April 24, 2016

My 5 Favorite First Class Products

Over the past four years, I've been fortunate enough to fly on some of the world's best carriers in international first class.  If you're wondering how I've been able to do that, start here.

In fact, I've flown more than two dozen segments on nine carriers with another few dozen flights in international business class.  People often ask about my favorite carriers, flights, amenities, seats, etc...it's not the easiest question to answer since crews matter and vary from flight to flight.

Amenities (pajamas, amenity kits) are rotated.  Catering can be vastly different from one flight to another especially when comparing flights from a home base (i.e Singapore Airlines out of Singapore) vs. an outstation (i.e. Singapore Airlines from Frankfurt).  Don't forget aircraft - while the seat on Emirates' A380 and 777 is very similar, the experience is vastly different given the shower and onboard bar on the A380.

All that said, here are my personal rankings of the top 5 international first class products (in order):

1)  Etihad Airways A380 First Class Apartment

Hands down, Etihad offers the best first class product in the sky.  The amount of personal space is just ridiculous given that Etihad has a single aisle on their A380 vs. the double aisle that every other airline uses.

Etihad has amazing amenity kits stocked with Le Labo products and very comfortable pajamas.  The entertainment system is top notch and they offer live TV and wifi.

The cabin is both modern and sexy which are two words you don't necessarily think about when it comes to middle east airlines.

There is the lobby bar, the onboard chef, and of course the onboard shower.

Etihad serves excellent Champagne (2005 Bollinger Grande) but doesn't offer caviar.

The combination of food, service, amenities, and sheer size of seat put Etihad firmly in the number one slot.

2)  Singapore Airlines A380 Suites Class

Singapore Airlines has two different first class products.  "Suites Class" is only found on the lower level of their A380s.

With 14 seats, the cabin is a bit larger than most but that doesn't mean that service will suffer.  Singapore offers two of the world's best Champagnes in Dom Perignon and Krug.

They serve caviar on most all of their A380 flights.  Pajamas are comfortable albeit not as nice as they used to be when they were Givenchy branded.  Amenity kits contain Ferragamo products including a full size bottle of cologne/perfume.

The food is outstanding across the board - especially the "Book the Cook" service where you can pre-order a meal from a menu with dozens of choices.

When it's time to sleep, the two center seats turn into a "double bed" which we've been fortunate enough to experience a couple of times.

There's no better way to sleep in a plane.

3)  Emirates A380 First Class

While Emirates' A380 seat leaves a bit to be desired in terms of space, it is certainly full of amenities including a vanity mirror, minibar, and lamp.

Emirates serves 2006 Dom Perignon along with a phenomenal Arabic Mezze platter and caviar.

Service is excellent and the crews we've had seemed to be especially proud of the bells and whistlers on the aircraft.  Upon arriving at your seat, you will find  pajamas, slippers, an amenity kit, eye mask, writing kit, and a branded beach bag.

It's basically Christmas on an airplane.  The highlight of Emirates' A380 are the onboard bar and shower.

The bar is open to business class passengers but the crew will ensure (if you are traveling in first class) that you're served the first class Champagne.

After nursing a hangover, there's nothing better than a shower and to be able to do that at 35,000 fee is pretty amazing.

4)  Cathay Pacific 777-300ER First Class

Cathay Pacific provides one of the best solo sleeping experiences on a commercial plane.

The bedding is outstanding and the seat wide enough that you can really get comfortable regardless of how you like to sleep.  While the food leaves a bit to be desired, Cathay Pacific does serve caviar along with Krug in first class.

There's an amuse-bouche on the ground which I've found to be a nice touch.  Amenity kits contain Aesop products and the PYE pajamas are the most comfortable pair of pajamas I own.

The cabin is very intimate with only 6 seats so dining together is quiet, relaxed, and very special.  Crews tend to be reactive (you need to push the call button for assistance) but they'll arrive in seconds to provide whatever you need.

5)  Singapore Airlines 777-300ER First Class

Singapore's refreshed 777-300 contains a gorgeous BMW designed cabin with 8 first class seats.

All of the amenities provided on the A380 are provided on the 777 (with the exception of the double bed).  The entertainment screen is large and amongst the best in the sky from a resolution perceptive. While you won't get to sleep with your partner, turndown service means multiple pillows, a mattress pad, soft duvet, and if you're lucky, a teddy bear.

Final Thoughts:

So who doesn't make the top 5 list?  In terms of other carriers I've flown British Airways, Lufthansa, Thai, United, and Asiana are a notch (or several) below these top 5 products.  Qatar, Swiss, Garuda, JAL, and ANA all offer excellent first class products and I hope to be able to try them in the future.

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