In the battle to be the most opulent, the five most luxurious airlines in the world are constantly improving services and amenities to lure first-class and business-class travelers. For the most part, amenities offered to first-class and business-class guests are similar. Most luxury-oriented airlines have clued into the fact that business and first-class travelers have the same needs: a comfortable space to sleep, room to tuck personal items away, fine-dining quality cuisine and service, privacy, and splendid amenities like designer interiors.
There are commonalities between the five most luxurious airlines, but each has its own flair and approach to exceeding the discriminating expectations of business and first-class guests.
Based in Dubai, Emirates Airways has worked hard to earn status as being a major player in luxury travel. First-class travelers enjoy posh treatment like chauffeur service to and from the airport. While in-flight, elite travelers enjoy five-star dining with adventurous dishes like glazed duck breast. Knowledgeable crew offer matching wines from an impressive on-board cellar. Guests enjoy access to comprehensive on-demand entertainment that would make cable and satellite blush.
First-class travelers flying aboard their premier airplane can take advantage of private suites, showers with mini-spas, and lounges serving top-shelf artisan cocktails. Possibly the most luxurious airplane on the planet, the Emirates Airways A380 offers a limited number of private suites. Each suite includes a wardrobe, minibar, and a seat that converts to a bed topped with a mattress.
Providing everything with an extra touch of luxury, Singapore Airlines is one of the most luxurious airlines for business travelers. Business-class seats are 30” wide and offer travelers space to lounge or sleep in partially to fully reclined positions. Naturally, every seat has its own 15.4 inch LCD screen and business console that includes everything a business traveler needs to stay connected. Aboard their A380, Singapore Airlines’ most luxurious airplane, long haul business-class travelers may book private cabins complete with a fully reclining hand-finished Italian leather chair.
Travelers rave about the food and fine dining style service. No guest feels ignored under the care of the large flight crew aboard every flight. Before meals, the crew sets the table with designer serveware and a white tablecloth. Travelers can order from an exquisite menu featuring connoisseur-approved Asian and Western dishes. Discriminating travelers can also order special cuisine in advance through a service called Book the Cook.
Virgin Atlantic is gaining recognition as one of the most luxurious airlines. It does not offer a separate business and first-class, rather it is redefining luxury travel with an upper-class option. In particular, upper-class suite design focuses on luxury and functionality. Cabins and lighting feature modern appeal and rich royal colors like deep purple and red. The airline has wisely designed every suite to have its own aisle access and extra large window. When it is time to sleep, every chair reclines into a 6’6″ long bed.
Virgin Atlantic owes a great deal of its fame as one of the most luxurious airlines because of its lounges. Travelers enjoy access to swanky lounges that look and feel more like high-end hotel lounges than an airport stop-off. At Heathrow Airport, upper-class travelers enjoy benefits like showers and spa treatments before and after long flights. To extend the lounge experience to the sky, upper-class travelers sip cocktails at an equally swanky onboard bar.
Cathay Pacific Airways
This airline is competing by offering comfortable seats and service that knows when to be attentive and when to leave travelers alone. Like most luxurious airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways offers suites to business-class travelers. Though the airline has had a poor reputation for delivering comfort, it is phasing out the unpopular “herringbone” layout and introducing spacious feeling floor plans. New suites optimize privacy, yet let travelers look out the window and access the aisle.
Travelers whisper about the exceptional service, which is why Cathay Pacific Airways continues to be a leader in luxury travel, despite having an unpopular seating arrangement for years. Flight attendants are eager to make travelers happy by giving them kind one-on-one attention or giving them the space they need. Guests love the little surprise gifts and extras delivered at precisely the right moment.
The official airline of the United Arab Emirates overlooks no details when it comes to first-class or business-class flight. The airline has recently re-launched the first-class experience and is impressing travelers with a new level of lavishness. Diamond First-class suites include extra-large tables that accommodate two diners. When it is time to sleep, the extra-large Poltrona Frau-designed chair reclines fully. Travelers can drift off to a built-in massage function and achieve perfect comfort with adjustable lumbar support. Etihad Airways is one of the few airlines that still treats guests to comfortable loungewear.
First-class travelers enjoy personal chef service, an exclusive benefit that makes Etihad Airways a leader among the most luxurious airlines in the world. Specializing in gourmet halal cuisine, personal chefs customize the dining experience according to tastes. Guests are not restricted to specific meal times. They eat what they like, whenever they feel hungry.
Shifting Leadership among the Most Luxurious Airlines
For years, Southeast Asian airlines such as Korean Air and Singapore Airlines ruled as the world’s most luxurious airlines. Middle East competitors such as Etihad Airways and Emirates Airways are taking luxury travel to new heights, surpassing their Southeast Asian competitors. Virgin Atlantic, known for upscale lounges and beautiful rich décor, is a relatively new player in the field. It is developing a loyal customer base among those that fly exclusively with the most luxurious airlines in the world.
The field is competitive, and the stakes for the airlines are high. With the constant effort to outdo the competition, amenities offered to first-class and business-class travelers will continue to be more luxurious than ever before. It will be intriguing to see what incredible delights await future first-class travelers.