It seems like many airlines have regressed in recent years as budget travelers have demanded low fares and airlines have stripped down their offering to accommodate. Seats are small, food has fallen off and service has slipped. There are still some options out there if you’re looking for the best luxury airlines, though.
The flip side of these low-cost airlines is that first class is now a significant separation from the back of the plane. It is several cuts above as luxury travel has seen significant advancements in innovation, technology and service.
If you’re looking to fly in style, here are our picks for the six best luxury airlines to hop on board with.
What are the best luxury airlines to travel on?
6. Air France
Air France starts off our list of the best luxury airlines as their first class cabins are a pleasure to fly in. The seats are plush, wide and comfortable. It feels more like you’re in a chair for spa treatment rather than an airplane. But of course, the highlight on Air France is the food. While the offering in coach is pretty good, the menu in first class is created by the likes of Joel Robuchon, Guy Martin, Regis Marcon and other celebrity chefs. A meal for one at any of their restaurants would easily be in the hundreds, so enjoying their eats in first class on an airplane will definitely feel like Cloud 9. Add in the porcelain china and sterling silverware, and you’ll definitely be asking for seconds.
5. Virgin Atlantic
Of course, Sir Richard Branson’s airline deserves a seat at the table. Getting a ticket on this upper crust airline can make almost any type of air travel palatable. The first-rate options on the plane give you the opportunity to lay out in a fold-out bed, which also coverts into a very comfortable seat. Guests flying in London can get a chauffeured to the airport and have their own private security area at Heathrow Airport. If you have flown through that airport, you know just how busy it can be. The price is nothing to sneeze at, though, as a connection from London to New York typically costs over $5,000.
A number of the Middle East-based airlines do luxury very well. We’ll start off with Emirates, who makes the No. 4 entry on our list. They were the first to offer First Class travelers their own private cabin on a flight. The cabin has all sorts of nice touches, like a mini-bar and seats that morph into beds. If you’re feeling a little dirty (airplanes can make you feel that way), step into the first class bathroom where there are showers. As with Virgin Atlantic, you also have the option to get picked up from your home and be delivered to the airport by private chauffeur.
So how much does it cost for a ticket to take this ride? Just about $28,000 if you’re going from New York to Dubai.
3. Qatar Airways
Qatar Airways is No. 3 on the list, but is often quite underrated when it comes to the best luxury airlines. Those who are in the know understand that this is the best of the best. Those who don’t just assume that this small country has a basic airline.
‘Basic’ is about as far from the truth as this can be. A first class seat gets you designer pajamas, food crafted by celebrity chefs and in-flight cell phone service. If you want to make the trip from London to Doha, Qatar in style, it’ll cost you about $13,000 for a return fare.
2. Etihad Airways
Etihad is about as good as it gets in terms of luxury. You might have heard that this is the airline that offers the most expensive flights in the world with a first-class ticket from New York to Abu Dhabi costing around $38,000 for just one way!
So, what’s inside? Etihad offers The Residence in first class, which is a three-room suite with permanent – not fold down – double beds. You’ll also get a living room as well as a private en-suite bathroom and shower. This place might be bigger than some New York or Toronto apartments.
If you book the suite, you also get access to a chauffeur to and from the airport, spa, private check-in and your own butler on-board. Now, that’s the lap of luxury.
1. Singapore Airlines
Singapore Airlines is the top airline in the world. Don’t take our word for it. Singapore Airlines virtually swept the board at the 2018 Skytrax World Airline Awards, which are known as the industry’s “Oscars”. They won awards for Airline of the Year and Best First Class, to name a few. Singapore Airlines is to the best luxury airlines as the Monte Carlo is to the best casinos in Europe.
What makes the luxury part of their offering so special? How about suites that provide you with a completely enclosed cabin, side-by-side seats that can fold into a bed, private check-in and on-demand meals whenever you feel that hunger. A flight from New York to Singapore will set you back just shy of $10,000.