VISITORS to Bulgaria will notice that alongside the Cyrillic alphabet, mashed carrot, and powerful rackia, the country is noted for its traditional yet glamorous women.
Although we will see women in Western Europe still sometimes wearing feminine dress, it’s more of a fashion statement as opposed to regular uniform, because the rules on dress have loosened considerably.
Typically, Bulgarian women dress in a noticeably more feminine way. That means typically longer hair, modest dress, and make-up. And it’s far more common that women in Bulgaria wear tights or stockings underneath their trousers and skirts, in all weathers. As in many countries, the ordained dress code for professional women has included strict guidelines for what women should wear to the office.
As in Japan, Spain, Eastern Europe, Bulgarian women still dress in a more formal and professional way.
I wondered if there were other reasons why Bulgarian women are more likely to cover their legs. Was it the weather? I couldn’t discount it, although it was not particularly cold when I was there.
Was it because there are factories in the city where nylons and stockings are manufactured, making them more affordable than in other cities? That may be a more likely reason.
To try to understand the phenomenon more closely, I visited a small, kiosk in the city centre selling all manner of ladies hosiery. At around 6:30, the store was attended by an old, somewhat matronly lady of about 55. I was aware that my visit was greeted by some surprise, but I wasn’t put off from browsing through the various items on display.
There were dark, tan, and flesh coloured tights in various denier. In the end, I purchased the pair (*pictured below). Not knowing the word for stockings, I couldn’t exchange my purchase for what I really wanted. But it was a nice experience all the same. I imagined how it must feel to wear fabric that clung so sensuously close to the skin. To be aware of it and to be have to adjust it now and again, as women often did.
At the end of my trip, I was still not to sure if women really wore stockings more commonly, or it was just the ones I encountered that did. But it was true of various women I encountered. The expensively dressed glamazons entereing a state function in the government building definitely were wearing stockings or tights (an expert would be able to tell either way). And the last Bulgarian women to really impress me, could well have been wearing stockings under her official airport uniform – if only she hadn’t been behind a desk.
And so, I came away from my trip with a greater appreciation for the women I had met, if only for a very short period of time.
You can spread out more. And there is more space next to you due to one seat kept empty, in most economy cabins there are three seats in each row, with a narrow gap for the aisle. Sit on the aisle and you have people knocking your shoulder as they walk past. There is a gap between the seats Business, meaning you won’t be given the least popular middle seat.
With economy, you also tend to be closer to the engine, and this makes for a noisier flight. All seats in business are nearer the front, but you will still hear some of the engine noise.
You have your own queue for checking in and boarding. When I flew economy from London, I was able to self-check in. That was not the case when I came back by business. The second time, I had luggage to check in. Business class gives you 2 bags you can check in, whereas in economy, you pay for all your checked luggage. Something I really appreciate is being able to board with just a small bag, and I don’t want to have to worry about any liquids being thrown away. I was very pleased when I watched the ground staff member carefully wrap a tag on my luggage marked ‘priority’ and the bag was well looked after with no damages on the other end, something which won’t always be the case when travelling economy.
A separate queue for boarding.
Economy passengers must wait longer because they can’t board first. However, I joined a separate queue for business travellers so I could enjoy more time in the airport café instead of wasting time queuing. I could also have used my business ticket for entry to the lounge, but I couldn’t see the need for it as I knew I was going to be eating and drinking on the plane.
A nicer experience generally
There is more of a sense of being looked-after when in first or business. The flight out had only two crew members in the main cabin. It was obvious that there were more staff out in front. My business flight confirmed this as true. There were four cabin crew in business. I never had to look around to see where the FAs were, and I never felt ignored.
Food and beverage options
I’m used to being given only a bag of crisps and water as a ‘snack’ when I travel economy with British airways. If you want more , you’l need to order online, paying for the privilege so that you can have something extra to eat. Yet in business, I was offered a full meal, bread roll, then coffee. All of this was clearly airplane food, but it was nice to have. It’s true that airlines make sure that economy must be basic so that customers are made to feel more special if they fly business. Unfortunately, the reality is also if you are a business traveller you will have more food than you need. Often this food would be more appreciated by those who are never offered it and sit there going hungry.
The choice of drinks is great when flying on a higher status ticket. I was given champagne, tomato juice, and then wine with meal. I could have had more, but that would have been greedy, I even asked for ginger ale, and that was given to me. And some customers were able to order Baileys. These would need to be paid for in ecomony, so you can factor in the cost of free drinks when you fly Business Class.
Mixing with interesting passengers
In some ways, the business class section of a flight can be like a member’s club. Not that I fly business all too regularly, but this is the impression I have. The passengers I flew with on Saturday were all likely to have been frequent flyers with the British Airways Club Europe membership privilege programme.
When I fly economy, I always worry that I’ll be sat next to someone who either wants to talk too much, or doesn’t want to talk at all. Or just a very boring person that isn’t interesting to interact with. It’s possible that you could meet a better class of passenger flying business. But The downside of business is you might not feel confident starting a conversation with someone who may have a higher status than you.
On my way out, I was talking to a flyer who was only flying out to come back again, all so that he could maintain his status with British Airways Club Europe.
In fact, the reason why Sofia is a popular destination is it’s one of the only airports to allow passengers to arrive at the airport and depart without going through security. No wonder then that there were so many travellers flying business on the Saturday I flew. They had probably gone out on the 7:40 London flight, and come back on the next available flight at 1:50.
More mileage points.
BA have recently changed their points allocation, instead of points being issued per mile flown, you’ll receive points for the number of pounds spent on your ticket.
I’m not expecting many points for my £49 economy ticket, but my return business class seat was 25,000 aveos plus €128 euros. I probably spent too many aveos for the flight, but still, I’ll receive at least 6000 points back in my account for a single outward journey. When you book a flight, the price really depends on so many factors, for example the time, day of the week and the demand for the destination. If you search around, you can fly one way in Business for £300, short haul.
Ultimately, is it worth it?
The price can be very high for benefits you won’t necessarily need. On the other hand, it’s a very pleasant experience that you won’t find in many other places. Because BA cabin crew really enjoy their job, they take pleasure in serving their customers. You can really feel it. I don’t know of any other area of the service industry that is so consistent when it comes to hospitality. BA like to treat their Club Europe travellers members well, because they don’t want to lose them. It may be unfair, but economy passengers don’t receive such glowing service because they aren’t so valuable to the airline.
I’ll continue to fly business when I can, but I’ll be using economy more.
The price difference does not always make sense. With an early morning flight, it’s more common to want to sleep than enjoy meal service on board. If eating is important to you and you don’t want to fly business, you can always bring your own food on the airport it’s the afternoon and evening flights where the service and the food offerings really come into their own. It would be nice to see the standards of economy rise, but I don’t see that as very likely, so that instead of getting the very least in service and food and beverage, you receive something closer to what is given in business class.