Who among us didn’t identify with Kristen Wiig’s character in Bridesmaids
, when she relentlessly (albeit, haphazardly) tried to sneak into the first-class cabin on her way to Vegas? For those of us who’ve taken wing on the “wrong” side of the curtain (that velvet rope of the skies), our imaginations run wild at the thought of the luxurious style in which our more fortunate co-travelers are flying: chilled glasses of only the finest bubbly, sumptuous bedding for those lie-flat seats—beds, to be precise!—and food that makes it worth fighting the urge to doze off before the meal service begins.
No matter how often the team here at Premier Traveler
has had occasion to fly in the elite echelon of the plane, not one among us has reached the point of nonchalance—few in this world have. We can thank the unyielding efforts that the airline industry has made to continuously cocoon us in the most comfortable cabins of which the mind dares to dream. Sliding-door privacy? Check. Restaurant-style, face-to-face dining? Check and check. Amenity kits harboring skin care products that will keep you hydrated, fresh and radiant? Check, check and check!
Some airlines can’t even wait to get you onboard before rolling out the royal treatment. Such is the case with Emirates, which extends private limo transfers to first-class passengers in more than 70 global destinations. The service covers a 60-mile radius from nearly all of the airports Emirates serves in North America (70 miles from DFW!) and, once in Dubai, of course, it’s all done in the luxury of a Mercedes.
United Airlines, meanwhile, offers United Global First customers tarmac transportation to their connections via Mercedes at airports in Chicago, Houston, Newark, San Francisco and, most recently, L.A., and the airline plans to extend the service to connecting passengers at more hubs later this year.
The first-class suites aboard Singapore Airlines have ignited a case of wanderlust in even the most travel-averse, when they are presented with the chance to be transported in sleek, sequestered quarters equipped with a standalone bed. But while private suites have been primarily the domain of international flights, JetBlue has seemingly come out of the blue, with fully flat first-class seats on flights between the U.S. East and West Coasts that offer sliding-door privacy heretofore unheard of on transcontinental flights. Who could’ve seen that
coming from the low-cost carrier five years ago?
However, the best suites are to be found on those long-haul flights, and Asiana just sweetened the pot, so to speak, with new “Special Edition” A380s that have 12 exclusive First Suites, an onboard dressing room and premium-class bar and lounge on the second floor. The cabin ceiling even mimics the night sky, with a dazzling display of LED lights inspired by the Milky Way itself.
While we’re on the subject of the stars, those interested in playing astronaut would do well to take the only first-class service operated between the U.S. and Israel, as El Al just implemented new mattresses made of the same stuff that cradles those who have the “right stuff” on NASA’s space expeditions.
Meanwhile, back on the illustrious A380, Korean Air’s First Class bar (and the Celestial Lounge shared with Prestige Class passengers) continues to make every hour of flight a happy one, while the in-flight duty-free shop enables hands-on shopping at any point of the journey.
The art of first-class service even inspired one carrier, Cathay Pacific, to introduce handcrafted sculptural artwork in elite cabins, all part of the new first-class design unveiled last year to a shower of praise. However, the showers aboard the A380s flown by Emirates have earned no less applause from elite cabin-dwellers. You read that right: onboard showers.
The Future Is Now… Almost
If it seemed as though the chauffeur service, private suite and walk-up in-flight bar were the zenith of commercial air travel, Etihad proved everyone wrong this May, when the carrier publicly unveiled for the first time its jaw-dropping, three-room suite—named, appropriately, The Residence—which, when it becomes airborne in December, will raise the bar well above cruising altitude.
Even with this new development remaining months away, if the details that unfold over this year’s first-class survey don’t inspire you to hit the skies with unrestrained zeal, then not much will. Enjoy this sneak peek behind that velvet rope in the sky.
|To view comprehensive charts outlining details such as seat pitch, headphone types, provided amenities and more, please click here.