Most travelers rejoice when they don’t have a neighbor on a long-haul flight. The idea of double armrests and twice as many blankets sounds like heaven for anyone who’s ever taken a 15-hour flight crammed into a window seat.
The top 1% – or rather, the top 1% of the 1% – live very, very differently from the rest of society. For these people, not having immediate access to the aisle at all times is unheard of and menu service is always on demand. Whether you've just won the lottery or saved up for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, these are the airlines to book for the ultimate luxury flight. (For more, see Are You jn the Top 1% of the World?)
Perhaps the tightest luxury seats, Virgin Atlantic’s upper class offers a fold-out bed/seat combo and half-partition walls. Guests can enjoy private chauffeured cars that drop them off at the airport and a private security area at London Heathrow. At $5,030 for a New York-to-London flight, Virgin Atlantic’s upper class is perhaps the least value for a traveler’s money.
From designer pajamas to celebrity-chef food, no detail is overlooked in Qatar’s first class. The airline offers the standard seat that folds into a bed along with in-flight cell phone service, a bar, privacy wall and room for a friend to join you in your “cabin.” A ticket from Doha to London is a steal at only 21,650 Qatari riyals (US $5,944), but the reverse is £4,557 (US $7,045).
Emirates is the first on this list to offer first class travelers a real private cabin on the flight. This cabin has a mini-bar (in case you didn’t want to get up to visit the common bar), a seat that turns into a bed and food presented on dishes fancier than your grandmother’s. The first class bathroom has a shower and, like Virgin Atlantic, travelers can arrive at the airport in style in a private chauffeur-driven car. A New York-to-Dubai flight will cost the better part of a year’s salary at $28,000. (For more, see Airport Lounges Are for Everyone With the Right Credit Card.)
Singapore Airline suites allow for complete privacy in an enclosed cabin. For traveling couples, the privacy wall can be retracted and the two seats folded out into a double bed. Travelers are treated to private check-in and luxury lounge services as well as on-demand meals and beverages. While the bathrooms leave much to be desired when compared to Emirates’, a ticket from New York to Frankfurt is significantly less at only $5,008, and a flight from New York to Singapore is about $9,300.
Ever wanted to travel in a cabin bigger than your apartment? No, Etihad doesn’t offer private flights, but the airline does have the next best thing: The Residence, a three-room suite with a permanent double bed in the bedroom, a living room and a private en-suite bathroom with shower. Travelers who book a suite have access to a chauffeur, spa, private check-in, butler and an onboard chef. A trip from New York to Abu Dhabi will cost a whopping $32,000, but if that’s too much, don’t worry. Etihad offers a range of lesser but still incredibly luxurious smaller apartments, studios and private seats; even economy seating comes with an amenities kit, four-course meal and nanny service for children. (For more, see Private Jet Charter Vs. First Class: What’s Best?)
The Bottom Line
Today’s airlines are hoping to bring the rich back to the glamorous days of air travel. With airplanes flying longer distances and the world becoming more interconnected, business people who need to travel long distances are able to do so in luxury and style. And while not everyone needs to fly to and from the Gulf States or Singapore, the cost of flying in a private apartment or first-class suite is perhaps worth it in order to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience on one of the most luxurious airlines.