Join the real mile-high club with these best first class airlines.
If you are a flyer who likes to travel in style and luxury, most airlines have the option of a First Class section that aims to make your journey as comfortable as possible miles up in the air. From convertible seats to high-end toiletries and special food and drink menus to vast in-flight entertainment, they offer many services that make your journey relaxing.
Those who choose this option are also provided exclusive facilities on the ground like access to the lounge and chauffeur service. No wonder then that the First Class is sometimes also referred to as a “suite” by many for its exclusivity, high-end service, on-demand fine dining and an unmatched level of comfort.
Here’s a look at some of the world’s best First Class airlines.
Emirates’ Boeing 777 introduced its new first-class facility in 2018. Each seat comes with a floor-to-ceiling door, ensuring the complete privacy of the occupant. This makes Emirates the first carrier to introduce fully enclosed compartments in this section.
This ticket also brings with it some luxurious facilities. Passengers get a personal wardrobe and a screen to view any of the 4,000 channels available for entertainment. A smaller screen is provided to video call members of the crew if you have a requirement or need help.
You can watch your favourite movie or show without any disturbance using the noise-cancelling Bowers & Wilkins E1 headphones, custom made for the airline. Its stylish design is accentuated by the fine Italian saffiano leather by Scabrenta for softer fit and comfort.
The desk, large enough to write, is fitted with a minibar stocked with beverages and snacks to help with those between the meals hunger pangs.
The seat can be reclined to zero gravity setting, which is where the body finds its natural resting position. A console next to the seat lets you control the temperature in the suite as well as pick from any of the ten colours of lighting according to your mood. You can also dim the lights altogether for a more relaxed atmosphere.
Another highlight is the wide range of Byredo products available for personal use. The allergy-free skincare collection, which includes eye cream, facial mist and sleep oil, is made exclusively for Emirates.
Food served in this class is our favourite part. Dishes are served according to the destination and duration. So, if the flight is heading to or coming from Australia, options on the menu will include cheeses from the Yarra Valley and Australian Angus beef. The à la carte dining experience includes an assortment of wines, spirits, beer and the Dom Pérignon 2008 champagne. Available exclusively in First Class is the Dalmore King Alexander III, the world’s first single malt to be matured in six exquisite casks.
Another perk of flying in this class is that the airline provides a chauffeur-driven car to and from the airport in select cities.
The First Class in Air France, also called La Première, is all about luxury redefined right from the starting point of your journey. The airline provides a personal Hertz DriveU ride to and from the airport in select French cities.
You will be received at the airport by a crew member and escorted to the Boeing 777 aircraft, which houses the La Première cabin with four private suites constructed using suede, soft leather, wood, metallic finishes and tweed trim textile fabrics. Privacy is ensured in each suite with curtains, that can be drawn, and partitions in the middle row that can be raised with the push of a button.
Each seat can be converted into a comfortable bed that has a memory foam mattress, a large duvet to snuggle in and a pillow that will help catch the Zs before you land. A bedside lamp helps you manage the light settings.
You can watch a movie, documentary, TV shows, listen to music and even play games from the 1,000 hours of on-demand entertainment available on a touchscreen that can be enjoyed with the Denon over-the-ear headphones. All the content is available in 12 languages. A smaller seat, an ottoman, meant as a footrest is positioned just below the touchscreen to help you stretch your legs.
For additional comfort, pyjamas, slippers and socks are also provided along with a specialised Air France travel kit containing Carita skincare products like Crème des lagons moisturising cream and lip balm. The kit contains an eye mask, earplugs and other essential travel accessories too.
Meals in La Première can be chosen from a gourmet menu that is tailored according to the destination. If the flight is departing from Paris, the menu will feature original recipes from renowned French chefs Régis Marcon, Emmanuel Renaut and Michel Roth as well as dishes in the memory of culinary icon Joël Robuchon. The food is served on Bernardaud porcelain plates and bevelled Christofle glasses and flatware. Paolo Basso, named the world’s top sommelier in 2013, along with wine experts Bettane and Desseauve curate the wines and champagnes from French vineyards to be served on board.
All Nippon Airways (ANA)
Travelling in the All Nippon Airways (ANA) First Class is something food lovers would perhaps enjoy the most. The onboard menu is tailored down to season, destination, age and allergen-free preferences. Meals have been created for ANA by some of the best-known chefs in Japan and outside, including the likes of Ginza Okuda owner Toru Okuda, Alexandre Gauthier of La Grenouillère, Masayasu Yonemura of Yonemura and Yoshihiro Takahashi who is the 15th generation owner of the over 400 years old Hyotei restaurant.
Dishes may include seared cutlassfish wrapped in aromatic cherry blossom leaves with green peas and fresh cheese ravioli, smoked duck, grilled Wagyu fillet covered with fermented whole-grain mustard, and Wagyu shabu shabu, a thinly sliced Wagyu sirloin lightly boiled after dusting with arrowroot powder.
Among the many beverages on offer are Krug Grand Cuvée champagne, Château Branaire Ducru 2011 wine, sake by Noguchi Naohiko Sake Institute “Yamahai Miyama Nishiki” and tea by Dallmayr.
The design of the compartment in this class depends on the aircraft. If you are flying the Boeing 777-300ER, you may opt for ‘The Suite’ or the ‘ANA First Square’. The former has a seat cushion made in collaboration with Nishikawa which can be converted into a flatbed. A sliding door ensures the passenger’s privacy. Inside ‘The Suite’ is a 43-inch 4K monitor for in-flight entertainment and closets for jackets and other items to be stored.
‘ANA First Square’ on the other hand is like an office cubicle with high-panel walls designed for maximising comfort by utilising space as best as possible. There are multiple storage spaces, including one on the outer part of the walls, for jackets, headphones and other personal items. A 23-inch touch-panel LCD wide-screen monitor with digital noise-cancelling headphones provides onboard entertainment.
A 32-inch LCD widescreen monitor in Airbus 380’s first class is the only feature that makes it a little different from ‘The Suite’.
If you feel like, you can change into ANA’s eco-friendly knitted organic cotton top and bottoms set. Also provided for your comfort are the Tenerita blanket, a pillow made with high-quality Hungarian white duck down, Nishikawa comforter and AiR bed pad for maximum possible relaxation thousands of miles in the air.
The Ginza Essence Empowering toiletry set contains a toothbrush set, an eye mask, earplugs and more skincare products.
Singapore Airlines has a special class called ‘Suites’, which is different from their First Class.
Available on Singapore Airlines’ Boeing 777 aircraft, the First Class is basically a private section for the flyer with an extra-wide seat — which can be rolled into a flatbed — made of hand-stitched, luxurious leather down to the footrest. Comfortable seating in any position is ensured with its diamond-stitch pattern. High-quality linen, duvet and pillow are provided for additional comfort. Among the amenities is a 24-inch HD-enabled personal LCD monitor where 1,800 entertainment options can be accessed. Sound is provided by Bang & Olufsen noise-cancelling headphones.
Travelling in the ‘Suites’ is an entirely different experience. Available on Airbus A380, its unique feature is that the bed is separate from the seat. And when the central partition is removed, it can be transformed into a double bed. The swivel, reclinable seat has a Poltrona Frau full grain leather upholstery. A sliding door adds to your privacy. You can access several features via the handheld wireless tablet and the capacitive controls on the sideboard, including the in-flight service. The sit-down vanity counter has products from Lalique for relaxing and rejuvenating the body.
In both First Class and ‘Suites’, passengers can use the “book the cook” service for meals. You can reserve your main course 24 hours before getting on the flight. The menu includes creations of internationally renowned chefs and wine experts on Singapore Airline’s International Culinary Panel, including Carlo Cracco of Italy’s Ristorante Cracco, Indian celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor, James Beard recipient chef Suzanne Goin from the US, legendary French chef Georges Blanc, and Jeannie Cho Lee who is the first Asian to be awarded Master of Wine. Meals are prepared according to preferences such as religious, dietary and for children.
In select cities around the world, you’d be provided several facilities from the moment you arrive at the airport to fly First Class with Lufthansa. From personalised information about gates and lounges to escorting through security, a personal assistant will help you with everything till you board the flight. If the flight is taking off from Frankfurt, Munich, Vienna, Geneva or Zurich then you also get a chauffeur-driven limousine or exclusive minivan which will directly take you to the aircraft.
The First Class comfort is available in three different aircraft in Lufthansa’s fleet: Boeing 747-8i, Airbus A380 and Airbus A340.
In all three, the seats can be converted into a two-metre-long bed. For comfort, a mattress, temperature-regulating duvet and top-quality bed linen are provided. The seats can be reclined and the lights adjusted according to need. Soundproof curtains will ensure your privacy.
If you love wine, travelling First Class on Lufthansa will be a joy. Created by world champion sommelier Markus Del Monego, the selection offers red and white wines, each in four different varieties, every month from the world’s best wine-growing regions. As for the exquisite cuisine, Lufthansa has tied up with selected hotels that provide the food onboard.
There are over 100 films, 200 TV programmes, live TV channels, a large selection of CDs, audiobooks, and podcasts from all over the world for your in-flight entertainment. But nowhere can the experience become more immersive and realistic than on Lufthansa because it has the unmatched sound quality of Bose noise-cancelling headphones.
The First Class option is available on both Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 of Etihad Airways. On the 787, the reclining seat can be converted into a full-length bed with all necessary bedding provided for a peaceful sleep.
In-flight entertainment is available through a personal screen on which 100s of hours of movies, TV shows, music or Live TV can be accessed. You can call the in-flight chef to help choose dishes and drinks from an à la carte menu and boutique wine list.
If you are flying A380, you can opt for the First Class or go for what Etihad calls ‘The Residence’. The First Class has ornamentally designed suites with longer ottomans in each, along with all other features and facilities you receive on the Boeing B787 First Class.
But it is ‘The Residence’ which should be considered the next level of luxury flying. Imagine yourself in an actual three-room hotel suite, up in the air. Meant for two people, it is divided into three sections — living room, bedroom and ensuite bathroom. The living room is for seating, enjoying meals, reading, working and entertainment. When you move to the bedroom, you would just want to snuggle into the luxurious bedding provided by Duxiana. And, then there’s the bathroom which has a full-height shower for your proper reinvigoration.
‘The Residence’ on A380 has a 32-inch screen with two video-touch handsets for smooth viewing. The doors are 5.4 feet in height, perfect for the required privacy. Besides inflight chef, a butler is also provided for any of your other needs.
In all the first classes, you are provided with an amenity kit by Italian lifestyle and fashion company Acqua Di Parma, containing a Colonia lip balm, body lotion and cologne. It also contains an Eye mask, socks, toothbrush and toothpaste. You can request a comb, earplugs or shaving kit separately from the crew.
All Etihad First Class passengers are driven to the airport by the Etihad Chauffeur service, can priority check-in and access the lounge.
If you are flying Swiss International Air Lines, the one item sure to be on your menu is chocolate. And here you’d be treated to the taste of the delectable delicacy by Swiss luxury confectionery maker Confiserie Sprüngli, which has a history of around 175 years in this business.
Food is certainly one of the biggest highlights among the facilities provided for First Class flyers on Swiss International Air Lines. There is the famous Swiss Birchermüsli, as well as Balik smoked salmon from Toggenburg, which is prepared by hand adhering to a traditional process. You can also choose your own menu from the assortment of culinary delights provided by the carrier. Under the SWISS Taste of Switzerland concept, menus are created by renowned chefs with regional specialities featuring prominently.
You can eat comfortably on the large veneered oak table which can be set up in between your seat and the ottoman. Or you might use it to work or read the newspaper.
The cabin and the compartments have an eye-catching minimalist design with subtle colours and tones, which infuses a soothing vibe. As for the seats, the armchairs are built for long haul comfort and can be turned into comfy beds too. The airline provides Zimmerli pyjamas, a cover and a pillow too.
The airline has partnered with Swiss luxury fashion brand Bally for its amenity kit which comprises La Prairie cosmetics and other essentials such as toothpaste, toothbrush and earplugs. Women are also provided with a brush and vanity kit, while men get a comb and shoehorn.
(Hero & featured image credit: Unsplash/ Mike Van Den Bos)
This article first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Hong Kong.