The world’s leading airlines compete fiercely for wealthy passengers by offering the level of luxury more commonly seen in five-star hotels. But how do these experiences compare and are they what you really want? Margie Goldsmith turns left at the aeroplane door
If you think gourmet dining on fine china and heading to bed in a private accommodation with soft bedding only happens in a luxury hotel, think again. These days, you can find the most extravagant amenities on first and business class airlines.
Private shower in the air? No problem. A la carte menu by a Michelin-starred chef? Check. And, full-sized beds, some with sliding doors to create full privacy and all decked out with plushy mattresses and custom Italian bed linens. Add to that, unlimited in-flight entertainment with 3,000 to 4,000 choices, HD-enabled screens, personal USB chargers, and more.
Here are the first class and business class amenities of some of the world’s best airlines.
Hong Kong-based airline Cathay Pacific offers first class suites padded with butter-soft leather and seats which adjust with a 4.3” touchscreen controller. The state-of-the-art in-flight entertainment system is shown on a private 17” screen with BOSE noise-cancelling headphones. And while not cutting-edge enclosed suites, they have one of the most comfortable beds in the air. Cathay Pacific is known for its excellent dining with a menu showcasing Asian and international influences created by Michelin-starred chefs. First class passengers can dine anytime and there are rice cookers, toasters, and skillets on board. Meals are accompanied by award-winning wines, gourmet desserts, fine cheeses, and handmade pralines. There are Chinese-styled Pye-designed sleep suits, soft slippers, and amenity kits with Aesop toiletries. The seat transforms into one of the widest fully-flat beds in the air, kitted with 500-thread-count cotton duvets, pillow, and cushions. An in-seat power outlet and USB port keep devices fully charged. Cathay’s business class has a fully-flat bed and a menu offering locally sourced seasonal ingredients plus lighter healthy dining options and an award-winning selection of wines. Business class passengers have access to premium lounges around the world including Hong Kong’s flagship lounge.
London to New York r/t: First Class £41,278 | cathaypacific.com
For ultimate bragging rights on an airplane, take a shower at 40,000 feet in the air in one of two first class shower suites. The Emirates A380 is at the top of the pack with impressive regional specialties of in-flight food (Arabic meze, lamb stew) served on bone china and fine linens. Choose between the healthy options menu, kid-friendly foods, and multi-course locally-sourced cuisine. First class also offers high tea and amenity kits which include Bulgari and organic Voya products. The blingy A380 first class private suites have doors that slide closed and come with a fully-flat bed, mattress, bedding, vanity table, and mirror. There are 14 of them at the front of the upper deck, but they aren’t the most spacious. Business class also offers fully-flat bed seats with comfy mattresses, personal mini-bar, in-seat power, and a side table for working. Both classes share an onboard lounge where a dedicated bartender serves canapés, cocktails, premium spirits, exclusive wines, champagne, beers, and hot and cold beverages. The on-demand entertainment offers more than 2,500 channels, Wi-Fi, mobile phone use and data roaming, satellite telephone, onscreen email, and SMS services. Best news: on the A380, there is only one seat on each side of the aisle.
London to Dubai to New York: First Class $41,200 – Business Class $22,953.00 | emirates.com
The first class experience on Etihad begins with an Etihad chauffeur to the airport. Onboard, there is a first class bathroom with a shower, a six-person “lobby” complete with seatbelts and connectivity ports for meetings, socialising or watching a live game on the widescreen TV. The revolutionary “first apartments” are complete with sliding privacy doors, a large leather armchair, and a separate 6’10” fully-flat bed with enough space to walk around after closing the privacy doors. Each comes with a chilled refreshments cabinet stocked with premium beverages, a vanity unit with lit make-up mirror, complimentary loungewear, and a full-length wardrobe. The first class amenity kit is a limited edition Christian Lacroix-designed travel bag with luxury skincare products from Hungary’s Omorovicza. The apartment has a 24” flat screen TV with noise-cancelling headsets, in-flight on-demand entertainment, connection ports, and mobile or Wi-Fi connectivity. First class passengers can indulge in a seven-course tasting menu served on bone chinaware, cutlery, and crystal glassware with boutique fine wines handpicked from the world’s best vineyards and signature Cognac service. There are also “first suites” with comfortable leather seats that convert to a 6’8” fully-flat beds and each first suite also has a personal wardrobe and doors that close.
London to New York r/t: First Class $29,286 | etihad.com
Your first class flight begins with a trip to the airport via Mercedes. The entire upper deck of Lufthansa’s 747-400 first class has just eight seats with a separate seat and bed for each passenger, sound insulation, and a screen shield. The adjustable ergonomic seats are ideal, but if you prefer to sleep, a flight attendant will transform your seat into a 6’5” long bed with a comfortable mattress topper and temperature-regulating duvet. The amenity kit is full of top-quality toiletries. Lufthansa’s caviar service is as much a part of their first class service as the iconic red rose. Gourmet meals are complemented by award-winning wines selected by champion sommelier Markus Del Monego. For entertainment, there are 100 films in eight languages, 200 TV programmes, and a large choice of family and child-friendly entertainment. Access the latest news, sports highlights, and international music magazines or try some of the 300 music CDs, audio books, and more than 30 radio stations with international channels. A telephone is available plus a fast broadband internet connection.
Frankfurt to New York r/t: Suites Class $9,000 | lufthansa.com
While Qatar’s first class service has Giorgio Armani amenity kits and designer sleeper suits for an ultra-comfortable fully lie-flat bed decked out with Frette Linen and a duvet, Qatar has been voted the world’s best business class in the 2016 Skytrax World Airline Awards. Passengers can relax, work (with a large work surface) or sleep in a high-tech oasis with ample stowage options, and a vast selection of up to 3,000 entertainment options. On many of its planes, Qatar offers the very first dual-screen interface so guests can multitask, such as play a game on the handheld device while waiting for a movie to load on their personal screen. Oenophiles will love the exclusive vintages and gourmands will delight in being served in extra wide seats and a large dining area, choosing from a variety of appetisers and main courses such as chicken tikka with broad bean saffron rice, sushi, and sashimi, and stuffed spinach crêpes with mushroom, cheese, and tomato sauce. The in-flight menu has been designed by master chefs Nobu Matsuhisa and Vineet Bhatia, and master of wines James Cluer created the impressive on-board wine list. If you’re landing in Doha, you are escorted to a private area to drink tea and eat dates while they expedite your paperwork.
Doha to New York: Business Class $4,100 | qatarairways.com
This was the first airline to fly the Airbus A380, and the first airline to offer a double bed in the sky. Its exclusive A380 product, “suites class” has individual cabins designed by French luxury yacht designer Jean-Jacques Coste. The cabin space is cozy and features a sliding door and window blinds for more privacy, a stand-alone bed which pulls down from the wall and a 35” wide leather upholstered seat, chaise lounge, and large table for work or dining. There is a turndown service, a Ferragamo-designed amenity kit, plus sleepwear and sleeping essentials. Travel with a partner and adjacent suites can be converted into a double room. Not one, but eight international chefs constantly create new dishes, served on bone china by Wedgwood. There are more than 1,000 entertainment options—movies, TV programmes, music, games, and apps—on a 23” personal LCD with Bose noise-cancelling headphones. There is internet connectivity plus text and multimedia messaging options. This is the only airline in the world to offer passengers both Krug and Dom Pérignon.
Frankfurt to New York r/t: Suites Class $9,000 | singaporeair.com
In Turkish Airlines’ business class, passengers will find a feature not even available on most airlines with first class: the chairs, complete with reading lamp, power supply, and the facility to screen off your own private area below elbow level, have been specially designed with a feature to provide the maximum of comfort on long journeys: an in-chair massage feature. Using the control panel on the seat, passengers can activate the massage feature at any time to facilitate relaxation. Business class also offers fully lie-flat seats and complimentary pillows and blankets. An amenity kit includes an eye mask, earplugs, lip balm, and socks. There is a personal power supply, rotating table, reading lamp, and an in-flight entertainment system for the latest films, music playlists, and specially made documentaries about the country of destination. As for cuisine, the flying chef in the kitchen in the sky will create Turkish specialties, international gourmet dishes, or special meals using the freshest local ingredients.
Frankfurt to New York r/t: First Class $1,650 | turkishairlines.com
This airline’s upper class suite service begins (and ends with) chauffered car service from your home. Once onboard, passengers sit in comfy leather chairs that flip into a separate 79.5” long bed with a mattess pad, duvet, pillow, complimentary sleep suit, and a “relax pack” including toiletries. For meals, the ottoman doubles as a second seat. On the newest aircraft, the 787 Dreamliner, mood lighting changes to aid relaxation. Upper class passengers enjoy the upper class bar (with an LED screen) to socialise, work, and sample new wines and snacks. There are customised meal options, a Graze menu, cheese and port trolley, afternoon tea (including clotted cream), and a full English breakfast. All meals are served on a modern table setting with designer linen and specially-designed crockery and cutlery. Each suite has its own in-seat power, roomy table and laptop storage and more than 300 hours of films, games and TV, and Wi-Fi. Upper class passengers are the first to disembark and pick up their luggage whereupon a waiting chauffeur whisks them to their destination.
London to New York r/t: Upper Class Suite $3,500 | virginatlantic.com
Disclaimer: the prices shown on our website are guide prices, which were correct at the time of publication.