Top first-class airlines in the world: Singapore Airlines, Etihad Airways and Emirates

Take it from us when we say that nothing — absolutely nothing — beats flying in a private jet. That said, commercial airlines have taken the liberty to upgrade their services year on year, with the aim of bridging the gap between commercial and private aviation (We previously covered the top five airports in the world, click here to read it). While it’s highly unlikely that the gap would lessen significantly, most airlines have done a pretty swell job, particularly in their, dare we say, cabins that are beyond first class.

From limousine rides to the airport to hot showers during the flight, airlines are stopping at no expense to remind passengers that flights are no longer just means to get to a destination, but holidays themselves.

We present the top three airlines that take care of your whims and fancies from the day you book your ticket, till the time you land. Be prepared for copious amounts of Moet in the sky to celebrate the indulgence that is first-class flying.

It’s time to buckle up, and prepare for take off.

1. Emirates

Emirates, renowned for its service and hospitality, has long been ranked as the top Middle Eastern airline, and one of the top five airlines in the world.

On ground

Take advantage of the brand’s complimentary chauffeur drop-off service and arrive at the airport in style. You’ll be whisked to the exclusive Emirates lounge to enjoy a buffet spread and selection of spirits and cocktails while waiting for your flight. Emirates’ lounges are located across more than 30 cities, with partner lounges across six continents. The Emirates lounge in Dubai, ‘capital’ of its lounges, boasts a cigar bar, Le Clos wine cellar, two sleeping rooms equipped with daybeds, pillows and blankets, and a Timeless Spa when you may enjoy a complimentary 15-minute back massage. Upon landing, head to the fast track immigration counter for a smooth and painless experience, only to pop back into a chauffeured ride to round up the entire journey.

In air

The first-class cabin is lined with accents of gold at every turn. You’ll share the entire cabin with just 13 other passengers, with four flight attendants attending to you. Each private space is furnished with a personal mini bar, snack basket, writing set and international newspapers and magazines for your reading pleasure.

Food and beverage options are extensive, with Dom Perignon as the champagne of choice. All meals, from a traditional local Arabic mezze platter to a wild mushroom cannelloni, are served on Royal Dulton fine bone china with Robert Welch silverware.

When you’re ready to call it a night, take a hot shower in the Shower Spa, and pamper yourself with signature Timeless Spa products and Bulgari toiletries. You won’t have to worry about stepping onto cold flooring as the entire floor is heated. Meanwhile, stewardesses are transforming your suite into a bedroom, where your seat would recline fully into a 208cm flatbed.

2. Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines has always been a strong contender in first-class flying, but in 2008, its standing soared to its highest with Suites Class in its flagship A380 planes.

On ground

In Singapore, the first class lobby is situated at a private corner of the terminals. A passenger relations officer will greet and escort you to the waiting area as she checks you in and prepares your boarding pass, while a porter transports your luggages. Upon being handed your golden ticket, you can then head to The Private Room, a lounge only accessible to First Class and Suites passengers. Relax in the lounge, private or family rooms, enjoy a enjoy a refreshing shower or have an ala carte meal of your fancy before take off.

In air

Each Suites cabin is a world of its own, featuring sliding doors and window blinds to ensure optimal privacy. A massive Italian leather armchair and ottoman await, along with a 23-inch television screen, Bose noise-cancelling headphones, Givenchy sleepwear, and an array of Salvatore Ferragamo toiletries.

Calling the menu ‘extensive’ would be taking a jibe at it, for each meal (supper included) easily amounts to more than five courses, with seconds available on request. Be prepared to make a few important decisions though, such as committing to cosying up in your personal haven, or indulging a five-course meal featuring Krug champagne, caviar and crabmeat. The Book the Cook option also allows you to pre-order one of the 60 dishes available.

Unlike other first class cabins — technically this is notch above first — the bed in Suites has to be prepared by the crew, as it is a proper bed, as opposed to a fully reclinable seat. Turndown service reveals full linen and full sized pillows. We recommend choosing the middle suite, as the partition can be fully lowered, creating a double bed should the adjacent suite be empty.

3. Etihad Airways

The second Middle Eastern airline to top the list is all about recreating a palace in the skies.

On ground

Etihad Airways similarly offers door-to-door chauffeur services to its first class travellers, and a premium lounge offering ala carte dining, shower rooms, and a family room. World-renowned Six Senses Spa is a part of its Abu Dhabi International Airport lounge, offering a range of 15-minute treatments such as facial renewals, foot detoxes and scalp massages.

In air

Apart from First Apartments and First Suites, both known as first class seating arrangements, Etihad reimagines flying with The Residence, an exclusive 125-sqft, three-room suite on its A380. The suite is meant for up to two guests and comprises a living room, bathroom and a bedroom. With only one residence available on board each A380, exclusivity and privacy would be the least of your issues.

The living room comes with an ottoman that hides a minibar and additional storage areas. Watch a movie on the 32-inch flat-screen TV, enjoy a beverage from the drinks cabinet, or have a meal specially prepared by the in-flight chef. A personal butler is also on hand to ensure all arrangements itineraries are in place, both in- and post flight.

The carpeted hallway leads to an ensuite bathroom with shower facilities. Freshen up with toiletries from Acqua di Parma, and slip into a fluffy bathrobe. Following the hallway, you’ll be led to the bedroom, furnished with a double bed, and a pillow menu to ensure a restful flight.

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Published 28th January 2016