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June 21, 2024

The rise in popularity of first class air travel

Schenelle Dsouza 
Airlines around the world have transformed the concept of flying in style, offering the best comforts and amenities on board. As of 2022, first-class tickets have seen quite a boom, given the Covid pandemic. According to IATA’s (International Air Transport Association, Canada) Director General, Willie Walsh International travel in the first quarter of this year stood at 48% of 2019 levels, with the percentage of business and first-class tickets rising up to 65-70 per cent of 2019 levels according to IAG (International Airlines Group, France).
Air France - La Première  
Photo Courtesy: Air France
And so, people across the globe have been willing to spend the extra buck for their safety with the bonus of a luxury travel experience. This includes having your own personal space as though it were a  luxury hotel. The most popular comfort in 2022 is the private suite experience on business and first class flights, that give passengers an entire section to themselves with a seat that transforms into a bed. Who doesn’t want to stretch their legs for a long-haul flight? Additionally, some airlines have taken it up a notch, creating a luxury suite in the air, which is quite literally the size of a hotel room, with a double bed, a spacious shower, dining and living areas, and more.  
The question of whether one should travel on a first or business class flight is subjective. While it is ideal for long-haul flights, travelling by first class benefits flyers taking a shorter flight just as much. While many look solely at the amenities on-board, flying first class benefits flyers ing from the moment they arrive at the airport. These include avoiding long lines at check-in, baggage counters and even security check. Plus, you get to board first, which means you have more than enough time to settle in and enjoy a welcome drink onboard. 
Emirates – Game Changer  
Photo Courtesy: Emirates
The on-board benefits are known, from wider legroom and much more comfortable seating to great food with plenty of options, quality liquor, and other amenities that make your journey a pleasant one. If you love flying first class, here are some of the best and most luxurious first-class cabins that are ideal for your next vacation.  
Air France – La Première 
Air France - La Première  
Photo Courtesy: Air France
Air France has been credited for being one of the most luxurious airlines for the longest time now. Among their best offerings is the very luxurious La Première first class cabin which was introduced back in 2014. The La Premiere cabin is fitted onto the carrier’s long-haul Boeing 777 aircraft and offers an exclusive and personalised first-class service that resembles true French hospitality.  
Spread across 32 square feet, La Premiere reinvents the fully enclosed suites that are defined by a minimalist chic ambience. The space is designed with materials like soft leather, suede, and textile fabrics with a tweed trim, along with very subtle wood and metallic finishes. While leather is used predominantly to upholster the seats and headrests, the seats itself is covered in a lush soft woven tweed fabric with suede elements surrounding the area which gives the space a very luxurious and sophisticated appeal.  
Air France - La Première  
Photo Courtesy: Air France
The inflight entertainment is quite generous aboard the La Premiere. Each suite comes fitted with a 24-inch HD touchscreen television which offers movies and programs in as many as 12 different languages, offering close to 1,000 hours of programmes on demand. 
Going the extra mile for a memorable dining experience, La Premiere taps onto French Michelin star chefs like Joel Robuchon, Regis Marcon, Guy Martin, and Michel Roth for a truly divine meal on board. Some of the extravagant pre meal offerings include champagne, foie gras, and caviar, which is followed by a soup and a main course. Bernardaud Limoges porcelain serveware stylized with the Air France flying seahorse logo is used for all the meals along with spotless crystal which elevates the whole dining experience altogether. 
While the menu is altered occasionally, the menu aboard the La Premiere includes options like lamb tenderloin, monkfish, creamed vegetables, John Dory filets, beef tenderloin, scallops, and/or shrimp for the main course. These are followed by a custom order salad, cheese selection, and desserts by Lenôtre, rounded off with fresh fruit and sorbets. For breakfast one can expect the best of French patisserie with fresh-baked croissants, brioche, pancakes and waffles along with made to order eggs and fresh fruit. 
Air France - La Première  
Photo Courtesy: Air France
Given the ample of space, it’s no surprise that the seat transforms into a spacious flatbed outfitted with a mattress pad, pillow, and duvet from the French luxury hotel brand Sofitel. The window blinds are electronic and are controlled with a seat side switch. There are a range of lighting options, right from full light to a glow of the seat-side lamp at turndown which serves as a perfect night lamp.  Passengers also receive amenity kits containing Sisley products, including moisturizer, hand cream, lip balm, and anti-fatigue cream along with pyjama sets, socks, and slippers for a comfortable night aboard.  
Emirates – Game Changer 
Emirates – Game Changer  
Photo Courtesy: Emirates
As an airline whose economy class feels premium compared to the rest, Emirates is known for its superb first class services. Fitted aboard the 777-300ER aircraft, the Emirates Game Changer first-class suites are touted among the most aesthetically appealing cabins with ambient lighting and impressive design. The stunning design and craftsmanship of the cabins make it almost hard to believe that it is on an airline.  
Offering utmost privacy, the suites come with floor-to-ceiling sliding doors, as opposed to the half-opened doors on most first-class cabins. The seats are laid out in a 1-1-1 rather than the conventional 1-2-1 arrangement. Each seat gets a spacious 40 square feet of personal space, enough to lay down comfortably. One of the most exciting aspects of the suites is the design of the virtual window on seats in the middle row.  
While most passengers love a view from the window, getting a window seat is often a task, considering they get booked fast. And so, Emirates found a way to bring the view from the outside to the middle seat passengers. Recorded live feed outside the plane is streamed on to the virtual windows in ultra-HD, to give you a realistic experience. The new suites are designed with customer comfort in mind as the seats recline into a fully flat bed and can be placed in a “zero-gravity” position, inspired by NASA technology, for maximum relaxation and a feeling of weightlessness.
Emirates – Game Changer  
Photo Courtesy: Emirates
For entertainment, passengers not only have a massive 32-inch, touchscreen HD entertainment display, but also an elegantly thin tablet that emerges from the side table, along with a third small screen located next to the closet, which controls every setting in the suite, including lighting, climate control, TV on/off and do not disturb. A sleek, Bang&Olufsen remote is also available inside the table to control the main entertainment display allowing passengers to easily access the screen. 
Meals available on board are shared by Emirates online well before a flight, so that passengers can get a sense of what to expect. However, if the meal options aren’t to one’s liking, passengers can pre-order a special meal. Another pro for the Game Changer is the fact that one can order whatever they want, whenever they want. Caviar for breakfast? Check. Late night snack? Check.
Emirates – Game Changer  
Photo Courtesy: Emirates
The amenity kit on the Game Changer first class flight is a wholesome collection of a well-stocked Bulgari amenity kit, eyeshades, hydrating pyjamas, slippers, a Byredo care kit with eye cream, sleep oil and more, along with a notepad and pen. In addition to these, the cabins are also stocked with a selection of complimentary drinks and snacks including sweet and savoury bites, as well as a few vitamins. 
Qatar Airways – Qsuite 
Qatar Airways – Qsuite  
Photo Courtesy: Qatar Airways
Earlier this year, Qatar Airways received the title of Airline of the Year 2022 at the World Airline Awards. Naturally, the airline has some of the most coveted cabins, one of them being the Qsuite business cabins. These are available on several of their planes, including the Boeing 777-200LRs, 777-300ERs, Airbus A350-900s and all of Qatar Airways’ A350-1000s, which travel to over 40 destinations in Europe, Asia, North America, South America and Oceania.  
The Qsuite cabin is designed in vibrant hues of burgundy and grey – Qatar Airways’ signature colours, enhanced with rose gold detailing. One of the peculiar things about the cabin is the seating arrangement. Designed in the standard 1-2-1 arrangement, the cabin has alternating rows faced front and back. The odd-numbered rows have rear-facing seats, while even-numbered rows have forward-facing ones. 
Qatar Airways – Qsuite  
Photo Courtesy: Qatar Airways
The rear-facing seats on the sides are closer to the window for more privacy, while those facing forward are closer to the aisle. In addition, those in the centre sections are closer together when they’re rear-facing and farther apart in the front-facing rows. The middle row seats have a quad seating arrangement with movable panels which is perfect for travelling with family, friends, or even business colleagues. The seats are stocked with two pillows, a Diptyque amenity kit with Castello Monte Vibiano skin care products, noise-cancelling headphones, a plush blanket and luxe sleepwear from The White Company.  
Singapore Airlines – A380 suite 
Singapore Airlines – A380 suite  
Photo Courtesy: Singapore Airlines
If you look up the most luxurious airlines in the world, Singapore Airlines will undoubtedly be among the top 5 thanks to their extravagant, spacious and elegant first-class suites. Their A380 suite sits at the top of their most luxurious cabins, and probably one of the best we’ve seen since Etihad’s The Residence (discontinued shortly after the pandemic). With only 6 suites available, the A380 cabin is spread across 100 square feet of living space and features both a swivel seat and a double bed. The chair designed with full-grain leather upholstery by Poltrona Frau, can be reclined but does not actually turn into a flatbed which is no problem since there is a double bed in the room. A couple of the suites which are lined side by side can be transformed into one large bed by lowering the wall in between both suites and connecting the beds.  
The chair can be reclined to 45 degrees and swivels up to 270 degrees, to change the direction passengers are in, this including facing the window, the wall with the entertainment monitor or a pop-out table in the console that can be used as a workspace or for enjoying a dine-on-demand meal. The double bed on the other hand, pops out from a side compartment which will be straightened by flight attendants with a mattress pad and plush Lalique linens when passengers are ready to sleep. 
Singapore Airlines – A380 suite  
Photo Courtesy: Singapore Airlines
There are several different consoles which control everything from the lighting, seat and shade controls to power ports and the entertainment unit. The suites come equipped with a massive 32” HD touchscreen monitor paired with Bang & Olufsen noise-cancelling headphones and an enhanced KrisWorld entertainment system that saves the passengers playlists and preferences for future flights. 
Meal on the flight can be booked digitally via a QR code provided on the flight. For those who prefer a more customised meal, the airline offers its signature “Book the Cook” service that works with a panel of chefs from around the world, including Yoshihiro Murata from Kyoto, Japan; Suzanne Goin from Los Angeles; Sanjeev Kapoor from Mumbai, India; and Matthew Moran from Sydney, among others to create its menus.
Singapore Airlines – A380 suite  
Photo Courtesy: Singapore Airlines
In addition to the massive space in the suite, the suite also includes two enormous lavatories at the front of the first-class cabin. While these don’t include bathrooms, there is more than enough space for passengers to change. One of the lavatories is slightly larger with a sit-down vanity. Here one can find a selection of Lalique Neroli products including a facial mist and a body lotion. There are also hairbrushes and dental and shaving kits available. 
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Schenelle Dsouza

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