The co-founder of a banking software company, he's an extensive traveler. His Delta "Diamond Medallion" status and Delta American Express Reserve credit card keep him in the front of the plane.
"The first advantage, and most important for international travel, is that in general you'll get a lay-flat bed to sleep on, much better meals, and a power outlet for your laptop," said Fitzpatrick, who lives in Roswell. "There will always be a factor of jet lag, but it is five times better if you were actually able to get sleep in a lay-flat."
Atlanta technology consultant Anthony R. Howard also sees nonnegotiable value in flying up front.
"Since I am 6?6?, first class is a must," said Howard, author of "The Invisible Enemy: Black Fox," and "The Invisible Enemy II: Vendetta." Whether traveling for book tours or consulting projects, getting on and off first is a major plus.
"For folks traveling daily for business, we can't check a bag because it adds two to three hours onto our trip," he said. "In first class, you always have space to put your carry-on. Getting off is much easier as you don't have to wait 20 to 30 minutes for 200 groggy citizens to put on their coats and get their luggage and deplane from coach before you get off."
First class amenities like free drinks and nicer meals aren't really what sell him on the upgrade, but airlines eager to woo high-dollar passengers are taking luxury travel to new, ahem, heights. Although Atlanta recently celebrated the launch of discount airline Southwest, travelers who want luxury at 30,000 feet have plenty of options, too.
American Airlines offers a turn-down service for first class customers on select international flights, complete with pajamas, slippers, a lightweight day blanket, a duvet and pillow. Business class customers receive the duvet, pillow, slippers, and amenity kit that holds a pen, toothbrush, toothpaste, tissues, earplugs, eye shades, socks, comb, hand cream, lip balm and a moist towelette. Korean Air travelers ensconced in its first class Kosmo Suites dine on fine tableware, nary a plastic fork in sight, their private pods enhanced with sleek wooden accents.
And Delta pampers its Intercontinental Business Elite passengers with five-course dining featuring entr?es from chef Michelle Bernstein paired with wine selected by sommelier Andrea Robinson.
Numerous aviation blogs had a good chuckle at a Dallas Morning News story about Southwest CEO Gary Kelly flying first-class from Atlanta to Dallas on Delta recently. Kelly, who said he does fly other airlines when necessary, told the Dallas newspaper that it was late and that he needed to get back to Dallas. Southwest currently does not fly non-stop between Atlanta and Dallas.
So how much does all this luxury cost? It's hard to put a definite price on air travel, given that fares change from day to day or flight to flight. It's safe to say this isn't your most economical way to fly if you're paying full fare.
For a hypothetical example we checked on the price of a Delta Intercontinental Business Elite ticket from Atlanta to London over an upcoming weekend. Leaving March 9 and returning March 12, such accommodations would start at $7,050.56. Of course that's subject to change, depending on what time you fly, and many travelers may be able to secure that prime in-air real estate without forking over that exact fare.
"Our fares are going to vary substantially based on a host of factors such as the route and when tickets get purchased," Delta spokesman Eric Torbenson said. "Getting upgraded to Business Elite is one of the very best ways to use Delta SkyMiles. Even if you’re not a frequent business traveler you may have enough SkyMiles in your account over time to treat yourself to this great class of service. Our miles never expire so they definitely add up over time."
Delta's newest competition, of course, comes from the other end of the budget spectrum. Southwest, which has acquired Air Tran, is all about low fares, not frills, and eventually will eliminate Air Tran's popular business class upgrades. It's really not what you'd considered super deluxe -- more room, pre-flight drinks, first crack at a pack of cookies -- but the upgrade starting at $49 make the roomier environs at the front of the plane an easily attainable splurge.
"I'm very disappointed to see Air Tran gradually do away with its business class as the Southwest merger proceeds," Canton IT manager Scott Johnson said. "I love a couple cocktails on my way to a fun weekend or vacation, and it's nice to get some upgraded munchies to go along with those drinks."
But for many travelers, price is still the guiding factor when booking a flight, even if first-class beckons.
Katie Olliff of Decatur flies several times a month, usually in coach. She upgrades when she can, using her frequent flier status.
"More leg room, more comfortable seats and being the first on and off the plane are big perks for me," said Olliff, who works as a program associate for a national non-profit. "The other perks of free booze and basket of snacks and over the top attentiveness are obviously nice but make you realize they could treat everyone a little better."
She did buy the slightly more expensive seat to Italy in Delta's "economy comfort" section but flies up front only when upgraded.
"The cost is so much more that I haven't ever been willing, and not always able, to pay it up front," she said. "When flying for work, we buy coach."