After years in coach, I took my first long-haul flight in business class. Here are 10 surprising things about the most glamorous plane ride of my life.

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After years in coach, I took my first long-haul flight in business class. Here are 10 surprising things about the most glamorous plane ride of my life.
  • In June 2022, I flew business class on an Air New Zealand flight to Auckland, New Zealand.
  • It was my first time in business class and during the 13-hour flight, I was pampered and amazed.

In the summer of 2022, I boarded what was — and continues to be — the most glamorous plane ride of my life.

I spent about 13 hours seated in Air New Zealand's business class on a long-haul flight from Los Angeles to Auckland, New Zealand. Business Insider received a media rate for the round-trip flight.

Prior to the trip, I had only ever sat in economy. Spending thousands of dollars for a flight — this business-class ticket, for example, typically costs around $6,000 — never seemed worth it. But the perks were everything I'd dreamed of.

From meals that felt like fine dining to a turn-down service, I was spoiled and surprised throughout the entire flight.

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The surprises started before I even stepped onto the plane. My ticket came with access to an airport lounge.

The surprises started before I even stepped onto the plane. My ticket came with access to an airport lounge.
The bar at the Star Alliance Lounge at the Los Angeles International Airport.Monica Humphries/Business Insider

Leading up to the 13-hour flight, I learned that my business-class ticket also granted me access to the Star Alliance Lounge at the Los Angeles International Airport.

The airport lounge, which caters to first-class and business-class international travelers as well as some credit-card holders, was another new experience. Before landing at the airport, I had never stepped inside an airport lounge.

Thankfully, I had a seven-hour layover in LA to discover its unexpected perks. I spent hours tasting every food item I could get my hands on and explored the lounge's outdoor patio and quiet room.

I was shocked to find free alcohol around every corner. But my favorite perk was knowing that a representative from Air New Zealand was stationed at the lounge supplying flight updates. I didn't have to stress about missing an announcement or my flight.

I found the lounge to be a luxe respite and much nicer than the airport gates and restaurants I typically camp at during layovers.

When it was time to board the flight, for the first time, I was one of the first people to walk onto the plane.

When it was time to board the flight, for the first time, I was one of the first people to walk onto the plane.
Business Insider's author entered a nearly empty jet bridge when she boarded the Air New Zealand flight.Monica Humphries/Business Insider

With a full stomach, I left the airport lounge, grabbed my carry-on suitcase, and navigated through the crowds of people waiting to board the flight.

At my gate, I passed families and couples waiting for their boarding groups to be called while my group — business class, which is the airline's version of first class — was welcome to step onto the plane.

I reached the jet bridge entrance, scanned my boarding pass, and joined two dozen business-class passengers. Together, we were some of the first passengers on the plane.

As someone who has only ever sat in economy, boarding first was an entirely new experience. I'm typically one of the last people on the plane and accustomed to hunting for rare overhead luggage space.

Since there were fewer people, the business-class cabin felt more spacious. I had plenty of overhead storage available in business class for all my belongings with no worry of being told I'd need to gate check a bag.

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I knew to expect more space in business class, but my seat exceeded my dreams.

I knew to expect more space in business class, but my seat exceeded my dreams.
The business-class section on Air New Zealand's Boeing 777-300ER planes.Monica Humphries/Business Insider

One of the biggest perks of flying business class on long-haul flights is the extra space.

In economy, I'm used to cramped seats that hardly recline.

Even with an expectation of a larger seat with more room in business class, I was shocked by how spacious the seat actually felt on my Air New Zealand flight. In front of me was a footrest, where at 5 feet and 8 inches, I could stretch out my legs. I also used this space to store my backpack.

The tray table was larger than any I've seen in economy. But perhaps the biggest added bonus of my seat was that it didn't just recline a few inches like economy seats do.

Instead, I had four buttons to experiment with moving my seat backwards and forwards. Plus, I could fully lie flat, which would be useful when it was time to go to sleep.

Once on the plane, and before economy class had finished boarding, I was already sipping on Champagne.

Once on the plane, and before economy class had finished boarding, I was already sipping on Champagne.
A glass of Champagne at the author's business-class seat.Monica Humphries/Business Insider

As I boarded the Boeing aircraft, a flight attendant asked if I would like a glass of Champagne or something to drink before takeoff.

I'm used to a smiling flight attendant handing me a sanitizing wipe when I've boarded — not a glass of bubbly.

I happily accepted a flute. Shortly after, another flight attendant came by with a tray of roasted nuts. I quickly learned that I would never be hungry or thirsty on this flight.

I also realized that the snacks I packed in my backpack wouldn't be needed. Instead, I was part of the group I'm typically envious of: the first-class travelers who have space, snacks, and endless alcohol to enjoy on their plane ride.

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A goodie bag of supplies for a long-haul flight was waiting in my seat.

A goodie bag of supplies for a long-haul flight was waiting in my seat.
Each business-class passenger received a bag of toiletries on the flight.Monica Humphries/Business Insider

I wasn't surprised to see a blanket and pillow waiting for me at my seat since I've had those amenities in economy before. But I was thrilled to find a bag of complimentary toiletries.

The purple pouch contained a toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, ear plugs, an eye mask, lip balm, lotion, a pen, and a pair of socks.

As I lathered the balm across my lips, I wondered how much the tube cost. I later found out that the Ashley & Co. Lip Punch retails for $15 and the brand's Soothe Tube lotion costs $25.

These small perks added an element of luxury throughout the flight, and they came in handy when I realized I left my toothpaste in the bottom of my carry-on suitcase.

I thought airline courtesy meant never taking off your shoes. But before the plane left the jet bridge, I noticed that nearly everyone's shoes in business class were already off.

I thought airline courtesy meant never taking off your shoes. But before the plane left the jet bridge, I noticed that nearly everyone's shoes in business class were already off.
The two passengers across from the author had their shoes off shortly after boarding the flight.Monica Humphries/Business Insider

After taking inventory of all the free stuff at my seat, I noticed that nearly everyone around me had their shoes off and their complimentary purple-and-black-striped socks on.

I sat there shocked. There are a few plane etiquette rules I always follow, like giving the person in the middle seat both armrests. At the top of my list is not taking off my shoes — no one wants to smell stinky feet.

I succumbed to the peer pressure, tossed my rules aside, and slipped off my shoes. Between the length of the flight and having more space in business class, I felt less guilty taking off my shoes, which I'm not sure I would've done in economy.

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Flight attendants offered passengers hot towels multiple times throughout the flight.

Flight attendants offered passengers hot towels multiple times throughout the flight.
An Air New Zealand flight attendant passed out warm towels to business-class travelers.Monica Humphries/Business Insider

After my shoes were off, my toiletries were examined, and I was settled at my seat, the flight attendants came around the cabin introducing themselves and offering each passenger a hot towel.

There have been few instances in my life when I've received a hot towel, so I eyed my fellow passengers for clues on how to use it correctly.

The people around me wiped their faces, necks, and hands, and I followed their lead.

I felt spoiled using the towel and thought it was a relaxing way to start my flight.

Later, after a nap, the flight attendants came around with another hot towel before serving breakfast. This time, I confidently wiped the towel across my face. The warmth coated my skin, and I felt refreshed and ready for the morning.

Dinner wasn't wrapped in aluminum foil and didn't come with plastic cutlery. Instead, I was served a restaurant-level, three-course meal.

Dinner wasn't wrapped in aluminum foil and didn't come with plastic cutlery. Instead, I was served a restaurant-level, three-course meal.
The author's first-course on her Air New Zealand flight.Monica Humphries/Business Insider

When it was time to eat dinner, my first meal of the flight, a menu was provided at my seat outlining options for the three-course meal inspired by New Zealand ingredients. Beetroot-cured salmon, poached chicken, and chocolate truffle ice cream were listed on the menu.

The flight attendants kicked off dinner service by placing a cloth napkin across my tray table and laying down a set of metal silverware. I quickly realized that this meal was going to be nicer than any airline meal I've ever had.

On previous long-haul flights, as a vegetarian, I have been given one option handed to me on a tray. The meal was typically packaged and served with plastic cutlery.

So the silverware at my seat already established a drastic difference. Next, I was offered butter, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Following the condiments, the flight attendants walked around with a basket of warm sourdough and garlic bread.

Then, the first course arrived. I opted for a pescatarian meal, so I was served stuffed olive leaves. This was followed by a main course of Alaskan cod with saffron sauce, and finished with a chocolate tart for dessert.

The meal was rich and filling. From its appearance and taste, I thought the meal could easily be served in a nice restaurant rather than an airplane cabin.

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There's a turn-down service for lie-flat seats in business class.

There's a turn-down service for lie-flat seats in business class.
After dinner, flight attendants stopped at each seat to convert it into a bed.Monica Humphries/Business Insider

Our flight was a red-eye. We departed Los Angeles in the evening and were scheduled to land in Auckland in the early morning.

After dinner was cleared, passengers slowly retreated to the bathroom to freshen up before bedtime. I headed to the restroom to brush my teeth and wash my face. By the time I was done, a flight attendant had converted my seat into a bed.

One of the major perks of business class on Air New Zealand's long-haul flights is that the seats transform into lie-flat beds.

During the turn-down service, a flight attendant presses a few buttons, which turns the upright seat into a horizontal bed. Then, they add a mattress topper, as well as a blanket and pillow. Finally, they pull out the seat belts for safety and check in with each passenger to see if they want any final drinks, snacks, or items before dimming the cabin lights.

I thought the transition from dinner to sleep was effortless for passengers. As I grabbed my eye mask, I knew the odds I'd fall asleep were high. I rarely have that confidence when I'm sitting upright on a plane in economy.

And sure enough, I slept for about five hours in the comfy bed. I woke up to the smell of hot coffee and breakfast.

Before eating, I retreated back to the bathroom. When I came out, my bed was turned back into a seat. It felt like magic, although I knew it was the result of hard-working flight attendants.

By the end of the flight, I felt like I knew my flight attendants.

By the end of the flight, I felt like I knew my flight attendants.
An Air New Zealand flight attendant prepares for passengers to board the plane.Monica Humphries/Business Insider

Before our plane left the jet bridge, I was getting to know the flight attendants. They stopped at every seat to confirm the passenger's dinner order and introduce themselves.

While I've encountered plenty of welcoming flight attendants in the past, this was the first time I'd been on a flight where everyone exchanged names.

By the end of the long-haul flight, we were all on a first-name basis and sharing travel recommendations for our upcoming trips.

Since there were fewer passengers in business class and just as many flight attendants when compared to economy, we were able to bond much more than I expected.

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After a 13-hour flight, I thought I'd be begging the flight attendants to let me off the plane. But half a day in business class was even better than I imagined.

After a 13-hour flight, I thought I'd be begging the flight attendants to let me off the plane. But half a day in business class was even better than I imagined.
The author in her business-class seat.Monica Humphries/Business Insider

When our plane touched ground again, I wasn't ready to disembark. Instead, I could've spent another day in the glamorous cabin.

As a budget traveler, the chances I fly business class again are slim, so I soaked in every moment in my lie-flat seat and cherished every drop of Champagne. I hope I'll be able to experience the premium cabin again in my lifetime — at the very least, I'll certainly bring my toiletry pouch on any future economy flight to replicate a small part of the experience.