In a throwback to the halcyon days, when flying was all about glamour and unbridled luxury, these international carriers are unapologetic about offering the best in the aviation business to their premium travellers.
Suites on Singapore Airlines
The flag-carrier of the island nation of Singapore has always managed to conjure up glamorous images of aviation, with its immaculately-groomed, hand-picked air hostesses clad in their Pierre Balmain-designed sarong kabayas, delivering what is considered to be the best service in the world. The airline was the first to pioneer the concept of inflight suites on their flagship Airbus A380 in 2008, in addition to their regular first class product.
The suites experience starts at the exclusive ‘Private Room’ lounge at Changi airport, and includes a host of unfettered expressions of luxury, ranging from full-sized Salvatore Ferragamo amenity kits (for him and her), Bose noise-cancelling headsets, Poltrona Frau leather seats, Givenchy linen, a plush carpeted cabin and, of course, a sliding door that shuts out the world and offers you complete privacy. Couples travelling together can choose the central duo of seats, which can be converted into a full-sized double bed. TWG tea and a gourmet espresso menu, a curated wine list and a choice between Dom Pérignon and Krug as well as a fresh set of Singapore Airlines pyjamas are just some of the other perks.
AIRCRAFT: AIRBUS A380
BOARD HERE: MUMBAI/DELHI -SINGAPORE-SYDNEY
The Flying Chef on Turkish Airlines
The Istanbul-based carrier introduced the concept of the ‘Flying Chef’ for its business class passengers on certain long-haul and trans-continental flights. These Flying Chefs, pressed and dressed in chef’s uniforms, toques and all, work in conjunction with the flight attendants and ensure that the inflight meal experience is as close as possible to a restaurant meal. Tables are laid out individually with cutlery and crockery, followed by a rollout of the different courses, each arranged and plated by the chef. The starters include an impressive selection of Turkish mezzes, salads, olives and bread, rolled out on an intricate trolley. This is followed by the mains, individually plated by the chef. Then, there’s a decadent dessert trolley, which includes a selection of Turkish pastries, fresh fruit, gateaux, ice cream and cheese.
AIRCRAFT: BOEING B777-300ER
BOARD HERE: ISTANBUL-NEW YORK/LOS ANGELES/MIAMI
The Residence on Etihad
The luxurious Abu Dhabi-based carrier rightly describes its Residence as “the ultimate bespoke travel experience with complete discretion”. This over-the-top inflight cabin was designed to be a class above the First Class Apartments, existing on the same aircraft. The idea of a flat-bed seat has been completely shattered, as Etihad’s Residence offers a three-room suite, designed for up to two passengers travelling together.
Each Residence comes with a dedicated butler and features a living room, tastefully decked out in Poltrona Frau leather on the couch-like seat, and an attached bathroom and shower with exclusive Acqua di Parma amenities and linen. The pièce de résistance is the cosy bedroom, located in the nose of the aircraft, featuring a double bed lined with Egyptian cotton sheets. Meals are dished out on demand, and the butler is always around to ensure that no request goes unanswered. This uber-extravagant cabin experience is the ideal alternative for the deep-pocketed traveller who wants to ditch his private jet for the novel luxury of a commercial airliner.
AIRCRAFT: AIRBUS A380
BOARD HERE: ABU DHABI-LONDON/NEW YORK
Caviar and Ladurée on Qatar Airways
The Doha-based carrier’s new first class product on its A380 aircraft is an understated and tastefully-done cabin. While this first class has shied away from the suites concept, its roomy, forward-facing seats, are undeniably plush. The ottoman on each seat, as well as the table, allow two people to enjoy a meal together. Goodies include amenity kits by Giorgio Armani, slippers by Missoni and champagne by Krug. Our favourite part is the signature caviar service and desserts from luxury French pâtisserie, Ladurée. Doha’s spanking new Hamad international airport is a treat for travellers, while first class guests have access to the exclusive premium concourse located in the terminal.
AIRCRAFT: AIRBUS A380
BOARD HERE: DOHA-LONDON
Shower Spa on Emirates
If the idea of taking a shower on an airplane at 38,000 ft in the sky excites you, this cabin is just what you are looking for. The Dubai-based mega carrier, which is the world’s largest operator of the A380 superjumbo, is all about glitz and glamour, and this is visible in its gold-trimmed, walnut-wood lined premium cabins. Emirates was the first to introduce the idea of an on-board shower, reserved exclusively for its first class guests. Located at the front end of the upper deck, there are two spacious Shower Spa cubicles, which have a toilet, a changing and a dressing area. There are two dedicated shower attendants on the flight, who will present you with the shower spa brochure and even book the shower for you at your desired time. The Bulgari and Timeless Spa amenities might tempt you to take an endless shower, but your time is limited to a maximum of five minutes. The temperature-controlled bathroom floor is a thoughtful touch.
AIRCRAFT: AIRBUS A380
BOARD HERE: MUMBAI-LONDON/PARIS/ZURICH
Dreamliner First Class on British Airways
Those looking to fly the world’s most advanced and eco-friendly aircraft, the newer Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, must do so in style. British Airways is the only airline to have introduced a first class on this aircraft, which is usually configured with no more than business and economy classes. Eight passengers occupy the private first class cabin, tastefully decked out in high quality leather, wood and metal, featuring ergonomically-designed flatbed seats, a handset controlled entertainment and lighting panel and a 23-inch TV screen with a split screen option. Inflight perks include Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle, Aromatherapy Associates amenities and a set of pyjamas for every passenger. Don’t forget to gorge on the salmon canapés and fresh scones during BA’s signature high-tea service.
AIRCRAFT: BOEING B787-9
BOARD HERE: DELHI-LONDON HEATHROW
Our First Class Lounge Pick
BEST FIRST CLASS LOUNGE: Cathay Pacific’s lounge, The Pier, at Hong Kong international airport, is a veritable haven of peace and tranquility, and offers its passengers a host of exclusive facilities such as on-demand dining, massages, relaxation suites replete with day beds, cocktail bar et al. The airline has collaborated with Hong Kong’s iconic the Peninsula hotel to manage this luxe lounge, whose understated decor reflects Cathay’s idea of discreet luxury. What’s more, this particular lounge has aviation enthusiasts and airplane spotters talking because of its large floor-to-ceiling glass windows, offering unparalleled views of the Hong Kong airport tarmac and runway.