For quite some time during the 90’s to the early 2000’s, frequent fliers have lamented that the so-called “Golden Age” of flying is gone. No one dressed up for flights any more, business and first class offerings were basic and uniform throughout the airlines.
Fast forward to the present, frequent fliers these days are most likely faced with a conundrum: Which airline’s premium offering should they go with? The Golden Age of flying sure is back with a big bang.
To be more specific, we are in the midst of witnessing a ‘show-down’ of luxury products from major airlines. Thanks to a combination of modern aviation technology, passenger awareness and people travelling more overall these days, airlines are constantly thinking of ways to make passengers feel more than comfortable when flying.
The advent of Airbus’ A380 aircraft in particular, allowed major airlines to have room to play with their imagination and indulgence to create the most luxurious haven for luxury fliers.
This article lists the top 5 luxury products recently introduced by major airlines to the world of commercial flight.
1.) Singapore Airlines Suites Class
Having your own personal space that actually has doors may not be ground breaking in the world of airlines’ First Class, but Singapore Airlines’ Suites Class probably offer the most privacy. Exclusive to Singapore Airlines’ A380 fleet, each individual cabin in the Suites Class features sliding doors and window blinds, offering you the freedom to decide on the level of privacy you prefer.
And for the first time in air travel, the Suites Class do not just offer a seat that lies flat. Cabin crew will transform your individual cabin into a mini individual room as they place an actual mattress on top of the flat seat. Full sized pillows are provided too.
Singapore Airlines is also one of the first to introduce a premium advanced meal selection option. They have a “Book the Cook” service, available in Business & First/Suites Class.
Cost: Approximately up to GBP 8,000-10,000 for a long-haul return trip (London-Singapore return)
2.) Cathay Pacific First Class
When Cathay Pacific refurbished their First Class lounge at The Wing at Hong Kong International Airport, they wanted their First Class passengers to have a seamless experience. Both the lounge and the First Class products on the Boeing 777-300ER’s are designed by architecture and design firm Foster + Partners.
For their First Class cabin, you won’t see touches of Cathay Pacific’s signature emerald green. The designers have opted to go for a neutral and sophisticated feel by having warm-toned, natural leather in the interiors of the First Class suites.
The First Class suite also has a touchscreen LCD controller for lights, entertainment system, and the seat. The seat also transforms into a fully flat bed, of which Cathay Pacific has ensured a thicker mattress is in place for a more comfortable sleep.
While Cathay Pacific’s first class does not offer any advanced meal selection, they offer a menu with dishes that are made-to-order from the galley, which is furnished with complete kitchen and cooking equipment.
Cost: Approximately GBP 7,000 for a long-haul return trip (London to Hong Kong return)
3.) Emirates First Class Shower Spa
Emirates astounded the aviation world in 2008 when it boldly introduced shower spas on their First Class cabin on the A380 fleet. Imagine stepping off a flight looking and feeling fresh and rejuvenated. There are 2 showers for 14 first class suites in every A380. Each first class passenger is allowed 30 minutes to use the shower with an alloted time (one needs to pre-book). The floors are heated, and hot water is supplied in the shower for 5 minutes. The spa is equipped with a hairdryer, full-length mirror, and a 15.4-inch LCD monitor that shows real-time air show. The shower is also stocked with Timeless Spa and Bulgari toiletries.
While the shower feature is the spotlight, Emirates’ individual First Class suites are also worth raving about. Each private suite arrangements have sliding doors, and even comes with a ‘Do not Disturb’ feature. A personal mini-bar on the side with assorted drinks ensures you may have everything you need in your personal ‘cocoon’ for hours.
Along with an entertainment system that offers over 2,000 channels of movies, music, tv shows and games, the seats fold fully flat to 201 cm ( 70 inches) and come with proper mattresses.
Cost: Approximately GBP 7,200 for a long-haul flight return (London to Singapore via Dubai, return)
4.) Lufthansa First Class Cabin
For passengers whose hub is in Europe, Lufthansa’s First Class cabin on their A380 will ensure you fly out in comfort. While these seats are not exclusive suites with doors, what makes Lufthansa’s First Class cabin on the A380 is the careful thought and planning applied during the design and conceptualisation of the product.
First, air humidifiers have been installed on the First Class cabins of their A380s. Lufthansa believes that these will improve passengers’ sense of taste and will aid in giving them deeper sleeps.
A lot of research, surveys, workshops and actual live tests were done throughout the design and conceptualisation of Lufthansa’s first class product on the A380. All first class cabins hold only eight 79 cm wide seats that turn into 6.8 foot flat beds.
Turn down service involves cabin crew transforming the seats into beds by placing a mattress on top of the lie-flat seat. The mattress is manufactured by Paradies, a German company bedding expert that has been around for over 150 years.
Cost: Approximately EUR 10,000 for a long-haul retrun flight (Frankfurt- Singapore return)
5.) The Residence at Etihad
Last but definitely not the least, is Etihad’s The Residence. Launched last year (2014), this is currently the most luxurious way to fly commercially. Billed as the only 3-room suite in the sky: one has a living room, a separate bedroom, and an ensuite bathroom– a passenger will be forgiven if he refuses to disembark The Residence. After all, flying The Residence also comes with your very own on-call butler and an in-flight chef who will ensure you have 5-star dining at over 30,000 feet.
No such thing as a ‘seat that lies flat with a mattress’ in The Residence. The separate bedroom is equipped with an 82″ (208 cm) long, 47.5″ (120 cm) wide bed (this is just a tad tinier than a full sized double bed). The living room features a large 32 inch LCD TV, and the bedroom has its own 27 inch LCD TV.
Etihad has definitely pushed the level of luxury flying several notches high that it’s hard to imagine what competitors may come up with next.
There is only 1 Residence in every A380 aircraft of Etihad.
Cost: Approximately GBP 48,000 for a long-haul return flight ( London to Sydney via Abu Dhabi return) / approximately GBP 26,000 for a mid-haul flight (London to Abu Dhabi return)
Have you flown on any of the above cabins? What would you like to see in a First Class cabin in the future?