Tom Allett and Caroline Cook review the prestigious offerings from some of the world’s major airlines.
It is a product that only the most privileged passengers are able to use, yet premium class cabins are recognised as the trademark that distinguishes each of the relatively few major airlines that can offer them. These niche products subsidise all others on board the aircraft and the fact remains that competition between carriers is fierce when meeting the needs of elite customers.
More recently, private suites are becoming increasingly popular, particularly on larger aircraft, such as the Airbus A380. Airlines strive to create a relaxing atmosphere, offering the highest levels of privacy, comfort and convenience to the passengers willing to pay for the privilege. But, statistically, just how do the premium seats measure up?
Air France’s first class offering is La Première. Cabin layouts vary from four to nine seats. Cabin and service highlights include the seat, with built-in massage options, which transforms into a 6ft 6in (2m)-long bed. A 10.4in (26cm) TV screen, individual storage space, ambient lighting, a wide table and telephone, plus a bench for a visiting companion.
At the front of the La Première cabin, an exclusive private space enables passengers to freshen up, change into their lounging suits (supplied) before sleeping or getting ready before arrival. This private changing cabin benefits from natural lighting through a window, two cupboards opposite a dressing table and a leather bench. On the A380, La Première passengers have exclusive access to a dedicated bar, providing a space to take a drink, a light snack or maybe just have a conversation that won’t disturb other passengers.
|Premium Product||La Première|
|Product Introduced||June 2011|
|Product Designer||Lounge, Didier Lefort|
|Seat Dimensions||78in (200cm)
as a bed
|Aircraft Types Fitted||Airbus A380 &
British Airways has almost completed the retro-fitting of its First class cabin, which was initially introduced in January 2010. All aircraft should be fitted out by the spring of 2012 and the carriers’ Airbus A380s and Boeing 777s will arrive complete with the new cabin.
Highlights of the new design include: A 60% wider bed at the shoulders, a 15” in-flight entertainment screen, USB port, RCA jack and noise-cancelling headsets, personal electronic blinds, personal wardrobe, integrated mood lighting, an Anya Hindmarch washbag and amenities by DR Harris & Co, plus a leather bound writing table.
|Product Introduced||January 2010|
|Product Designer||BA / Tangerine / Forpeople|
|Seat Dimensions||78in (200cm) x 31in (78.7cm) as a bed|
|Aircraft Types Fitted||Boeing B747-400 & Boeing 777|
Emirates have several types of first class cabin fits across its extensive fleet of long-haul aircraft. Perhaps its best know premium product is its First Class Suite. Initially introduced in 2003, it was installed on its Airbus A340-500 and Boeing 777 fleets at a cost of US$125,000 each.
Among the items offered are privacy screens, massage-enabled leather seats which convert to flat beds, plus a dining table and vanity table complete with mirror and amenity kit.
The cuisine offered includes seven course meals from international chefs and customers invited to order at will. On board its Airbus A380s there are 14 private suites laid out in a 1-2-1 configuration.
Emirates was the first airline to introduce two fully equipped bathrooms, including shower facilities. Each seat has its own 23in (58cm) LCD screen, personal video library, lumbar support, mini bar, reading lights and work desk.
Its Boeing 777s and A330s have 18 sleeper seats pitched at 70in (1.75m) on the A330 and 62in (157cm) on the Boeing 777. These seats recline by 18in (38cm) and on the A330 have individual privacy hoods. The first class product fitted on these two aircraft types offer wardrobe and locker space, amenity kits, stationery suite plus a toilet exclusively for first class passengers (two on B777).
The onboard lounges have a fully stocked bar, two sofas, a 42in (107cm) LCD TV screen and mood lighting.
|Premium Product||First Class|
|Product Designer||Emirates commissioned|
|Seat Dimensions||A380 seat
78.87in (200cm) x 21.6in (54.8cm)
|Aircraft Types Fitted||Airbus A330 & A380 Boeing B777|
Etihad’s Diamond First Class Suites, complete with sliding cabin doors for privacy, have been introduced across its fleet of A340-600s and A330s.
The seats have a 23in (58cm) TV screen with an E-Box, adjustable head and foot rests with lumbar support and recline into a fully-flat bed. They are finished in luxury leather created by Poltana Frau; have in-seat power sockets, a mini bar and are laid out in a 1-2-1 configuration. The airline says its “Inspired Service” dining aims to create a “restaurant in the sky”, and employs food and beverage managers. The suites’ bathrooms have full length mirrors and leather changing room seats.
|Premium Product||First Class Cabin|
|Product Introduced||August 2009|
|Product Designer||TBWA Designs|
|Seat Dimensions||80.5in (2.03m) x
|Aircraft Types Fitted||A330-200 &
First available from March 1, 2010, Gulf Air’s Falcon Gold cabin is essentially a combination of what the airline describes as the best of first and business classes and claims that it provides first class comfort at business class prices. The airline has undertaken some major business changes in the last few years and is still in the process of adjusting its product across its fleet. Sleeper seats are not currently guaranteed in Falcon Gold but this should be rectified imminently when the retrofitting of its Airbus aircraft is complete.
Cabin and service highlights include a personal Sky Chef service, a seat pitch of up to 80in (203cm) and luxury pillows and blankets with amenity kits.
As required, the roof of the Falcon Gold cabin can be illuminated with a representation of the night sky, complete with hundreds of stars, to present mood lighting that may help passengers to sleep or simply relax.
|Premium Product||Falcon Gold|
|Product Introduced||March 2010|
|Product Designer||JPA (Lounge)|
|Seat Dimensions||80in (203cm) x
|Aircraft Types Fitted||A330 / A340 / B777|
Lufthansa’s First Class cabin layout varies depending on aircraft type. In its recently introduced Airbus A380 cabins, eight adjustable large seats are provided that transform into a bed that is two metres long. Each seat has a power socket, pull out table and a mattress designed by what the airline calls “sleep researchers”.
The cabin has automatic humidifiers, sound-insulated curtains and footfall sound insulation. Each passenger has a personal wardrobe, while the cabin’s bathroom includes design features such as LEDs in the mirror to indicate water temperature. Like many other airlines, the German flag-carrier has amenity kits carrying a world-famous brand name and Lufthansa’s has perhaps the best-known of all: Porsche.
Lufthansa’s Boeing 747-800s will be delivered with the new flat beds.
|Premium Product||First Class|
|Product Introduced||May 2010|
|Product Designer||Priestman Goode & London|
79.1in (201cm) x 31.5 in (80cm)
79.1in (201cm) x 21in (53cm)
79.1in (201cm) x 21in (53cm)
|Aircraft Types Fitted||A340 / A380 & B747-400
(not flat bed)
The 14 seats in Qantas’ A380 First Suite, each have a touch-screen suite controller that enables them to be converted into 83.5in (212cm) x 29in (73cm) fully flat beds. Each has what the airline calls a ‘5-zone massage system’ and a 17in (43cm) HD monitor. In what is becoming a growing trend amongst airlines offering first class services, meals are made to order from a gourmet menu. They are served on Marc Newson-designed tableware created by Noritake and Alessi. The airline’s amenity kits were created in association with Payot Paris skin care.
Seats in the company’s Boeing 747-400 First Class cabin recline to 6ft 6in (198cm) and have 10.4in (26cm) monitors.
|Product Introduced||October 2008|
|Product Designer||Marc Newson (A380)|
|Seat Dimensions||Airbus A380: 83.5in (212cm) x 29in (73cm)
|Aircraft Types Fitted||Airbus A330 & A380 / Boeing B777|
Singapore Airlines First Class cabin configuration varies between aircraft fleets. Its much-praised First Class Cabins entered service inside its then new Airbus A380s in October 2007. The Airbus is equipped with 12 private cabins with an 81in pitch, 27x78in flat beds in a 1-2-1 layout. Those suites in the centre of the cabin can be configured to make double cabins. Each First Class passenger has a 23in (58cm) LCD monitor which, at 1280 x 768 pixels, the airline claims to be the “highest resolution in the sky”. Each passenger also has their own vanity corner with a mirror and drawer at their seat and receives a Givenchy sleeper suit and slippers.
On the Boeing 777-300ER fleet, eight new 35in (89cm)-wide seats have been added, which the airline claims is the “biggest seat” in its class. Each has leather upholstery, mahogany trimming and transforms into a fully flat bed. Singapore Airlines offers a turndown service, plus ambient mood lighting. Although prices have varied from time to time, Singapore’s First Class Suites have had a reputation for being the most exclusive and expensive airline tickets available anywhere.
|Premium Product||First Class|
|Product Introduced||October 2007 (A380)|
|Product Designer||Jean-Jacques Coste|
|Seat Dimensions||Airbus A380:
81in (206cm) x 35in (89cm),
Boeing 747-400: 78in (198cm) x 23in (58.5cm) in SkySuite configuration.
|Aircraft Types Fitted||Airbus 380 &
Boeing 747 & 777
Thai’s aircraft fleet is still in the process of changing as several of its long-haul types are up for sale. Its current Royal Orchid (First class) layouts comprise 14 seats on its Boeing 747-400s and eight on its Airbus 340-600s. Sleeper seating is provided with 180 degrees of recline available, though this is at an angle rather than fully-flat. Each Royal Orchid passenger has nearly 7ft (213cm) of space and seats are equipped with lumbar massage and 10.4in (26cm) touch screens. Each has a stow-away table, adjustable ottoman, literature pocket and adjustable headrest.
Royal Orchid passengers can choose from one of the widest range of meals in the industry as they can pick from a choice of 22 meals providing they are pre-ordered.
|Premium Product||Royal Orchid|
|Product Designer||BE Aerospace|
78in (198cm) x 22.5in (57cm)
70in (178cm) x 21.5in (54cm)
|Aircraft Types Fitted||Airbus 340-600 &