When it comes to the world’s best first-class airline seats, “seat” is a bit of a misnomer — for the price of a car, you often get a mini hotel suite equipped with personal chefs and servers. While most of us sit comfortably in the economy seat tax bracket, long-haul flights (think NYC to Melbourne) call for something to make the experience a little more tolerable. And you don’t need to be a celebrity, high-powered CEO, or member of the royal family to take part, either.
According to the Splurging on Travel Extras study from Bayut.com, average-income millennials are more open to riding first-class than older generations. “This speaks to millennials’ desire to have memorable experiences rather than expensive things. Even though a first-class flight could be a splurge for the younger generation, it also might really help them make the most of a once-in-a-lifetime vacation,” said Corie Colliton, project manager at Bayut.com.
And while flying first-class isn’t exactly the gift that keeps on giving (it lasts the duration of your flight, and then becomes a distant memory), buyer’s remorse is rare. “We found that 76 percent of everyday people who’d flown first-class said their seats were completely or mostly worth the cost,” said Colliton.
Not sure where to spend your tax refund? The world’s most luxurious first-class and business seat options might give you some ideas.
1. Singapore Airlines
When the airline introduced the Suite Class to their A380 aircraft in 2008, the internet was abuzz over the roundtrip $19,000 price tag. It features a single bed topped with plush bedding and duvets, sliding doors, a window that opens and closes with the push of a button, and a full-grain leather chair, where you can sit back and watch movies on a 32-inch screen wearing noise-cancelling headphones. If you’re traveling with a partner, a double suite offers a bed for two. You won’t be sharing the stuffy lavatories with the rest of the cabin — your private bathroom comes with a sit-down vanity mirror and desk.
2. Swiss Airlines
In SWISS First, you’re treated to designer pajamas on night flights, and an amenity kit containing products from luxury skincare line La Prairie. A veneered oak table works as a desk if you’re feeling be productive, or a table to enjoy your gourmet meals. You can use the ottoman to elevate your feet (and get a little blood flowing to prevent deep vein thrombosis clots), or turn it into a chair if you have company. And Swiss delicacies like Sprüngli chocolates and Balik smoked salmon are available to indulge in throughout your flight while the rest of the cabin nibbles on stale pretzels.
3. Etihad Airways
As if Etihad’s first-class wasn’t opulent enough, they had to go and create The Residence, which is the only three-room in-flight suite on the market today. With a living room, bedroom that sleeps two, and an en suite bathroom featuring a full-length shower, it’s basically a condo with all the entertainment and pampering services you could ever need. Passengers choose from a varied selection of gourmet meals or have a personal chef create their dream dish. Surprisingly, it’s a steal compared to most luxury airlines: A roundtrip flight from Abu Dhabi to London this coming July will set you back around $12,000.
The Emirates A380 first-class experience begins with a chauffeur-driven Mercedes-Benz S Class ride to the airport, where travelers have access to the famous lounge. Once you’ve taken advantage of its wine cellar, spa and fine dining, you’ll board your flight directly from the lounge (because there is no buzz kill quite like a noisy gate). On board, doors slide shut and lights dim with the click of the button, giving you a chance to tune out the world. Further pampering includes in-suite Bvlgari amenities and a wide-screen TV featuring over 1,000 channels — plus live sports.
Taking high class flying up a notch is the airline’s Boeing 777 first-class suite, which includes a NASA-designed leather armchair for the ultimate weightless feel. You can peek down below using a pair of complimentary binoculars and wave goodbye to your previous life in economy — at least until your next flight.
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