It's hard to believe that it's already been 10 years since the advent of the super-jumbo A380 into commercial air service. Singapore Airlines
was the first to fly it, this year trading in its 10-year leases for an
all-new fleet of the super-jumbos. Their new A380s promise even
cushier, albeit fewer, First Suites likely on an all-premium upper deck
of the aircraft. Singapore's new fleet of three-class A350s has
revolutionized its need for layovers on longer routes like Singapore to
San Francisco and Houston. For those that fly Singapore Airlines
regularly, as we did recently from Tokyo Narita, the airline is
benefiting from a fleet upgrade that includes new, quilted-leather seats
in First and perks like ‘Book the Cook’ that allows you to select your
meal from a roster of Michelin-star chefs. But word to the wise, don’t
change your mind from Georges Blanc to Suzanne Goin mid-flight, as there
are no substitutions, even in 1A.
Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad continue to advance their First Class offerings and are beginning to challenge American carriers with all-new U.S. to Europe routes that no longer require a layover in the Middle East. Emirates recently announced its new Athens-Newark flight that will likely test the Open Skies agreement that sets the rules for air travel between the U.S and other countries. The new route follows its Milan-JFK route, launched in 2013. With First Apartments on Etihad and those 5-minute showers on Emirates, many U.S. carriers complain they can’t compete with state-subsidized airlines that don’t have to worry about shareholders and corporate profits. But at the same time, anyone flying to Milan, Athens or Nice from the U.S. is well acquainted with the antiquated 767s flying this route - when they’re even available. In the end it will more than likely be U.S. President Donald Trump, who will decide how cushy flying to Europe will be for American First Class travelers in the coming years.
For airline lounge-lovers, it's going to be hard to top Cathay Pacific's rollout of their flagship The Pier Business Class lounge in Hong Kong that’s a one-two premium-class punch when paired with the First Class Lounge. When we flew through Dubai earlier this year, we were surprised at the under-utilization of its too-big First Class Lounge. With cigar bar, spa, wine lounge and two formal restaurants; the lavish amenities didn’t warrant the 5-minute lonesome walk between them. But now, Emirates announces they’re opening the doors of both its Business and First Class lounges for paying guests, $100 and $200 respectively, which is yet another downgrade for the once impeccable carrier. Other lounge developments include AmEx's new Centurion Lounge at Philadelphia International Airport - with LAX alas on the way. And come May in London, British Airways will introduce a new First Class check-in area at Heathrow, which will include direct access to its newly refreshed Concorde Room. Look for all-new menus in it’s formal restaurant and mixology bar to sample its new British Airways gin prior to its flagship LHR-LAX service.