First Class All the Way


By Mary Ellen

There is no doubt that winter is creeping into our weather. The evidence is clear: there are always gloves in the car and every day I find myself the rummaging through my scarf drawer for something to wrap around my neck. I need to keep the chill at bay. The sunny warmth of Mexico is whispering into my ear, and I say, “Yes! Someone needs to write about that.” The other ear suggests going first class, and I say, “Why not?” Come with me and journey down to Zihuatanejo, Mexico.

The night before:

With a 7:00 am flight out, it makes sense to drive up the night before to stay at a hotel with a park, sleep and fly program. This will cover a week of parking. Now we can sleep in a little longer and avoid the perils of the early morning I-5 commute. The Sutton Extended Stay will not qualify as a four star hotel but it is clean, handy and the night clerk is friendly and helpful.

The cost: about $100.00.

First Class Tickets:

We get to go through the elite security line, which puts us ahead of many others.

Round Trip: $1,200 or use air miles: approximately 120,000 for a round trip.


Alaska Airlines Board Room:

This is a great place to relax and pass time until your flight. There are two floors with huge windows to watch planes, if that is your interest. More importantly there is a fancy espresso machine with all the options, flavored syrups, pastries, bagels and (my favorite) raisin bread that is made to be toasted and slathered with cream cheese (full fat although you can pick the other kind). You can help yourself to a piece of fresh fruit or make your own pancake. Yes, there is also a bar, but at 6:00 am, I don’t think so. I like to fill up my bottle with unsweetened iced tea, available in the soft drink machine upstairs. The best part of the Board Room is that the atmosphere is subdued and the chairs are comfortable. If you finish your paperback, they have a limited number for exchange.  The internet is free, but now SeaTac offers that to everyone.

Don’t even think about sneaking in. You are required to have photo idea and proper documents.

Cost: You can buy a day pass for $45.00. Year long memberships are $450.00/year but are less expensive if you are an MVP traveller.

Boarding the Airplane:

First Class gets on right after those who need extra time (wheelchairs, etc.). This means there is always plenty of room to put up your suitcase in the overhead. More people bring on luggage now that there are additional costs for checking bags. As I am getting settled the flight attendant offers me a glass of water. I accept knowing it’s a good idea to stay hydrated on the flight.

First Class offers a list of drinks including lots of alcohol. Again, it’s way too early for me, even if I am on vacation. I go for some hot tea instead.

Alaska Airline offers first class passengers a selection of fine wines from West Coast vineyards. A white and a red are selected such as Apex Ascent Chardonnay or Trinity Oaks Merlot. The service is also upgraded with special menu items, a dedicated flight attendant, a convenient bathroom and on longer flights a digEplayer.



Our flight between Seattle and LA is featuring fluffy scrambled eggs, a puffy potato cake, ham slices and fresh fruit. It is served on white china with real silverware and a linen napkin. It is just the right amount of food and because it comes on a 6- inch plate, it looks like even more food (a good tip for eating all your meals.)


All in-flight meals are designed by Executive Chef Clifton Lyles who spends a good part of his time just north of the airport in a warehouse like building where meals are prepared. Food and supplies come in one end of the building and leave out the other. Transit time is fast as people work around the clock and meals are delivered to the airport constantly.


There is more food on the leg from LA to Zihuatanejo. It is a turkey, cheese, and sun-dried tomato ciabatta sandwich with the cheese melting down the side. A pile of fresh baby spinach fills the other side of the plate. Again, this is not a huge meal, but satisfying. Dessert is a single piece of Seattle’s Chocolate: a new flavor appletini. The subtle apple taste and chocolate are fine together and it’s worth savoring.

First Class Seats

First class seats give you a greater pitch – that’s the distance between seats from the back of one to the back of the next. Coach can be around 32 inches compared to 42 inches in first class (planes vary). First class seats are wider and there is often an immoveable armrest meaning the person next to you cannot expand into your space.

First class deplanes ahead of the rest making the line at immigration short. Sometimes there is no wait at all, or maybe one family ahead of you. We are also travelling light (all carry-on), so we won’t have to wait while all the bags are unloaded.

We can get into a cab before most people are even through immigration.

Final Luxury:

Let’s take a cab to our condo, rather than take a shuttle with a bunch of people who undoubtedly would be dropped off before us. It was only a few dollars more ($34 for the cab, instead of $22 (for 2). It is worth ever peso.

Traveling first class. Will we get there sooner? No, coach landed at exactly the same time we did. But we were fed, relaxed and happy. First Class is, in part, an attitude. Now it’s time to get an hour-long massage on the beach.

Cost: 300 pesos (US$22).

Now that’s first class.

Live Well – Be Well.

First Class Potato Cakes:

Use your leftover baked, mashed or steamed potatoes. It’s fine if they are white, red, yellow or blue. Dice and mix with milk and butter until moist. Add some sour cream and finely chopped red onions. Smash. You can use chives if red onions are too powerful for you. You want to be able to form patties with the mixture. Fry the patties in a little butter and olive oil until browned on both sides.


First Class Sandwich:

If you add some sundried tomatoes and pesto to your usual sandwich it will elevate it to gourmet status. Baby spinach comes in a bag at the grocery store, so it is as easy as it gets. Squeeze a little lemon juice and Parmesan cheese on top and you will impress yourself with your culinary skills.

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