These Are the Coolest First-Class Airline Perks That Make Upgrading Worth It

May 9, 2017
While there are times when we want to save money when travelling, there are some trips that are worth spending a bit extra for first-class treatment.

Here are the coolest first-class amenities that you might want to consider treating yourself to on your next flight.

Perks before you fly

Around the world, first-class lounges at airports offer plenty of plush perks before you board your flight, including comfortable seating, stunning bars and restaurants, spa services and often concierges to help you coordinate your travel plans. Some of the most lavish include British Airways’ Concorde Room at Heathrow and JFK and the opulent GVK lounge in Mumbai.

Meanwhile, if you fly Lufthansa to or from Frankfurt, it has a dedicated first-class terminal separate from the rest of the airport, featuring a cigar lounge, quiet rooms, personal assistants and even a luxury car ride to your plane.

And if you’re a SkyMiles Medallion member flying select flights on Delta, they may just surprise you with a Porsche Cayenne to bring you from gate to gate on connecting flights.

How about a drink at the bar?

There are several commercial airlines that offer built-in bars where first- and business-class passengers can sip Champagne, including Virgin Australia's Boeing B777, Korean Air's A380, Emirates A380 and all of Virgin Atlantic’s planes.

Hong Kong Airlines also just announced flights to Vancouver, its first North American destination, which will boast a sleek and that will serve complimentary wine, beer, premium liquor and snacks. But the top-shelf option looks to be the Qatar Airways lounge on A380 flights -- the lengthy, curving bar features plush couches and is stocked bar with Krug Champagne and even canapés to nibble on.

Freshen up mid-flight with a shower

Emirates’ double-decker A380 flights feature the world’s first onboard shower, perfect for rinsing off at 40,000 feet. The two fairly spacious (for a plane!) shower suites feature spa-level toiletries, plush towels and even a dedicated shower attendant. You typically have to reserve the shower suite, and while you can spend up to 30 minutes in there, you only get five minutes of water, so use it wisely.

Relax with a massage

If you fly Scandinavian Airlines, its Business Sleeper not only features a fully reclining mattress made by Hästens, the oldest bed manufacturer in Sweden, but it also has a built-in massage function to work out the kinks during those long-haul flights.

Pamper yourself with luxury amenity kits

Airline amenity kits are constantly trying to one-up each other by offering designer kits and high-end toiletries. Singapore Airlines offers first-class passengers an amenity kit from Italian luxury goods maker Salvatore Ferragamo, filled with Signorina products for women and Acqua Essenziale products for men, including hand cream, lip balm, and travel-size fragrances. Some carriers even offer pajamas and slippers for long, overnight or international flights, and Emirates offers moisturizing pajamas (seriously!) to keep your skin from drying out in the cabin.

Fine dining in the sky

Because you can’t survive on pretzels alone, first-class cabins frequently offer meals that are on par with some of the most exceptional restaurants on the ground. Air France’s La Première cabin features menus created by Michelin-starred chefs such as Joël Robuchon and Anne-Sophie Pic, while Qatar Airlines offers meals from Michelin-starred chefs such as Nobu Matsuhisa and Vineet Bhatia.

Singapore Airlines features selections designed by its International Culinary Panel of 10 top chefs from around the world, including Suzanne Goin, Alfred Portale and Georges Blanc. You can even make use of its Book The Cook service and order a customized meal in advance – plus, it’s the only airline to offer first- and suites-class passengers the choice of Dom Perignon or Krug Grand Cuvee vintages of Champagne.

Unwind in your own private suite

Increasingly, airlines are offering private suites for passengers willing to pay top dollar for a discreetly pampered experience. Air France's Boeing 777-300 fleet features four private suites in each La Première cabin, featuring plush Parisian seating that converts to a flat bed with hotel-quality bedding, a 24-inch touchscreen and a retractable curtain for privacy.

Meanwhile, Singapore Airlines features private cabins with sliding doors and window curtains, interiors by French luxury yacht designer Jean-Jacques Coste, leather chairs and a separate dedicated bed, a 23-inch LCD screen and more. Plus, adjacent suites can be combined to create a double room if you’re travelling with a companion.

The ultimate luxury experience is likely The Residence aboard Etihad Airways A380, which offers a three-room private suite, with a living room, bedroom and en suite shower room, and comes with your own Savoy-trained butler, private chef service and more. A one-way ticket will run you at least $18,000, but that’s the price of one-of-a-kind luxury.

Danny Jensen is a LA-based freelance writer and photographer covering food, lifestyle and travel.

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