There was a time when flying first class internationally meant that you were handed one glass of champagne as you were seated, you got a little bit of extra room and your bed reclined to roughly 45 degrees. Those days sit squarely in the past, as international airlines — Asia and Middle East-based outfits specifically — compete in an all-out arms race to offer the most luxurious accommodations in the sky. The advent of Airbus’s A380 and Boeing’s 777-300ER has made it possible for airlines to offer accommodations that were previously thought of as unattainable at 40,000 feet — accommodations that even make some five-star hotels look inadequate.
If you are planning a trip overseas and are looking to do it as cost-effectively as possible, this is not your list. These first-class cabins are the best of the best — the most lush, lavish and at times ostentatious cabins operating routes to and from the United States today. These airlines offer caviar, personal chefs, airport limousine service (of the Mercedes S-Class variety), your choice of Krug Grande Cuvée or Dom Pérignon and, perhaps most importantly, beds that recline completely flat.
The Most Luxurious First Class Cabins in the Sky
Singapore Airlines Suites – Best Amenities Kit
Emirates First – Best Routes
Cathay Pacific First – Best Lounge
Lufthansa First Class – Most Spacious Seat
Etihad The Residence – Most Opulent
British Airways First – Best Service
SWISS First – Best Non-A380
Asiana Airlines First Suite – Best Entertainment System
Singapore Airlines Suites
Best Amenities Kits: While Singapore Suites doesn’t offer a private chef or limousine service at the airport, its other amenities make up for that handily. Among them are a private check-in at Singapore Changi Airport (including a private jetway directly to the plane from the lounge), excellent food from award-winning chefs, including Alfred Portale and Georges Blanc, and an optional double bed. Its seat dimensions are 81 x 35 inches.
The Indulgences: Salvatore Ferragamo toiletries kit and Givenchy pillows, blankets, pajamas and slippers. A glass of Dom Pérignon 2004 upon being seated.
Flights From: New York | Sample Fare: New York to Singapore from $8,404 | Book Now: singaporeair.com
Emirates First Class
Best Routes: Emirates’ First Class cabin was long the standard for opulent airline digs that all others were compared to. With wood and gold accents decorating the space, a bar area, on-call dining options and airport limousine service, it is easy to see why. Seats measure out to 86 x 23 inches to provide plenty of comfort. Other features include automatic window shades, a simulated night sky on the cabin ceiling and a privacy door for your suite.
The Indulgences: Private shower suite complete with heated floors and Bulgari toiletries. Onboard lounge with seating area and bar.
Flights From: New York, Houston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dallas | Sample Fare: New York to Dubai from $21,549 | Book Now: emirates.com
Cathay Pacific First
Best Lounge: While Cathay Pacific’s 777-300ER cabin may not be quite as opulent as others on this list (namely some of the A380 flights), the real beauty comes in the form of the Wing Lounge at Hong Kong International Airport. At the lounge, you have the option of spending your time in a “cabana,” complete with a shower, vanity, bathtub, chaise, wardrobe and bath robes.
The Indulgences: Luxury amenity kit from Aesop. Sleep suit designed by PYE.
Flights From: New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles | Sample Fare: New York to Hong Kong from $17,506 | Book Now: cathaypacific.com
Lufthansa First Class
Most Spacious Seat: Short of Etihad’s The Residence (see below) Lufthansa’s first class aboard the Airbus A380 has one of the most spacious seats in the skies, measuring almost 92 x 31.5 inches. On top of the spacious seat, a lay-flat bed, Krug Grande Cuvée champagne, an extensive selection of fine wine and food, Lufthansa’s signature red rose, as well as a number of entertainment options are all standard. As an added bonus, after you’re finished hanging out in the lounge, a private driver will escort you in a Mercedes S-Class directly to the jetway.
The Indulgences: Paradies mattress pad and Fleuresse cotton sheets when turn down service is requested, noise-canceling floor insulation and a Braun Buffel amenity kit including toiletries by La Prairie.
Flights From: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington D.C., Houston | Sample Fare: New York to Frankfurt from $6,320 | Book Now: lufthansa.com
Etihad The Residence
Most Opulent: If you have more disposable income than a professional athlete but don’t have your own private jet, Etihad’s The Residence is the most lavish way to fly. The Residence features a seating room with space for two guests complete with an entertainment system and cooler of nine complimentary high-quality beverages.
The Indulgences: A seat with air cushions allowing you to inflate or deflate to your desired cushion, gold-plated cutlery, a 32-inch TV, complimentary Bose noise-canceling headphones, separate private bathroom with shower (towels can be changed to your desired color, brand or material), bedroom with an 82-inch-long bed and a living room.
Flights From: New York | Sample Fare: New York to Abu Dhabi from $32,029 | Book Now: etihad.com
British Airways First
Best Service: British Airways has been synonymous with elegance and efficiency since the days of Concorde (which some say is making a comeback). While some of the amenities aren’t quite on par with other options listed here, the service of the staff is second to none.
The Indulgences: Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle Champagne, personal lamp and mood lighting, and gender-specific amenities kit produced by The Refinery. The option to bring as many as three checked bags, for free, with no weight limit.
British Airways has also started to role out an all-new first-class cabin on their new Boeing 787 Dreamliners. Because they don’t currently fly from the US to London, we included the first class cabins on their Boeing 747. You can check out the new cabin here.
Flights From: New York | Sample Fare: New York to London from $10,841 | Book Now: britishairways.com
Best Non-A380: New for 2016, SWISS Air has updated its fleet by adding a Boeing 777-300ER (with an order for nine more as well). The first-class cabin features only eight seats, meaning you get ample space to spread out and get comfortable. Each seat has its own enclosed privacy shade to help you get a sound night’s sleep as well as electronic window shades to block out any light when you are trying to get some shut-eye. Each seat also features a personal wardrobe to store a change of clothes as well as pajamas.
The Indulgences: Bally amenity kit, Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle champagne, 32-inch TV screen, electronically controlled blinds and a Corian cocktail table with built-in mood lighting.
Flights From: San Francisco, Los Angeles | Sample Fare: San Francisco to Zurich from $12,114 | Book Now: swiss.com
Asiana Airlines First Suite
Best Entertainment System: With a user-friendly interface and a host of media options, Asiana Airlines’s first suite is a shoe-in for best entertainment system. It features a touchscreen remote for easy content selection. Aside from the entertainment, Asiana is also known for their high-quality service. The suite includes all of the usual amenities as well as a private chef, cooking dishes like traditional Korean bibimbap.
The Indulgences: Pol Roger Cuvée Churchill 1999, an 83-inch (completely flat) bed, a “Star Light” system that mimics the night sky when it’s time for some shut-eye, in-flight satellite phone, meals prepared in concert with the Institute of Korean Royal Cuisine and a Bulgari amenities kit.
Flights From: Los Angeles | Sample Fare: Los Angeles to Seoul from $5,418 | Book Now: flyasiana.com
Editor’s Note: To come up with a sample fare for each first-class cabin, we used each airline’s booking tool on their website. We then chose a date one month away from time of writing. We selected a one-way ticket from New York to the airline’s hub. When New York wasn’t an option, we chose the next available US origin.
Lead Photo: British Airways. All others courtesy of their respective airline.