to remember:

  • If the flight is domestic or short-haul, it's not always appropriate to request a custom order or significant changes for anything except a food allergy.
  • If the flight is long-haul, these changes are more doable (more time and resources) but should be mentioned upfront, as soon as possible.
  • Consider a mealtime carefully because the flight staff will often ask when passengers would like to eat; it's not common on all flights but is a possibility.
  • During international flights, food menus are often handed out early in the flight so that passengers can take their time to look them over and make a selection.
  • If free snacks are passed around, consider there are other passengers and only take a modest portion of something.

Other Dos & Don'ts When Flying First-Class

Do: Pull window shades down if bright sunlight is streaming in out of respect for passengers on the other side of the aisle.

Don't: Use the call button unless there's a significant issue that needs addressing in a timely manner.

Do: Use the lavatories for outfit changes or, if a suite seat is private (with a full door cover), changing outfits can be done out of the sightline of other passengers.

Don't: Worry too much about a dress code (although passengers do have the option to dress in something nicer than sweats and a t-shirt); however, avoid taking shoes off and being generally too comfortable.

Next: Everything To Know About Using (And Getting Into) An Airport Lounge