Flying often gets a bad rap. Between invasive TSA checks, cramped overhead bins, and subpar dining, air travel isn’t the glamorous experience that it once was. But it doesn’t have to be that way—for a lucky select group of travelers, flying includes incredible perks such as luxurious pajamas, custom-curated wine lists, plush bedding, and even on-board showers. Take a peek into how the other half flies with our guide to posh air experiences.
Repeatedly ranked the best airline in the world, Qatar Airways’ first-class cabin includes perks such as full sets of pajamas from The White Company, Brics amenity kits stocked with Castello Monte Vibiano Vecchio products, and Krug champagne. Even the lavatory on-board is decorated with fresh roses.
This Asian carrier gets high marks from travelers for its “suite-class” service, available on its Airbus A380 planes. If first-class isn’t quite good enough, you can get your own individual cabin—designed by French yacht designer Jean-Jacques Coste. Suites include full double beds (complete with turndown service) and a five-course meal. It’s also the only carrier to serve both Krug and Dom Pérignon champagnes on board. Naturally this type of travel comes at a premium: round-trip tickets can run up to $18,000.
Also called ANA, Japan’s largest airline has a premium first-class cabin with great perks: a caviar course, on-board Krug champagne, and a luxurious bathroom (complete with a bidet). The on-board on-demand snack selection includes udon noodles, ramen, salmon, clam chowder, and fresh curries.
Emirates unveiled their new multi-million dollar first-class cabins just last fall. One of the most exclusive airlines in the sky, each passenger has their own private, fully-enclosed suite with a sliding door. Food and drink can be ordered through an onboard iPad and delivered through a service hatch. The new layout means that even the dreaded middle “seats” isn’t so bad as there are images from cameras fixed to the outside of the plane to create virtual windows on the walls of the plane’s center cabins.
A first-class flight on Cathay Pacific won’t come cheap (some tickets cost more than $10,000 each way!), but it will come with one of the most spacious first-class suites in the sky. They offer seats that transform into some of the widest lay-flat beds found on a plane, dressed with thick mattresses and 500-thread-count premium bedding.
EVA Air’s Royal Laurel offers comfortable, lie-flat beds similar to other luxury carriers, but passengers also enjoy extra luxurious touches—such as a Rimowa amenity kit, plus a cheese and fruit trolley that’s pushed through the aisles after the main meal.
Each seat in German carrier Lufthansa’s first-class cabin is adorned with the carrier’s trademark rose, which is a lovely touch. But the real thrill comes for passengers flying from the airline’s Frankfurt hub, where a Mercedes will deliver you directly to the plane waiting on the tarmac.
Etihad revolutionized first-class flight when they introduced their “Residence,” a private chamber with not only a fully-flat bed but an additional armchair. Additionally, the first-class bathroom includes a shower, so you’ll land at your destination feeling refreshed.
If you’re from the United States, it’s likely that you’ve never heard of this popular Asian carrier. While Garuda Indonesia doesn’t fly to the U.S. yet, their first-class service is among the most popular on the continent. There are just eight suite-style seats in each first-class cabin, ensuring personalized service—right down to the on-board chef who’s on call to cook your meals whenever you’d like.
The highlight of Thai Airways’ first-class dining is the vintage Dom Perignon champagne served during boarding and throughout the flight. Passengers can also sip Johnnie Walker Blue or choose from a curated list of wines. (Thai Airways is also famous for its extremely comfy on-board pajamas!)
OK, so Virgin Australia calls it “The Business,” but we’re including their premium offering here because it gets such high praise from travelers of all kinds. In addition to the typical premium perks of priority boarding and security lanes, those flying in their business class enjoy a stylish mood-lit cabin, meals conceived by Australian chef Luke Mangan, and Juli Grbac-designed pajamas.
Staying true to their national heritage, Swiss’s onboard menu includes Sprüngli chocolates, Birchermüsli, Balik smoked salmon, and other Swiss specialties. The airy and bright cabin features comfortable armchairs, which provide privacy from other passengers via adjustable wooden side panels.
The luxury experience with Qantas starts from the moment you step outside your home; the airline offers a chauffeur driver service. Once on board, a Sommelier in the Sky can consult with you on the best wines for your meal, while you relax in the comfy and stylish Martin Grant-designed pajamas and matching slippers.
Start your Japan Airlines first-class experience in the carrier’s stunning lounge in Tokyo, where a sushi chef awaits you alongside a huge array of complimentary sake and Japanese whiskeys. On board, menus are created by famed Japanese chefs such as Seiji Yamamoto of Ryugin, Yosuke Suga of SUGALABO, Hiroki Yoshitake of SOLA, and Shinichi Sato of Passage 53, depending on the route flown.
Air France’s La Première service offers just four private suites, which are decorated in soft leather, suede, and chic fabrics that are more reminiscent of a modern living room than a 777. Their elegant on-board travel kits include products from Carita Beauty Institute Paris, including a "Crème des lagons" moisturizing cream, an anti-fatigue eye patch, hand cream, and lip balm.
Xiamen’s first-class cabin has just four seats, ensuring an intimate, personal experience—although there’s not much privacy between seats. But the real standouts here are the flight attendants, who are friendly, warm, and professional. You’ll even be gifted a take-home teddy bear flight attendant to accompany you to your destination.
If you’re flying to Asia, Asiana’s first class is the way to do it. The carrier’s A380s have 12 first-class suites that are 25.2 inches wide and have 84 inches of seat pitch—among the largest in the world. Accompanied by a 32-inch TV screen, it’s easy to stay comfortable and entertained even on the longest of flights.
Malaysia Airlines' first-class product is among the best in the sky. In addition to its comfortable, spacious suites, Malaysia Airlines serves delicious, traditional cuisine (satay, anyone?)—all prepared by its chef-on-call.
The first-class offerings of U.S.-based carriers typically pale in comparison to their foreign competitors, but many have made great strides in recent years. Delta’s new Delta One cabin has a 180-degree flat-bed seat with Westin Heavenly bedding—just like you’d find in a luxury hotel room. Additionally, full-height doors in each suite create a private, secluded experience.
While the seats on Korean Air’s A380 first-class cabin aren’t ultra-modern or luxurious in contrast to its competitors, the carrier’s first-class experience still remains a pleasant one thanks to perks like cozy Gianfranco Ferre pajamas, Perrier-Jouet Belle Epoque 2006 champagne, and an on-board lounge and bar.
Alaska Airlines’ first-class service is special in comparison to its competitors, as they’re one of the only carriers that serves food on all flights regardless of duration. On a shorter-haul flight, a meal might include a salad, a light pasta, and a cookie—just enough to make sure you’re nourished and ready for your next destination. And its wine and spirit selection includes offerings from local Pacific Northwest producers, like Crater Lake hazelnut espresso vodka.
Europe’s best airline upgraded its first-class offerings when it began flying new Boeing 787 Dreamliners a few years ago. In addition to all new seats, its in-flight catering got a facelift, but is still decidedly British. You can enjoy a traditional full-cooked English breakfast, afternoon tea served with scones, jams, and clotted creams, and entrees like Herefordshire beef with truffle tagliolini—accompanied by three champagne options, of course.
In line with other Middle Eastern carriers, the experience in Saudia’s new First Suite offering is appropriately luxe: the fully-enclosed private suites offer more than 1,500 hours of HD entertainment on 23” televisions, as well as wifi throughout—which is still not a given on all long-haul flights. Note that Saudia doesn’t serve alcohol on-board, so in-flight drinkers will have to make do otherwise.
Oman Air’s new first-class cabin is scheduled to launch on July 1, 2018, with service between Muscat and London. In addition to new suites with doors, passengers will be greeted with a traditional Omani welcome of dates and fresh coffee. The full meal is served on bespoke china, custom-made for the carrier.
United’s Polaris class is technically a business-class product, but we won’t hold that against them. While Polaris offers all of the perks of similar carriers—comfy beds, top-quality catering, and great entertainment—the little touches (think cool-gel memory foam pillows, Cowshed spa products, and customized wine tasting flights) put it a step above the rest.
Gulf Air’s Falcon Gold service includes one perk that no other airline can rival: a SkyNanny. From the moment you enter the airport, your children will be comforted, entertained, and supervised by a professionally-trained childcare provider. The SkyNanny will coordinate your children’s in-flight meal times and even share practical advice with them, such as advising children on landing procedures and how to clear their ears to avoid pressure pain.
American Airlines has recently upgraded its international first-class service to include amenity kits designed by Cole Haan and sleep sets created by Casper, the famous mattress company. The carrier also provides guests with Bose noise-canceling headphones for use during their flight.
Like its Australian counterpart, Virgin Atlantic is a game-changer when it comes to travel amenities. Famous for its chic Clubhouse lounges—which offer everything from premium dining to luxury Cowshed spa treatments—it’s no surprise that Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class cabin is equally decadent. And its on-board bar makes for a great place to mingle with your fellow passengers.