Wouldn’t it be nice if we could fly around in luxurious airlines? Unfortunately, for the majority of us flying is rarely a comfortable experience. Stuffy and overcrowded flights, bland airline food, and elusive flight attendants can often make flying seem more like an ordeal than the magical wonder it was meant to be (after all, you are flying through the sky in a “giant metal bird”). But flying doesn’t have to be an uncomfortable drag. On this list, we dig into the most luxurious airlines in the world.
You may be asking “what does a luxurious airline look like”? How about fully-reclining seats with champagne and caviar delivered right as you board the plane. Or maybe you’d prefer booking a room – actually, three rooms – where you get your own private butler and an on-board gourmet chef? How about free limousine pick-up or Giorgio Armani toiletries on-board? These services are only offered by the most luxurious of airlines, services which are meant to blow your mind! So if you have thousands of dollars to shell out on a trip across the skies, you too can be the recipient of service so high-class that even the Ritz-Carlton would look basic. Read on to see which airlines serve as a cut-above-the-rest in this list of the 25 Most Luxurious Airlines in the World.
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Expanded after the 2010 merger with Continental Airlines, United Airlines takes the 25th spot on our list of the world’s most luxurious airlines. United’s GlobalFirst with 6.5 feet (2.0 m) long suites which recline into full beds (with duvet) and multi-course meals (with cheese and after-dinner liqueurs) earn it this spot, though we must say…it pales in comparison to some of the more luxurious players on the list.
The flag carrier of China, Air China offers its Forbidden Pavilion service in First Class. All passengers flying in First Class are eligible for free ground transportation via limousine and pajamas and slippers for the flight. Passengers also receive amenity kits from L’Occitane including lotion and a sleep mask.
One of the two major South Korean airlines, Asiana Airlines offers five classes of service: one economy class, two business classes, and two first classes, including a suite class. Sporting the largest personal televisions on this list at 32″, each First Suite Class also comes with a personal mini bar and a starry sky projection to help you fall to sleep.
Garuda Indonesia is the flag carrier of Indonesia and one of the most luxurious airlines in the world. Receiving the Skytrax five-star airline rating, the airline is known for its on-board immigration processing and its massive seat pitches in first class of 82 inches (nearly 7 feet, 2.1 m). It also won “The World’s Best Cabin Crew” in 2015 from Skytrax.
Reflecting the Japanese emphasis on high-quality service, Japan Airlines features fully-reclinable seats and even 23-inch personal televisions in its Sky Suites. The second largest airline in Japan, they have partnered with Chef Yamamoto to design their menu which includes specialty meals which can be prebooked and delivered during flight.
Delta Air Lines
Delta’s highest class, Delta One, is a delight for any flying foodies. Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson has paired gourmet meals with decadent wines throughout the flight. Pillows with lumbar support and freshly-brewed Starbucks coffee are also included, but the offerings still pale in comparison to the top airlines on our list.
The Thai people are well-renowned for their hospitality – and the Thai Airlines in-cabin service proves the point. In Royal First, guests start out with a champagne flute and caviar as they move into semi-private suites. For a luxurious experience before boarding, all Royal First flyers leaving from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport are entitled to a full-body oil or Thai massage.
Beat out by #10 for the “World’s Leading Airline – Business Class” award from the World Travel Awards, Kenya Airways still thrills its guests on-board. Beyond the standard fully-reclinable seats and fine dining and wine pairings in First Class, even passengers in Economy Class can enjoy complimentary spirit-based drinks.
The Seychelles (a group of islands off Africa’s eastern coast near Madagascar) is an expensive place to visit – and it’s flagship carrier reflects similar values. Some of the services offered to passengers of Air Seychelles include luxury yacht rental arrangements upon arriving in the islands.
Air New Zealand
Air New Zealand has revolutionized air travel with its SkyCouch design in Economy Class. The window-row seats are characterized by retractable armrests and leg rests which fold all the way up to the row in front, making a flat surface for kids to play or passengers to lie down. It has even been nicknamed the “cuddle class”. For those willing to pay out a bit more, Air New Zealand’s luxurious Business Premier class has the longest cabins in any Business Class and an ottoman footrest which can double as a visitor seat.
The largest airline in the world in terms of fleet size, American Airlines has recently been stepping up its game. The airline’s Flagship Suite comes on all 777-300ERs and features in-flight wine tasting, turn-down service (complete with pajamas), and a swivelling chair whereby passengers can set up a work space to keep connected even in flight.
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Winner of the World Travel Awards’ 2015 prize for “World’s Leading Airline – Economy Class”, Oman Air also won the “World’s Leading Airport Lounge – Business Class” for its lounge in Oman’s capital, Muscat. The airline is special among most airlines in its record of zero fatalities and accidents. Passengers in First Class enjoy limousine pick-up and an eight-point massage system built into their seat.
Swiss International Air Lines
Though a subsidiary of German airline Lufthansa, Swiss International Air Lines is known for giving Swiss chocolate to all passengers on most flights. The successor to Swiss Air, the airline also allows pre-booking of cake, champagne, or red wine as an on-board surprise. First Class customers also enjoy Zimmerli of Switzerland pajamas and luxury brand La Prairie toiletries.
Though the name may seem like a Middle Eastern airline, Qantas is Aussie, mate. (Its name is an acronym of the original name: Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services.) Each international First Class seat seems more like a private cabin, complete with a sheepskin mattress and electronically-controlled bed adjustment. Flying foodies can dig into the eight-course tasting menu.
The largest airline in Europe, Lufthansa demonstrates that German simplicity and efficiency can also mean a luxurious airline experience. First Class customers departing from Frankfurt even enjoy their own terminal where 200 staff care for 300 passengers daily. When the flight is ready to leave, passengers are driven to the plane by a Mercedes Benz S- or V-Class or a Porsche Cayenne or Panamera.
The lesser-known Hainan Airlines won the World Travel Awards’ “World’s Leading Airline – Business Class” award in 2015 for the second consecutive year. (It also won an award for the best in-flight service.) Turn-down service (including a silk quilt) and different tea offerings based on the season are available in Business Class.
Virgin Atlantic Airways
The brainchild of Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Atlantic Airways is – along with other Virgin-branded airlines – putting fun back into air travel. Besides swanky on-board bars for socializing, this luxurious airline features a 10 minute car-to-airport-lounge check-in so Upper Class passengers can hit the spa before departing. Did we mention the in-flight massages, too?
All Nippon Airways
The First Class section of Japan’s All Nippon Airways (ANA) seems less like a plane and more like a train cabin. Complete with a dedicated closet for jacket storage, each cabin also comes with international telephones and, with its box-like shape, provides near-complete exclusion from the world around.
Korean Air’s new Kosmo Suites are cocoons among First Class cabins, giving flyers maximum privacy in a seat color reminiscent of Art Deco South Beach. Passengers can visit the Celestial Bar in what feels like the newest “opened-just-last-week” chic Chelsea bar. Korean Air was nominated for the “World’s Leading Airline – First Class” award along with American Airlines and the six remaining luxurious airlines on our list.
If there are two things Brits love, it’s the Queen and tea-time. Though you likely won’t be seeing the Queen on a British Airways flight anytime soon, you can rest assured that afternoon tea is still observed, even at 35,000 feet. Before taking to the skies, First Class passengers can enjoy a luxury facial treatment or a relaxation massage when flying from London Heathrow and New York JFK.
One of only six airlines to receive Skytrax’s “5-Star Airline” Asia Award (along with #23, #22, #10, #8, #5, #3, #2), Qatar Airways brings Middle Eastern hospitality to the skies. If a business lounge the size of 10 Olympic swimming pools isn’t enough, how about an on-board amenity kit filled with Giorgio Armani products?
Hands down one of the leading luxury airlines flying the skies, Emirates really steps on-board amenities up a notch. From Bvlgari toiletries to an on-board shower spa to an on-board bar and lounge, Emirates knows how to please its wealthier customers. And, for those who understand what this means, you’ll eat your meals from Royal Doulton bone china plates using Robert Welch cutlery. Sounds fancy.
Cathay Pacific’s First Class service makes this luxurious airline cabin feel more like an art gallery. Artists Maria Lobo and Linda Leviton have designed sculptures which are displayed in the cabin. With an ottoman allowing a visitor to join you, the set-up of Cathay Pacific’s cabin makes it look more like you’re having a drink at an Indie coffee shop than flying through the air.
Step into a Singapore Airlines Suites cabin and the first thing you should do is change into your (provided) comfy pajamas and bedroom slippers. Once you’re settled, take a look at the design, crafted by French luxury yacht interior designer Jean-Jacques Coste, and the leather on your seat, upholstered by Poltrona Frau in Italy. A 23-inch (58 cm) LCD television keeps you busy and the sliding Suite doors which enclose the cabin give as much privacy as you wish.
The be-all and end-all of luxurious airline travel, Etihad Airways has everything a passenger could possibly wish for in-flight. Beyond winning multiple World Travel Awards (“World’s Leading Airline – First Class”, “World’s Leading Airline – Business Class”, “World’s Leading Cabin Crew”, and even overall “World’s Leading Airline 2015”: a title it has clinched for seven straight years), flying on Etihad’s First Class service feels more like a First Class cabin on the Orient Express. Passengers willing to dish out over $30,000 (for a trip from New York City to Abu Dhabi) can book “The Residence”: the cream-of-the-crop regarding in-flight comfort. This upper-deck cabin comes with a double bedroom, living room, shower room, and personal butler (not to mention a gourmet chef) to make it feel like you’re staying at the swankiest hotel even when you’re at 40,000 feet.