Reader Q.L. asked me the other day whether I would fly to my home city from Asia on Korean in first, or to San Francisco on Cathay Pacific and connect?
Cathay unquestionably has the better seat. I find the service better. The entertainment system is better. The midflight snacks are better. So is the lounge. But I’d still choose Korean.
I like Korean’s main meal service better. (I much like Korean food.)
And I would take Korean hands down even leaving aside questions of availability (Korean Air is almost always available while Cathay has become much harder to get).
Because if I can avoid a domestic layover after a transpacific flight, and then a final leg home in a domestic airline tube, that’s easy.
I prefer the ‘experience’ of being home to the ‘experience’ of a better first class product. My favorite experience at this point is not being in an airport.
In one 30 day period this year I flew 40 domestic segments. Because there were places I had to be, tines I had to be there, and it generally wasn’t going to be possible to fly direct. After that I cancelled a Japan Airlines First class award. I cancelled my confirmed suite bookings at the Park Hyatt Tokyo and Park Hyatt Shanghai. I did not want to travel.
I still get excited to fly. I went out of my way to be on the inaugural American Airlines 787 flight (and picked up my challenge coin).
I loved my first Emirates A380 suite experience. I loved my first Singapore A380 suite experience. I am anxious to experience the Etihad First Apartment (I have 4 bookings to make sure something coincides with whatever constraints emerge).
But most of the time it is transportation, albeit I am looking for the most comfortable transportation possible. I really don’t want to fly a US carrier back to the States from Hong Kong in economy (and not for the reason you’d think).
Don’t get me wrong — if the choice were between Cathay Pacific first class (or even business) through San Francisco versus Korean economy to Seattle I’d suggest or take the connection myself in a heartbeat. So the relevant framework here isn’t “non-stop is always better than connecting” as with any preference it’s always at what margin?
I will still try new things. But after awhile the novelty wears off and it’s all about making things as easy and convenient as possible. As I’ve gotten older my opportunity cost has risen as well. It’s why I don’t mileage run (but then I only made a pure mileage run once or twice a decade) or drive around town unloading gift cards. I will pay a modest premium when that premium is less than the value of my time.
There are tradeoffs and how we value those is subjective. There isn’t a right or wrong answer to someone’s choice although we often cannot fathom how someone’s preference function could be so different than the ‘obviously correct’ one we hold. But since I have seen my own preferences change over time I have come to appreciate that a little more.