Unbeknownst to those seated in the rear of the plane, a war is taking place to be the best First Class cabin in the sky. Once upon a time all it took was a hip bar, private shower, or perhaps a First Suite shareable for two, to be #1. But these days, airlines like Qatar Airways (pictured) boast gold chandeliers and Missoni pajamas on their A380s, while Ethiad opts for private residences with living room, separate bedroom and ensuite shower room, complete with butler and toque-wearing chef for their most special guests.
With Christofle flatware and bottles of Dom poured like water, Emirates has long been the industry leader in international First Class. Its Bvlgari amenity kits, A380 shower spa and sliding suite doors have made Dubai a much welcomed stopping point on tri-continental flights. But to stay ahead of the game, the airline recently announced it would reconfiurge its First Class cabins yet again to include more privacy ala private cabins inspired by Orient Express. Expect upgrades to debut by the end of 2016 on high-demand routes. Singapore has also redecorated, upgrading its existing First Class seats, designed by BMW, and updating its First Suites by Italian craftsmen Poltrona Frau. For many airlines, like Singapore, First Class begins on the ground at the lounge. This May, Ethiad debuts its new 'spectacula' lounge in Abu Dhabi with a Six Senses spa and a selection of celeb restaurants. Cathay boasts architectural pedigree at The Bridge in Hong Kong, designed by Foster + Partners, while the Turkish Airlines Istanbul Lounge does a mezze bar, billiards room and napping lounge worthy of the layover.
As for European carriers, British Airways stills wows us with its Concorde lounge and freshly outfitted Dreamliner complete with truly dreamy lights and quilted-fabric seats, all while the Air France's La Première First is the prettiest in the sky. With many companies like United and American Airlines decrying low demand for First Class from business travelers, many US carriers have scaled back to two-class configurations a la First/Business. With the overall inability for publicly-traded airlines to compete with the First Class perks of many government subsidized carriers, like Ethiad and Qatar Airways, expect to see less First Class--but in a far better quality than ever before when you do find it.