Having had the chance to board 4 amazing first class products by some of the leading airlines in the world, I am left with the question of whether First Class is still necessary. With airlines rolling out Business Class products that are full lie-flat and close to Business Class, what difference is there when all you want is to stretch out and sleep.
The difference lies in the food, the privacy, the experience, the amenities and the ultimate in convenience in comfort during the flight. With Cathay Pacific, I had the luxury of having a very wide seat and a very nice Chinese meal with the best soup I ever had on a plane. On top of that, I left the plane with ‘Shanghai Tang’ pyjamas. Onboard Asiana, I was able to sip fine champagne while enjoying movies in full HD on a 32 inch flatscreen TV. And while flying ANA First, I got to have the best sleep ever on a plane with a comfortable mattress and duvet, after an amazing Kaiseki meal. These are all fantastic stuff that probably would not be offered on Business Class anytime soon, but there are definitely some other First Class cabins I would like to try and they are in this order:
1. Singapore Airlines Suites on the A380
Yes, while I might not be a fan of Singapore Airlines ground customer service, they are still consistently one of the best (if not the best) airline ever. Their advertisements and cabin presentations evoke the true luxury of travel like no other airline. Given that their Suites are not accessible to Star Alliance airline partners, it makes them all the more exclusive and more lust-worthy! These suites can be found plying the SIN-NRT-LAX / SIN-HKG-SFO / SIN-FRA-JFK / SIN-LHR / SIN-SYD / SIN-MEL route and seasonally also fly the SIN-ZRH route. And when flying these suites, make sure you fly them from Singapore, as only then would one be able to access ‘The Private Room’, Singapore Airlines’ private terminal area for Suites and First Class passengers that offers ala-carte dining. The Private Room is so discrete that SIA does not even advertise it at all on their websites, though a Google search will yield some reviews of the space!
2. Lufthansa First Class on the 747-8
Thus far, Lufthansa is the only airline to operate the new version of the original Jumbo Jet. This makes it exclusive and First Class on the nose of the 747 is a unique experience like no other due to the conical shape of the cabin. And like Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa has a First Class Terminal, and yes a whole terminal dedicated to First Class passengers in Frankfurt. First Class passengers then get a chauffeur service to the plane just like as if the huge jumbo jet is like your private plane. Now that is an experience I would want to live with! Lufthansa flies the 747-8 on the FRA-IAD / FRA-DEL / FRA-BLR / FRA-HKG / FRA-LAX routes. Though Lufthansa has the same cabin on the A380, they are known to have a special version of the First Class which includes a seat and a fixed permanent bed on the side onboard the older but refurbished 747-400s. The First Class on the 747-400, though are on the upper deck versus the front cone on the 747-8.
3. Emirates Suites on the A380
The bling in Emirates cabin is what puts me off, but it is also what makes it unique. Extravagance can be a statement and the Emirates A380 does make a statement by incorporating the only showers onboard the A380, and of course lots of gold and polished wood on their cabin. All the amenities on the plane from the mini-bar to the LED-lit vanity mirror exudes a personality of their own. And they fly the A380 on so many routes that it means that one can arrive in style to the end destination as desired. Furthermore, Emirates has recently opened a dedicated premium terminal for transit passengers in First Class in their home base at Dubai (DXB) Airport.
4. JAL New Suite on the 77W (777-300ER)
Japan Airlines has all along been one of my favourite airlines as they offer a very memorable service and one of the best meals even in Economy. Thus I can only wonder how good First Class would be like on their planes! Apparently, JAL’s website advertises Tempur bedding on the new JAL SUITES, or as it is called. That is what attracted me to this suite as the ability to have a cabin like your own room is what makes First Class even more wonderful. While I have no idea on how JAL lounges or First Class ground handling is like, I am interested to fly these suites if it is just to experience sleeping on Tempur bedding 30,000 feet above the skies. Currently this configuration is only available on the NRT-LHR route though they will also soon be on the NRT-JFK route.
Besides these First Class cabins, there are other notable First Class cabins, but based on their description and past reviews, I tend to think that the other cabins are more or less similar to what I have experienced. And they do not have any defining characteristics that make them ‘First’. Some of the notable mentions include:
Thai Airways First Class, Malaysia Airlines First Class, Qantas First Class, China Southern, Air France and Korean Air First Class. All on the A380, and thus they have more or less the same size. The most noteworthy would be Thai Airways and Qantas as both their ground services on the Bangkok (BKK) and Sydney (SYD) airports are exemplary. Thai offers buggy rides to the immigration and/or lounge, as well as Thai massage in the lounges, while Sydney offers a beautiful first class lounge that could easily be on the cover of Wallpaper magazine. So they are honorable mentions.
Air China, Qatar, and Etihad offers First Class cabins and suites on the 777-300ER which are commendable since they are similar to the suites mentioned above in terms of size or space. But the fact that they are less known or have little to offer besides a First Class cabin of similar hardware, there is no point of differentiation that makes me want to take these flights in First Class. But they are still worthy of the title of First Class.
But right now, my dream would be to fly on the above First Class cabins, until something else better comes along. Though I am sure anyone would find themselves pampered and have an ultimate flying experience with these airlines.