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I'll be flying first class from Kansas City to Orlando this fall. This'll be my first time experiencing this, as I typically fly coach. This time around I found a good deal on FC seats and just wanted to experience it at least once.

Any suggestions on typical dress for first class? I know this sounds silly, but I didn't know if it's considered proper etiquette to dress more professionally or at least nicer when sitting up front?

EDIT: I understand that domestic First Class is not the same as Intl. I'm not expecting fancy lie-flat seats, or walled-off suites. I know the seats are bigger, and you get to board/de-plane first. What I'm asking, is do people tend to dress nicer than, say, shorts/t-shirt when riding up front?

UPDATE: the plane(s) I’m flying on are B737-800s. I have one short layover in ATL both ways

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Willeke Jul 22 '18 at 13:05
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    The only time I tend to see people dressed up in first class is either when they have to be ready to hit the ground running at the other end (businessmen, etc.), or are trying to make the absolute most of their first-class experience. – Dan Jul 23 '18 at 12:38

10 Answers 10

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If you've been on a plane before, I'm sure you've walked past first class; nobody cares. If you want to dress up, sure, but I'd prefer to be casual and comfortable.

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    Excellent answer. Dress for comfort first. The glory days of aviation are well and truly behind us. Remember everyone has to suffer through security checks and you don't want your Sunday best to cause issues when you have to remove shoes, belts, cufflinks, etc. – Burhan Khalid Jul 19 '18 at 2:39
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    While I agree that nobody cares, I have been on planes a lot before, but never seen first class, as either they did not have it, it was on a different deck, or they boarded specifically from more than one entrance so that people would not walk through first class. – PlasmaHH Jul 19 '18 at 9:20
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    @BurhanKhalid not 100% true. you can buy your way out of much of the security check suffering. The last time I flew, I was first class. I went through a different security line than the coach class cattle. It was significantly shorter. There were other "lines" that would have cost more. But the "security" was basically verifying that you had the proper credentials. ’Cause it's all about money; ain't a damn thing funny You got to have a con in this land of milk and honey Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five – emory Jul 19 '18 at 13:40
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    @emory The 'priority' lines for First/business class and elite passengers are mainly just shorter lines. They have the same security checks as everyone else. However, the TSA PreCheck lines do indeed get to skip the disrobing, bag disassembling, naked body scanning, etc. (Most of) those passengers have passed a background check and are considered by TSA to be low-risk, so they get to leave on their shoes, belt, jacket, etc., go through a metal detector instead of scanner, and can leave computers and liquids in their bags. It's a one-time fee for 5 years and is definitely worth it. – reirab Jul 19 '18 at 15:35
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    @emory The 9/11 highjackers would not have eligible to even apply for TSA PreCheck. Only U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents can apply. The hijackers weren't even in the U.S. legally, let alone lawful permanent residents. – reirab Jul 19 '18 at 16:43
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and just wanted to experience it at least once.

Dress up, dress as nice as you like and comfortably can for a flight and make it a whole experience. You want to enjoy it so enjoy it to the fullest.

Banter : Go ahead flag it

I would not bother about all these comments and answers trying to dampen your spirit oh business class is nothing in the US, oh this oh that. You paid extra for it, there is no harm dressing up nicely to feel better regardless of what others do. None of these commentators will pass a chance to enjoy a free upgrade on the same flights. If it turns out that the business class was the same thing as the economy class so what? I don't know why the crowd here has to stress being casual all the time.

There is nothing wrong with dressing up for something you want to experience at least once.

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    I somewhat agree for international flights where the first class makes a big difference. On US domestic flights, I personally wouldn't consider dressing up. – DCTLib Jul 18 '18 at 18:24
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    I'm not sure about showing up in a tuxedo ("The wedding ran long"). But definitely business formal will work nicely. – user71659 Jul 18 '18 at 18:35
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    Exactly. Although restaurants have dress codes, most of the reason you fancy it up for a nice meal has to do with treating it as an experience. Treat first class as a joyful indulgence and your flight will be the better for it. – kyle Jul 18 '18 at 19:03
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    @HankyPanky "It will definitely matter to this passenger" - that's a bit too bold. It could matter to this passenger. I interpreted his question to mean that it would only matter to the OP if etiquette required it. This also needs to be balanced with comfort, which is really the primary reason for going for first class. There's no point spending the money on a more comfortable seat only to feel uncomfortable because of your clothes. This answer is saved by the last sentence acknowledging that it is your opinion, but is a bit too prescriptive in my opinion to deserve a +1. – JBentley Jul 18 '18 at 20:43
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    @JBentley feeling overdressed is also uncomfortable. – Nemo Jul 19 '18 at 5:12
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Nobody cares what you wear in first class. I recently flew to Barcelona in first class with casual shorts. The flight attendant kept apologising for a loud family near me, but I was fine. They had kids and kids will be kids. It's all about attitude, not dress.

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    +1 for the attitude! – FreeMan Jul 18 '18 at 20:36
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    Probably the flight attendant also kept apologizing towards the family for the guy in the shorts. :p – npl Jul 18 '18 at 20:48
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    Your shorts had causality? – JAB Jul 19 '18 at 2:30
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    Kids in first class is not fine. They should be put in the back or in the hold. – Gusdor Jul 19 '18 at 11:01
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    @Gusdor you have totally the wrong idea - most very rich people have lots of kids and take them places / show them off. first class is often packed with kids and of course their nannies, and sometimes a parent or two. It's kind of like .. Monaco, you know? – Fattie Jul 19 '18 at 13:07
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Pretty much no one dresses up to fly domestic First Class in the U.S. (and very few people do to fly long-haul First Class.)

There will probably be a few people wearing suits in First, but that's primarily because they're business travelers who are wearing the suit for business at the destination, not because they're flying First. You'll find some of those in economy, too, especially on business-heavy routes. However, most people will probably be wearing casual clothing.

Basically, if you would look under-dressed in the First Class cabin on a domestic flight, you will also look under-dressed in the economy cabin. And in almost any other public place in the U.S., aside from perhaps a pool or beach.

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    They're going to a meeting or they're free non-rev fliers who had to dress up because of company policy. Pretty obvious when a whole family, including kids and teens, are dressed business casual. – user71659 Jul 18 '18 at 23:49
  • @user71659 I was referring more to the ones wearing suits than business casual. But, yeah, you'll see the non-revs, too. Granted, on U.S. airlines, domestic First is more frequent fliers than non-revs. Unsold seats in domestic First are given automatically to frequent fliers by status level on most U.S. airlines. It's more likely to be non-revs on international flights or in other regions where frequent fliers don't get complimentary upgrades, though. – reirab Jul 19 '18 at 15:16
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I always dress well when I fly Business Class (I never fly First).

Why? Because if am flying Business Class, I am flying on a friends-and-family coupon from someone who works for the airline, and the airline (for some reason) insists on a dress code for deadheads like me. (Not that kind of Deadhead, the not-high kind.) Slacks, not jeans; button shirt; socks. Last time I did this, I was flying to a funeral and the standard for the funeral was considerably lower.

If you are paying your own way, you can fly in your boxer-shorts, if you are so inclined.

Here is a discussion of United's dress code for us non-revs and it cites United's policy is full (although, without a link).

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    So...boxer's are OK, but tighty-whitey's are frowned upon? OK - I'll keep that in mind. – Bob Jarvis Jul 19 '18 at 12:35
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    It's a great point that when you're flying on a friend-n-family ticket, you have to wear business attire - a friend who flies that way often explained that to me once. – Fattie Jul 19 '18 at 13:08
  • @BobJarvis All underwear is good advice :D If you are male and are going to sleep in pyjamas, make sure they have a button up fly. Cabin pressure does interesting...things...and you don't want some parts showing to everyone else. – Gusdor Jul 19 '18 at 13:44
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    I thought deadheading referred specifically to crew positioning for duty, not non-revs flying on friends-and-family passes? Also, I suspect you are in Europe. Things are different in the U.S. There is no domestic business class on most routes, only economy, domestic First, and maybe economy+. Domestic First is filled mainly with frequent fliers who get free upgrades due to their status with the airline. These will be ahead of non-revs, so non-revs don't get that many domestic upgrades. There are usually more than plenty frequent fliers to fill the F cabin. – reirab Jul 19 '18 at 15:20
  • @reirab Even in the US. There was a Twitter uproar last year when United refused boarding to two women wearing leggings who were flying F&F...they said it would be absolutely fine for paying customers, but not for F&F. thepointsguy.com/2017/03/united-refuses-women-wearing-leggings – user3067860 Jul 19 '18 at 15:31
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Not to dampen your spirits, but the experience of first class depends chiefly on the airplane you are flying on, and flights on your itinerary are all flown on either the 737, A320 or other similar aircraft.

These are not really equipped with a proper first class. For most, you are looking at wider seats, some older ones may just block the center seat of the 3-3 configuration on the first few rows and call this premium / first / business.

The other perks include a fancier lounge (depends on the airport), reduced fees or extended allowances, perhaps a complementary meal or drink.

To really enjoy the perks of first class, you need to fly on a medium to long haul (or ultra long), ideally international flight.

The good news is the biggest perk you get with flying first is you earn more miles, and this is irrespective of the aircraft or airline. Pool these up and then get yourself an upgrade on your next long haul flight :-)

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    Actually it's even worse; I don't believe there are any MCI-MCO nonstops (unless Delta runs a seasonal one) and it's quite possibleat least one leg is on an RJ. That said, there is no airline in the US which blocks a middle seat in a 6-across and calls it first class; you're probably thinking of intra-Europe business. But the question is about expectations for dress, not amenities offered. – choster Jul 19 '18 at 12:14
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    For United, domestic first does NOT entitle you to lounge access. – Hilmar Jul 19 '18 at 13:48
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    @hilmar That is true for all US carriers on domestic flights, except for the premium transcons which mostly operate between New York and Los Angeles or San Francisco. – choster Jul 19 '18 at 14:15
  • @choster I think Alaska actually does include lounge access in a First ticket... in the few cities where they actually have lounges. But what you say is true for Delta, which is the airline relevant to this question. – reirab Jul 19 '18 at 21:25
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Because first class is comfortable, I like to wear pyjamas if it’s a long flight. Especially in the world of hoodie-and-sneaker millionaires, dressing up is only something to do if you really want to.

  • This is really the most astute answer. On international flights, dressing up in first class means incredibly expensive "crap looking" clothes. "hoodie-and-sneaker millionaires" - exactly as this answer phrases it. Good one. – Fattie Jul 19 '18 at 13:10
  • This is the Louis CK answer lol he has a bit where he says he dresses up for coach and just dresses like a slob for first class... – unknownprotocol Jul 20 '18 at 23:17
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I have noticed most passengers in first class are frequently well-dressed: if they are wearing corporate business attire, or casual, they are wearing high-quality clothes in good condition. But yes, there are often people dressed like slobs there too, but usually folks there take pride in their appearance.

From the times I've been in first class, I have noticed that sometimes those that are well-dressed are treated better by the flight attendants than those who are in cheap ragged clothes. So dress comfortably; but yes, it is (well, used to be) a big difference in First Class and so why not dress to impress?

  • A recent AOL article aol.com/article/lifestyle/2018/08/06/… "It’s far better to look "smart but understated,” said one flight attendant to Travel and Leisure. "You should look like you travel often ... It helps; someone who is potentially due to get an upgrade can be knocked back if they aren't dressed suitably.” – Mark Stewart Aug 8 '18 at 15:12
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First class is mostly for employees who are flown around all the time on a company's budget. Otherwise, it's for people who don't want to be crammed in miserable seats and be able to skip some lines and get a bit better service. Some wealthy people fly first class, but usually that's kids of wealthy parents since most wealthy people know what their money is worth and first class is not worth it. People dress however they want, with some showing up in sweats. You'll see more sweats than suits, so don't sweat it.

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    This is a terrible non-answer. – Idos Jul 19 '18 at 3:25
  • I'd sweat profusely wearing sweats, thank you very much. Shorts and a t-shirt are much more comfortable. – jwenting Jul 19 '18 at 5:06
  • This was the best answer here, shame it got deleted. – Fattie Jul 19 '18 at 13:10
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    @Fattie It hasn't been deleted - just greyed out because it has been downvoted heavily. Of course the answerer can choose to delete it to recover their rep (but consistently bad answers - even deleted ones - can cause an answer ban) – Martin Bonner Jul 19 '18 at 13:12
  • While this answer is not the best I have seen on this site, it is not worse than several well up-voted answers on this question. – Willeke Jul 19 '18 at 13:24
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Which airline?; as it makes a big difference to the service you receive. Regarding attire, I say dress up or down, however you wish, there is no rule per se, be comfortable and dress in what makes you feel confident. I’ve sat next to celebrities in jeans or sweats, and I’ve sat next to what must have been $$$$$ suits with gold and jewels dripping from every appendage; it's the person and the attitude that will endear you to an attendant as opposed to what you are wearing. Be polite, don’t be afraid to say it’s your first time, and I am certain the attendant will make you feel right at home.

  • It doesn't make much difference by airline on U.S. domestic flights. If they have a First Class cabin at all, then it's one of the 'legacy carriers' (i.e. DL, UA, AA, AS, etc.) and the norms for dress are about the same on all of those. – reirab Jul 19 '18 at 15:26

protected by Mark Mayo Jul 19 '18 at 4:57

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