I flew in business class for the first time. It cost $6,000 and was the best flight of my life, but I wouldn't do it again for 5 reasons.

  • I took a 12-hour, business-class flight from Los Angeles to Auckland, New Zealand.

  • Air New Zealand's business-class seats on this route typically cost $6,000.

  • It was the most luxurious flight of my life, but I can't justify paying that much anytime soon.

Every time I book a flight, I eye the first-class and business-class seats.

The extra space, the delicious food, and the endless bubbly seem like pure luxury. Just as I'm tempted to turn my daydream into reality and switch from economy class to first, my brain reminds me that I don't have an endless budget.

Things changed during the summer of 2021 when Air New Zealand invited me to its headquarters to cover the airline's redesigned cabins. For the 12-hour flight from Los Angeles to Auckland, I'd sit in business class for the first time.

It was easily the most glamorous ride of my entire life, and I disembarked knowing that I likely wouldn't do it again anytime soon.

Minutes after settling into business class on an Air New Zealand flight, I had the realization that this plane ride was going to be unlike any other flight I'd taken.

A glass of sparkling wine at the author's business-class seat.
A glass of sparkling wine at the author's business-class seat.Monica Humphries/Business Insider

Before I found seat 1A on the Boeing 787-9 aircraft, I was already being treated like royalty.

One flight attendant was pouring me a glass of sparkling wine. Another one was helping lift my carry-on bag into the overhead bins. A third soon followed to introduce herself and welcome me on the Air New Zealand flight.

If those first few minutes were any indicator of the rest of my ride, I knew I was in for a glamorous time.

I also knew that business-class passengers around me had likely dropped around $6,000 for their one-way ticket, according to Air New Zealand's website. Round-trip tickets are often priced closer to $10,000.

Before this flight, I'd never spent more than $1,400 on a plane ticket. Most vacations involve free campsites and nights spent in a $20 tent I bought off Facebook Marketplace.

I was appreciative of the indulgent flight — years later, I'm still thinking about the chocolate tart served for dessert. But even after all the perks, I'm convinced flying business class isn't worth the splurge.

Every expectation of business class was met, but I'd ultimately never shell out $10,000 for a round-trip ticket. It's not like the plane will get there faster than it would if I were sitting in coach.

The author's first-course meal on her Air New Zealand flight.
The author's first-course meal on her Air New Zealand flight.Monica Humphries/Business Insider

Every part of the 12-hour flight was filled with luxury.

I was handed a warm towel before a three-course dinner. I received a turndown service, and flight attendants converted my seat into a lie-flat bed. I slept better than I had on any flight and woke up to a fruit smoothie and warm coffee.

Even with those perks, it was hard to ignore the fact that the flight was the same 12 hours as it was in coach.

No amount of wine could distract me from the fact that I was still confined to a tight space. No number of free toiletries could make me ignore the fact that I was about to spend days jet-lagged.

Ultimately, I would feel cramped and jet-lagged whether I sat in the front or the back of the plane for 12 hours.

Now if my business-class ticket came with turbo speed that could transport me to New Zealand in fewer hours than an economy ticket could, perhaps I'd think twice about the cost.

For the same price as a round-trip flight, in theory, I could've paid for another three weeks in New Zealand, covered months of rent, or put a down payment on a new car.

Insider's author went bungee jumping in New Zealand.
Business Insider's author went bungee jumping in New Zealand.Monica Humphries/Business Insider

When it comes to traveling, I'm typically willing to sacrifice comfort for the experience. For example, I'd much rather pay money to go skydiving or bungee jumping than stay in a five-star hotel.

And $10,000 could fund a lot of life experiences. The cost of my business-class seat on the same route could buy another vacation, pay for multiple months of rent, or be used as a down payment on a new car that could take me on adventures across the US.

I could also replicate my entire 21-day trip to New Zealand and Australia for less than the cost of a round-trip ticket to New Zealand since the trip cost closer to $9,000.

While I loved the business-class experience, I'd trade it in a heartbeat to go diving in the Great Barrier Reef again, stay in more magical tiny homes, and continue exploring the two epic countries.

The flight also taught me that I don't truly embrace the motto: "It's about the journey, not the destination." To me, flights are all about getting from point A to point B.

The author in her business-class seat on an Air New Zealand long-haul flight.
The author in her business-class seat on an Air New Zealand long-haul flight.Monica Humphries/Business Insider

I've probably reiterated the phrase dozens of times. To a degree, I stand by the concept that life is often about the journey.

I've embarked on plenty of road trips where the best memories happened in the passenger seat of the car — not the destinations we were driving to.

But when I look at the highlights of past trips, plane rides never stand out.

I think that's because the entire experience — regardless of your cabin class — still has challenges. Between possible delays, dry air, cabin pressure, limited space, and potential jet lag, I've never been all that eager to board a plane.

I absolutely love the rush when the plane lifts off the ground, and I savor the views and conversations with strangers on each flight.

But the excitement I experience is more about where I'm going. It's not about being cramped on a plane.

I previously never considered the environmental toll of sitting in business class.

The business-class cabin on Air New Zealand's Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
The business-class cabin on Air New Zealand's Boeing 787 Dreamliner.Monica Humphries/Business Insider

Before my trip, I knew that flying was one of the more carbon-intensive transportation options. Aviation makes up about 2% of global carbon emissions, according to the International Energy Agency.

Two months after my business-class flight, I was chatting with sustainability experts about how to make trips and vacations more sustainable. They told me that a large part of a vacation's carbon footprint will likely come from the flight, and if I do need to fly to my destination, it's more responsible to sit in economy class.

That's because a business-class seat takes up significantly more space on a plane. This means that fewer passengers can fit onto the aircraft and, therefore, there's a larger carbon footprint.

For example, a business-class row of seats on Air New Zealand's Boeing 787-9 fits three people. Meanwhile, a row in economy on the same plane fits nine passengers. Those nine people have a much smaller personal carbon footprint than the three sitting in business class.

As someone who never had the chance to sit in premium economy, much less business class, before this trip, I hadn't considered the different carbon footprints each cabin class has on planes.

As I continue searching for more sustainable ways to travel, like train travel, I'm also booking economy for future flights.

I am privileged to be able to sit in an economy cabin as an able-bodied person, and I plan to do so for as long as possible.

The author in an economy-class seat.
The author in an economy-class seat.Monica Humphries/Business Insider

I'm young and able-bodied. And while sitting in economy is never a blast, especially on long-haul flights, I am fortunate that I can. Planes aren't designed for everyone.

As BuzzFeed reported, flying as a plus-sized passenger is both stigmatized and challenging. Some airlines like Southwest at one point had "customer of size" policies that stated passengers "who are unable to lower both armrests when seated should book another seat because of complaints."

As Business Insider previously reported, a Qatar Airways passenger said she was denied boarding and asked to buy a first-class ticket because of her size.

It's not just plus-sized passengers who face flying struggles. Planes are not often a comfortable experience for many people with disabilities. Rebekah Taussig, a wheelchair user, wrote for Time that "flying has always felt disempowering." And a survey by Disability Horizons reported that 43% of surveyed wheelchair users who've attempted to fly now avoid it.

Flying — especially in economy class — isn't something everyone has the privilege to do. I'm fortunate that I can fit into and relax in an economy seat on a long-haul flight. For me, wanting the luxury of a business-class seat doesn't seem necessary at this point in my life.

Ultimately, I'm at a point in my life where every dollar and every day of exploring matters to me. For now, I'll skip paying for a business-class seat.

Insider's author in front of the geodesic dome she spent a night in during a trip to New Zealand.
Business Insider's author in front of the geodesic dome she spent a night in during a trip to New Zealand.Monica Humphries/Business Insider

There are a few circumstances where I'd consider splurging on a premium-economy ticket, such as a monumental birthday trip or a honeymoon. But I can't envision an instance where I would pay $10,000 for a regular long-haul, business-class flight.

From the environmental toll to extra time in a destination, I would rather use that money elsewhere, and I plan to stick with economy class for future flights.

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