Through an odd chain of events, Pan American Airlines purchased my mother's environmental lab in the '80s despite the fact that it had nothing to do with travel, air or otherwise. Which meant we flew Pan Am 75% off... if we wore formal dress, and if we flew standby. Which meant flying first class ensured you were more likely to get on the plane and since 25% of 200% is still 50% off, we went to Europe that way.
First Class on Pan Am in the '80s meant free slippers, a free eye mask, a free sewing kit, free drinks (they didn't card me at 15; it was dope), an interminable period in an ill-fitting Haggar 3-piece and an endless buffet of largely forgettable food. The elbow room was the same, the leg room was the same, and I remember watching Ghostbusters 2 overdubbed in German because the English channel was on the fritz.
Now? first class generally means you're a frequent flyer, which means you get a human amount of elbow and leg room. And steel cutlery. And glass drinkware. Really, flying first class is like riding the train but faster. I imagine things are very different on those ridiculous Emirates 380s and the like...
And yes. Not having to wait for 30 rows of people is definitely a blessing.