First-class travel is more appealing than ever as airlines strive to outdo one another with personalised service, superior comfort and fine dining, both in flight and on the ground. Kate Powell shares the most exceptional features of the 6 best first class cabin experiences.
1. EMIRATES Arrive refreshed and hydrated
Flying first class on Emirates ensures a comfortable and refreshing flight, not least because of its onboard shower-spa. Complimentary VOYA organic seaweed skincare kits and Hydra Active Microcapsule loungewear keep your skin hydrated, and a personal lighting and temperature controller enhances the comfort and elegance of the Mercedes-Benz-inspired decor in this first class cabin.
The onboard bar and lounge boasts a 55-inch LCD entertainment screen with surround sound in an ambient environment where you can socialise with other flyers. If privacy is more your style, the suites feature a personal mini-bar and a video call function to summon room service from your ‘zero-gravity’ seat. The tech-smart seat is designed to be able to find your body’s natural resting position and adjust accordingly.
2. ETIHAD AIRWAYS Home away from home
Etihad’s true luxury is unveiled in ‘The Residence’, an entire onboard ‘apartment’ featuring an impressive three-room floor plan. Comprising a spacious lounge room, bedroom with large double bed, and its own private bathroom with shower, The Residence first class cabin eliminates the discomfort of sedentary air travel.
With just one on each A380, The Residence is an exclusive experience exuding luxury down to the finest detail. It is equipped with flat screens in both the bedroom and lounge room, inflight Wi-Fi and an on-call butler just for you. There is also an on-demand menu, available to you at any time during your flight.
Those staying in the other nine first-class facilities, the ‘First Apartments’, still enjoy complete privacy with the help of high, sliding doors, and have access to two large bathrooms and a shower. Rather than reclining the extra-wide, leather-trim lounge chair, Etihad provides an impressive 208-centimetre separate bed by extending the opposing extra-long ottoman.
3. LUFTHANSA Personal assistant provided
Lufthansa pioneered the world’s first onboard broadband, FlyNet, which is provided on more than 90 per cent of flights along with a phone, Bose noisecancelling headphones and more than 100 movies in up to eight languages in its first class cabins.
However, Lufthansa’s first-class service really takes off in its First Class Terminals. In Frankfurt and Munich, a personal assistant meets first-class flyers at the valet service and takes care of all travel formalities on your behalf, such as coordinating your flights and accompanying you through check-in. If your aircraft is in a non-gate position, you will be escorted via limousine or exclusive minivan.
4. AIR FRANCE Fine inflight fare
A gourmet menu overseen by renowned chefs Guy Martin, Régis Marcon and Anne-Sophie Pic is on offer on flights leaving Paris. Coupled with professional table service, a thoughtfully curated rotating wine list and Bernardaud porcelain plates, Air France has taken the authentic French dining experience to the skies.
Air France’s contemporary-style suites feature soft leather and suede, natural timber and metallic finishes, and a seat that reclines fully into a spacious flat bed with a memory-foam mattress.
Air France’s luxury extends from the air to its base on land, La Première Lounge. A porter takes your luggage for you upon arrival at the airport, leaving you free to enjoy a spa treatment, a quiet read in the library, or a meal designed by legendary chef Alain Ducasse before your flight.
5. SINGAPORE AIRLINES ‘Honeymoon-suite’ adaptability
Inside Singapore Airlines’ first-class cabin, you could almost forget that you were on an aeroplane at all. The sleek and stylish suites were designed by French luxury yacht designer Jean-Jacques Coste to be completely private with a personal sliding door. The most impressive feature, however, is their ability to be transformed from a single suite into a double suite, creating a spacious room featuring a double bed and two separate 64-centimetre-wide recliner chairs, upholstered with hand-stitched leather.
With personally controlled ambient mood lighting, fine wines and lush Givenchy bedding, a double suite on Singapore Airlines could almost be mistaken for a luxurious honeymoon suite on the ground. Doubling up on entertainment systems and Bose noise-cancelling headsets has the added benefit of eliminating any fighting for the remote, with each guest being able to select their preference of more than 1000 entertainment options using a touchscreen handset.
6. QATAR AIRWAYS A lounge that’s truly first-class
Personalisation is key on Qatar flights, with personal seat, light and privacy controls on a touch-screen control panel by your seat. However, Qatar’s most impressive first-class offering may be Hamad International Airport’s elegant Al Safwa First Lounge.
With its high ceilings, art installations and designer touches, Qatar’s lounge gives you the feeling of being in a museum, but the El Maha Services may be the pinnacle of its success. A personal hostess provides a warm meet-and-greet service and takes care of all your travel formalities while you unwind in the exclusive space. There are designated Quiet Rooms to relax in and the Vitality Spa with nine treatment rooms and a Jacuzzi. Or, if you’d prefer to use the time to catch up on business, there are individual work stations with computers and high-speed Wi-Fi for guest use.
Hamad International Airport won the Five Star Airport Award in last year’s Skytrax World Airlines Awards for its extra-wide check-in aisles, efficient security clearance and streamlined service.
This article appeared in Volume 29 of Signature Luxury Travel & Style. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.