You are currently viewing As airlines continue to raise the bar on luxury, first-class cabins increasingly resemble posh mini-hotel suites.

As airlines continue to raise the bar on luxury, first-class cabins increasingly resemble posh mini-hotel suites.

First-class cabins on modern aeroplanes are increasingly like posh hotel suites, complete with sofas, double beds, TVs, closets, walk-in showers, and even reservations with a personal chef.
As more affluent people start taking vacations again, airlines are giving first class a facelift and raising the bar for luxury air travel.

As airlines continue to raise the bar on luxury, first-class cabins increasingly resemble posh mini-hotel suites. Picture via Bella_Fantastic (Twitter)
As airlines continue to raise the bar on luxury, first-class cabins increasingly resemble posh mini-hotel suites. Picture via Bella_Fantastic (Twitter)
Sofas, double beds, televisions, workstations, closets, minibars, and even walk-in bathrooms are becoming standard in first-class cabins. More originality is always welcome. A chef can be reserved if desired.

Despite sluggish economic growth and rising prices, the investment is going on. Airlines are taking a chance that, after being grounded by Covid and unable to travel, passengers may be prepared to spend more money travelling in comfort.

During an earnings call in March, Deutsche Lufthansa AG CEO Carsten Spohr noted, “Leisure travellers in particular continue to book flights in business or even first class.” Last week he told investors, “Spohr, we need to grow first class.” This is the first year his entire team has said this to him.

The Lufthansa Allegris programme will reinvest $2.7 billion over two years to modernise the German airline’s long-haul fleet. Also on display is Qantas Airways Ltd.’s new, luxurious first class, which is normally inaccessible to economy passengers (who, at best, can catch a glimpse of it as they make their way in a queue to the plane’s emergency exits).

So why now?
As a result of Covid’s enormous destruction, the International Air Transport Association believes that airlines lost almost $200 billion over the past three years. First class has become a potential goldmine, and they need to recoup part of that money immediately. According to IATA, total air travel demand, including economy class, is at 81% of 2019 levels, while premium travel, which also includes business class, is back to 86% of 2019 levels.

Even if first-class tickets cost more than ten times as much as economy seats, there is still demand for them, and people are willing to pay the premium in order to secure them.

According to David Mann, the senior Asia economist at Mastercard Inc., “there is still a large amount of excess savings.” It’s likely because consumers’ spending power and appetite aren’t waning anytime soon that airlines are making announcements.

First-class service on Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. is also slated for an improvement. The airline’s first-class seats on one of its Hong Kong-London routes are in high demand. According to the airline’s website, each cabin is equipped with “one of the widest fully flat beds in the sky,” as well as a selection of soft pillows and pillow mist.

First-class passengers are also given priority access to the airport’s finest lounges. And nightgowns.

So, What Else Can You Get?
Qantas and Lufthansa have introduced first-class cabins with doors, following in the footsteps of Singapore Airlines Ltd., Emirates, and Etihad Airways PJSC, who were among the first to transform economy seats into first-class suites.

Lufthansa’s new rooms have reversible air conditioning and heating and wardrobes for your convenience. That’s a big change from the prior open floor plan and lack of seclusion. A dedicated first-class concierge is available at the airline’s Frankfurt hub to assist passengers with “travel formalities swiftly and discreetly,” as stated by the German carrier.

Airlines are spending a lot of money updating their cabins because “pressure to keep up with the times may be sufficient justification for such a large investment,” according to the managing director of Tokyo-based Lift Aero Design, Daniel Baron.

Watering Down
An Arrival The first-class fare on a Qantas trip from Sydney to Los Angeles is about $18,000, whereas the same fare on Lufthansa from Frankfurt to Tokyo is around $15,000. It’s still a lot cheaper than the private jets that saw a surge in demand during the pandemic as people attempted to avoid crowds and regulations imposed because of the illness.

“The aviation industry is responding to that demand,” Melanie Lieberman, managing editor of the travel website The Points Guy, said. First class is “a very safe, reliable sector” where customers are willing to pay more “for space, privacy, and exclusivity, even during difficult economic downturns.”

More Discretionary Spending
In first class, Lufthansa’s newest Boeing Co. 787s and Airbus SE A350s will have two single suites and a double called Suite Plus. These will debut in 2024 with floor-to-ceiling walls and a lockable door.

Suite “conveys the feeling of privacy and individuality similar to a hotel room, only at an altitude of 11 kilometres,” senior Lufthansa executive Jens Ritter remarked at the product’s unveiling in Berlin in February.

Upgrades to Lufthansa’s business class include private suites with sliding doors and walls that reach to the passenger’s chest.

Qantas’ A380 superjumbos, meanwhile, has a first-class cabin with room for 14. The brand-new, more compact A350s can seat six. Currently available amenities in private cabins include armchairs, a flat bed of 212 centimetres (83 inches) in length, a memory foam mattress, cotton blankets, a duvet, and a selection of pillows.

To accommodate guests who may prefer to dine with a companion, each cabin has two seats.

On board, these private sections take up considerable real estate. Singapore Air, rated number one in this category by Skytrax, offers first-class passengers on their A380s a spacious suite that is roughly 50 square feet in size, or about a third of the size of a typical flat in Hong Kong.

Following This
Some of the first airlines to announce their first-class offerings on the smaller, long-haul jets that may be deployed on more routes are Lufthansa and Qantas.

Air France and Japan Airlines Co. are also getting in on the action with brand new cabins set to debut this winter. Featuring five windows, a seat, bed, and sofa, the “longest suite in the market,” according to the French airline, will be available soon. Qatar Airways’ first-class cabins on the stalled Boeing 777-9s are also slated for a makeover.


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