Where Hollywood Is Turning for International First Class Flights

Etihad Nicole Kidman - H 2016
Courtesy of Etihad

Spread out in a three-room suite, take a hot shower at 40,000 feet, ask your butler for another glass of $200 Scotch. Flying international first class has never been better — or more expensive.

Here’s uplifting news for deep-pocketed globetrotters who like to grumble about the decline of luxurious air travel: An emerging category of international first-class offerings are soaring into private-jet territory. Almost all of them customize the upper level of the double-decker Airbus A380 — creating fully enclosed suites with excessively luxurious details.

The headliner of this category is Etihad’s The Residence, a product that is closer to a flying hotel room than an airline seat. The 125-square-foot, three-room suite features a private bathroom with a shower, a living room with a Poltrona Frau ottoman (using the same leather found in Ferraris) and a 32-inch flat screen, and a bedroom with a second TV and a real-life double bed. Travelers are pampered by an in-flight private chef and a Savoy-trained butler. Rest assured, your socks will be folded as you dream between the Egyptian cotton sheets.

Nicole Kidman serves as a global brand ambassador for the brand, but she says she flew Etihad “many times” before that deal was made. The actress has flown in The Residence and apparently she really likes it. “This is graphic, but I love how the bathrooms get cleaned every time someone uses it,” Kidman said at a 2015 Etihad event. “I’m sorry, but that’s important.”

Tyrese Gibson has also flown Etihad’s luxe first class and posted videos to Instagram in March 2015. “First class just went to another level, baby,” he wrote with one clip. “We got our own living room over here.”

The only U.S. route presently offered is JFK to Abu Dhabi. A round-trip ticket costs a mere $64,000, but on the bright side the price is the same for one or two passengers. The perks include a course of Abu Dhabi farm-raised caviar, a choice of Gosset or Pol Roger Champagne, an amenity bag made by UAE artisans containing an exclusive range of Acqua Di Parma product and free limousine service on both ends.

Here are five more super classy options for international flyers who aren’t afraid to throw down for the best.

Singapore Suites
Singapore Airlines offers A380s set up with fully enclosed suites and elegant sliding doors on flights from Los Angeles to Toyko and from New York to Frankfurt. The airline allows flyers to choose their meals in advance — there are more than 60 choices if you’re flying out of Singapore. Both Leo DiCaprio and Morgan Freeman have flown trans-Pacific in a Singapore Suite.
Details 23-inch screens; Dom Perignon and Krug Grande Cuvee Champagne; entirely different amenity bags for men and women from Ferragamo; seats that open to an 81"x35" bed.
Cost A round-trip from L.A. to Toyko on most dates in May cost $12,111.

Emirates First Class Suites
With extravagant gold accents and an onboard bar stocked with Dom, Emirates’ upper-deck product truly brings the bling. Schedule a shower (with a heated floor and Bulgari toiletries) and then eat your dinner on the airline’s exclusive Robert Welch cutlery. Eva Longoria has posted photos on her Facebook page showing her lounging in an Emirates Suite.
Details Free limo service on both ends (anywhere in UAE and within a 60-mile radius of JFK or LAX); 23-inch flat screen; seats that open to an 86"x23" bed; a caviar course; Dom Perignon Champagne; Bulgari amenity kits.
Cost A round-trip flight from L.A. to Dubai in May costs $30,840.

Cathay Pacific First Class Suites
There’s no door on these suites, but life is pretty good nonetheless. Flyers get a full tin of Calvisius caviar (served with a mother-of-pearl spoon) and can sip on Krug Grand Cuvee or Johnny Walker Blue — and after the overindulgence is complete, curl up in an organic cotton sleep suit made by luxe Hong Kong brand PYE (with matching slippers and eye mask).
Details A choice between Western and Cantonese cuisine; 17-inch flat screens; separate men’s and women’s amenity kits from Aesop; seats that open to an 81"x36" bed.
Cost A round-trip ticket from JFK to Hong Kong in May is $18,843. (From L.A., the price is $15,663.)

Asiana First Class Suite
After the sliding double doors are closed, stretch out on the 84"-long bed, eat a caviar course and then a Waygu steak or a multicourse gourmet Korean meal prepared by a private onboard chef. Each suite has a personal mini bar and a 32-inch flat screen. Frieda Pinto and Psy are among the entertainment folk who have been seen enjoying Asiana’s first-class suites between Seoul and L.A.
Details Champagne choices include Pol Roger Cuvee Churchill or Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millenaire; the amenity kit is made by Ferragamo; matching pajamas and slippers.
Cost A round-trip flight between L.A. and Seoul in May costs $10,867.

The German airlines sets the standard for European carriers, touting that it is the largest consumer of caviar on the planet, purchasing five percent of the world supply. Travelers get a complimentary limo ride on both sides as well as a lift in a Mercedes sedan from the terminal to the plane. The Champagne choices are numerous and in rotation. Courtney Love was spotted flying in Lufthansa’s A380 first class from Frankfurt to L.A. last fall (a travel blogger who was on the flight reported that she only drank tea and water).
Details Pajamas are provided; 17-inch screens; Braun Buffel amenity kit with La Praire toiletries; seats open to a 91"x31.5" bed.
Cost Lufthansa has a more extensive network of A380 flights than most carriers that service the U.S.; routes include LAX to Frankfurt and JFK to Munich. A round-trip flight from L.A. to Frankfurt on most days in May costs $10,977.