Flying might be the quickest way to get from point A to point B, but it isn’t always the most enjoyable one. From bumpy flights to bothersome seatmates, air travel — especially long journeys — can be seriously stressful. That’s particularly true for those of us relegated to coach. However, some travelers have a very different experience in the air.
From gourmet chefs to personal butlers, the rich and famous get to see the skies from an entirely different vantage, while enjoying the most enviable amenities. Check out the top travel upgrades available on some of the world’s leading airlines.
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Singapore Airlines First Class
Singapore Airlines, headquartered in Singapore, flies to destinations all over the world, including Moscow and Zurich. A flight in its First Class SkySuites from Los Angeles to Singapore in early November will cost you a whopping $15,900.
The onboard suites were created by Jean-Jacques Coste, a luxury yacht designer, and feature leather seats. Each space is self-enclosed and can be opened to accommodate two seats if you’re flying with a partner. To keep you entertained, flights feature more than 1,000 entertainment options, including music, movies and apps, which you can enjoy on your own 23-inch screen, complete with Bose noise-cancelling headphones.
Singapore Airlines has its own International Culinary Panel, and meals can be ordered on board or in advance. Enjoy your dinner on Wedgwood china that is exclusive to Singapore Airlines, with options ranging from veal to sushi.
Virgin Atlantic Upper Class
Your Virgin Atlantic Upper Class fare starts at $10,024 from New York City to London in early November. That comes with on-demand drinks and snacks in addition to gourmet meals while onboard.
Prior to departure from one of the airline’s Clubhouse locations, you can spend time relaxing in style. The Clubhouses feature gourmet food and cocktails, and some locations even offer spa services. Plus, Heathrow provides Peloton bikes for you to get a workout in, with showers to freshen up afterward.
The ultra-comfortable seats aboard this airline transform into fully reclining beds, in case guests want to rest during their flights. When you wake up, be sure to take advantage of the in-flight internet and plug in your devices in the USB power ports.
Virgin Atlantic is based in Crawley, U.K., and flies to multiple destinations, including Johannesburg, South Africa, and New Delhi, India.
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Etihad Airways First Class
A $13,786 round-trip ticket from New York City to Mumbai, India, might sound steep. However, on Etihad Airways, every first-class passenger is treated to recommended wine pairings with each course of every meal. Enjoy complimentary Wi-Fi while onboard so you can watch hundreds of hours of inflight entertainment with provided noise-canceling headphones.
You’ll also receive an amenity kit, which comes with Colonia lip balm, body lotion and cologne, along with an eye mask, socks, a toothbrush and toothpaste. If you need a shaving kit, comb or even ear plugs, the crew can provide it for you.
Etihad is based in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates and flies to dozens of destinations around the world, including Athens, Greece, and Auckland, New Zealand.
Emirates First Class
When you fly first class on Emirates from some cities, a chauffeur will bring you to and from the airport. There, you will be granted speedy check-in service and access to the Emirates lounge, from which you board directly. A round-trip First Flex Plus (flexible) ticket from Dallas to Ghana in early November costs about $13,358.60.
On board, the Emirates private suites offer total privacy along with seats that convert into beds. When you wake up rested and refreshed, bring your Bulgari amenity kit to the onboard shower spa (on certain flights) or use the provided Byredo skincare products. While each suite has its own bar, you can have a drink and a snack at the Onboard Lounge — which is available to First Class and Business Class passengers — if you’re feeling social.
If you’re hungry, order from the a la carte menu of regional dishes that range from seafood to burrata. Wash down your meal with wine selected by a sommelier or enjoy a host of cocktails, mocktails, champagnes, beers, spirits and hot and cold drinks. The airline also provides fresh, detoxifying juices. For entertainment, you can choose from channels of movies, TV shows, sporting events, music and video games.
Emirates is based in Dubai in the UAE and flies to many cities around the world, including Johannesburg, South Africa, and Dhaka, Bangladesh.
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Swiss International Airlines First Class
A first-class ticket — which will run you $14,376.37 for a round-trip flight from Miami to Zurich, Switzerland, in September — guarantees you priority boarding and a relaxing experience in the airport lounge. You are also welcome to bring extra baggage and checked luggage, which will receive priority handling upon arrival.
Along with access to hundreds of TV shows and movies, the flight offers more than 100 music playlists, CDs, podcasts and audiobooks. There is also special content for children. As an added bonus, you get a Bally bag for your amenity kit that includes La Prairie skincare products.
On Swiss Airlines, you can eat whenever you’re hungry, and depending on the time of year, a variety of Swiss and international delicacies await, including a selection from the Peninsula Hong Kong.
The airline’s headquarters is near Basel, Switzerland. Swiss International flies to 102 destinations including Vienna, Austria, and Porto, Portugal.
British Airways First Class
Once you check in, you can wait to board your flight in a British Airways lounge, which offers elegant dining and drinks.
Once you board, settle into a private suite complete with a flatbed and duvet. If you aren’t in the mood to watch a movie, read an ebook, or play a game, using your complimentary noise-cancelling headphones. Plus, you’ll receive exclusive Temperley London loungewear, amenity bag and slippers.
The food menu is extensive and even includes a classic English afternoon tea. You can also dine whenever you desire from the a la carte menu, which includes alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
British Airways is based out of London, England, and flies to 183 destinations around the world, including Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Kathmandu, Nepal. A round-trip flight from New York City to London in early November will cost you about $15,312.17.
Lufthansa First Class
Lufthansa has hubs in Munich, Frankfurt and Düsseldorf, Germany, as well as Zurich, Switzerland, and Vienna, Austria. A round-trip, first-class flex ticket from Los Angeles to Munich will cost you around $17,296.
If you’re flying out of Frankfurt, valet parking is available. And at many global destinations, a personal assistant will be on hand to accompany you through security and baggage.
Once you board, you can expect to enjoy a customized lighting scheme and a seat made from fine materials. An array of in-flight entertainment, including more than 150 films in eight languages, means you don’t have to worry about getting bored on long trips. You can also listen to sports highlights and news on your very own Bose noise-cancelling headphones.
A variety of top chefs prepare the multi-course meals on board. And, of course, there is plenty of caviar to go around.
ANA, All Nippon Airways First Class
Based in Tokyo, Japan, ANA serves dozens of international destinations, including Kuala Lumpur and Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. A First Class, full flex (flexible) ticket from Houston to Singapore costs around $11,180.
To better enjoy your time at the airport, relax in the ANA lounge until it’s time to depart. On board in your semi-private cube, you will surely enjoy lounging with your feather down comforter and white duck down pillow. Stay busy with a personal entertainment system on a 43-inch 4K monitor that includes movies, games, e-books, SKY LIVE TV and music.
The menu features foods selected by the Connoisseurs, a group of renowned chefs from around the world. Savor Japanese Kaiseki-style delicacies or opt for modern European dishes.
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Qantas First Class
First-class passengers aboard Qantas receive assistance from First Hosts upon arrival at the airport. Relax in the First Lounge, which offers a gourmet menu, open or private seating and complimentary spa services.
Once you’re in your private suite, you’ll have plenty of room to stretch out or even entertain a visitor, if you’re traveling with a companion. And be sure to bring your appetite — all meals are designed by Chef Neil Perry. And sommeliers are available to recommend wines to accompany your food. Feel free to snack or enjoy coffee, tea, wine or beer at your leisure.
For entertainment, you’ll have access to a personal touch screen with hundreds of movies, TV programs, albums, radio stations and interactive games and maps. When you’re ready to rest, the bed folds all the way down for optimal comfort. You’ll sleep easy thanks to a sheepskin mattress, pillows, blankets and duvet. Additionally, guests receive amenity kits that come complete with a range of LaGaia skincare products, bamboo socks, eye shades, dental kits and ear plugs.
Qantas is based in Sydney, Australia, and services many national and international locations, including Beijing and Tokyo. Right now, all international flights are suspended due to COVID-19 restrictions.
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Sam DiSalvo contributed to the reporting for this article.
Last updated: Oct. 28, 2021