Originally published by Fairfax Media
The guilt sets in the moment I sit down.
"Would you like a champagne, Miss Downes? Something to read - perhaps a Vogue?"
As I settle into my butter-soft leather seat in my private pod, the economy passengers begin their trudge to the back of the plane. I keep my head down and try not to think about the study which found air rage is four times more common on planes where those in cattle class are forced to walk through the first and business class cabins.
"Wow, this must be where the rich people sit," one guy comments, slack-jawed at the unabashed luxury.
"Hardworking people," his friend quickly corrects him, making awkward eye contact with me.
They were both wrong. On this flight from Auckland to Singapore, I've landed a free, completely undeserved spot down the pointy end, in Singapore Airlines' next-generation business class cabin.
I can't tell you whether it's any better than the previous generation because, well, I wouldn't know. It's my first time flying business class. As I'm handed my complimentary slippers, I feel like Cinderella, putting on her glass shoes to go to the ball.
The first thing to know about business class is that there are many cubby holes and compartments and buttons and sliding bits. I spend the first couple of hours shifting about in my throne, too scared to touch anything.
At dinner time, a flight attendant helps me pull out my table (so that's what that button is for), and sets it with a white tablecloth and a pair of tiny salt and pepper shakers.
I am served satay and bread rolls and snapper and cheese and crackers and wine. I'm too full for dessert, but the flight attendant is insistent.
"Just a tiny bit of pannacotta," she says.
"This is Singapore Airlines - we feed, we feed, and we feed - with a smile!"
It might sound cheesy, but the Singapore Girl (and Boy) service is famous for a reason.
One of the flight attendants is also called Siobhan, and she makes a special point of introducing herself so we can bond over our names. It doesn't feel like she's being paid to be nice to me. I feel like we could quite realistically be best friends.
When experiencing nice things, people always say smugly, "I could get used to this".
Except I really did get used to business class life. So much so, that on the return journey I take it upon myself to request a Singapore Sling before take-off ("an excellent choice, madam").
This time, we got to order our meals before the flight using a Book the Cook service. There are US rib-eye steak and New Zealand lamb and even Boston lobster.
It's so good they've apparently had requests to open a Singapore Airlines restaurant on the ground.
A flight attendant helps me set up my lie-flat bed (press a button here, pull a lever there), and I stretch out for some precious shut-eye. Business class is the dream.
The plane lands with a thud that serves as a metaphor for things to come.
With a four-hour wait until our flight to Wellington, we march towards the Koru lounge, still brandishing our business class boarding passes like Willy Wonka's golden tickets.
The lounge attendant's eyes are smiling, but her voice is firmly telling us to go away. Our passes are no longer valid, she says.
We traipse past the Koru Club members, back towards the commoners' waiting area. I settle into my cold, hard plastic airport seat.
Back down to earth, indeed.
Would you pay to fly business class? Leave a comment below.
Siobhan Downes travelled as a guest of Singapore Airlines.