Living the high life takes on a whole new meaning if you can afford to dismiss first class and opt instead for your very own penthouse in the sky. So exclusive are these private suites that only a handful of commercial airlines offer them. And those which do are constantly endeavouring to come up with new levels of luxury.
Holly Willoughby coughed up £19,000 when she flew back to Britain from Australia after her stint presenting ITV’s I’m A Celebrity . . . Get Me Out Of Here!, snuggling down in Etihad Airways’s three-room suite, complete with a private bathroom.
This week, British Airways unveiled Club Suites, offering passengers in business class a sliding door for maximum privacy, an 18.5 in TV, vanity unit and 40 per cent more storage space. So here’s what can you expect at 35,000 ft if comfort is essential and money no object . . .
SINGAPORE AIRLINES: DOUBLE BEDS AND TOTAL PRIVACY
High flying: A Singapore Airlines double suite, which is sprinkled with rose petals at turn-down
This is ideal for couples because two suites can be linked to become one huge studio apartment, with a double bed (rose petals sprinkled at turn-down) and pair of reclining seats upholstered in premium leather by Texas-based Aeristo.
You’ll be on a giant Airbus A380 that softens turbulence, so not a drop of Krug will be spilt.
There’s a proper hanging cupboard and enough room for a yoga session before you slip into a pair of jim-jams courtesy of French luxury brand Lalique. One TV sits at the end of the bed, another on the wall. Bose noise-cancelling headphones come as standard. If you reserve your main course 24 hours before flying, you can pick a signature dish from a roster of celebrity chefs.
Return from London to Singapore, from £8,236, singaporeair.com
ETIHAD AIWAYS: A BUTLER TO TURN ON THE CHARM
Ultimate luxury: Etihad high-flyers can relax in a living room – a suitably glamorous area with gold cushions strewn over a leather-clad sofa
The bedroom is decorated with delicate fabrics and furnished with a natural fibre mattress and Egyptian cotton sheets
Holly Willoughby stayed in Etihad’s top-of-the-range penthouse, The Residence, the ‘only three-room suite on a commercial airline’. The big draw is the private bathroom with shower. Suites are designed for two people and come with a Savoy Hotel-trained butler.
The chef (normally with Michelin-star credentials) will discuss what flavours might be appropriate as you fly from one continent to the next.
Lanky travellers won’t get cold tootsies in the 6 ft 10 in beds and, rather than ordering drinks, you are given your own mini-bar standing near the 32 inch flat-screen TV. The bed has the finest Egyptian cotton bedsheets, obviously, and to help with a good night’s sleep there’s a menu of pillow mists and pulse-point oils.
While your bed is being made up, a flight attendant will leave a note on the pillow, often a quote from Dr Seuss, the American children’s author. A particular favourite is: ‘Oh the things you can find, if you don’t stay behind.’
Return from London to Sydney, from £16,550, etihad.com
JAPAN AIRLINES: HAUTE CUISINE AND PAMPERING
Not quite as big as other airborne suites, but the woodgrain finish and attentive crew will leave a lasting impression.
Offered on board the airline’s Boeing 777-300ER routes, the suites have 6 ft 6 in beds with custom-made Airweave mattress pads and pillows. The mattresses can be flipped; hard surface on one side, soft on the other, according to your preference.
Female passengers are given a face cleanser, toner and a moisturising sheet mask from Cle de Peau Beaute, while male guests receive Shiseido products that specialise in anti-ageing (the Japanese firm’s philosophy is ‘we love to find beauty and share it’).
Try a Kaiseki dinner (a traditional Japanese multi-course haute cuisine) and, before you know it, you’ll be met by a chauffeur to whisk you home.
Return from London to Tokyo, from £6,524, uk.jal.co.jp
EMIRATES: ZERO-GRAVITY SLEEP INSPIRED BY NASA
The Emirates first-class open bar, where currently the Chateau Cheval Blanc 2004 (High Street price: more than £300) is drinking well
Emirates has recently introduced Byredo ‘travel wellness’ kits in addition to the Bulgari range of lotions and potions
Stand by for first-class bling from the UAE’s biggest carrier. Beds can be moved to the centre of the suite and privacy doors reach from floor to ceiling.
There’s a shower that you share (the horror!) with other first-class passengers, and recently they have introduced Byredo ‘travel wellness’ kits in addition to the Bulgari range of lotions and potions.
The UAE’s rulers might take a dim view of alcohol, but there’s an impressive open bar. Currently, the Chateau Cheval Blanc 2004 (High Street price: more than £300) is drinking well.
Beds can be placed in a ‘zero-gravity’ position inspired by NASA technology to give a sense of weightlessness for better sleep. If your suite is in the middle aisle, you get ‘virtual windows’ that project the view from outside with real-time cameras.
Return from London to Melbourne, from £7,674, emirates.com
QANTAS: LONGEST BEDS IN THE SKY
You do not have a privacy door or a chef to personalise your meal, but you get high walls that wrap around the seat, loads of space and the longest beds in the sky — 6ft 11in when fully deployed.
As slumber approaches, a flight attendant readies the bed, with a foam mattress, sheepskin overlay and a ‘pillow menu’.
Press the Do Not Disturb button and off you drift. ‘Your space features an ottoman so you can host a companion inside your suite,’ says the airline.
Return from London to Sydney, from £7,709, qantas.com
QATAR: SANCTUARY WITH CHANDELIERS
Qatar may operate the Airbus A380, the world’s largest plane seating 525 passengers, but book a suite on the upper deck and you hardly need see another soul.
Drawers in the wardrobe contain slippers, pyjamas, and Armani and Dior washbags.
Tables fold out to accommodate two diners — or you can pop to the lounge and bar described as a ‘sanctuary in the sky’ and lit by huge chandeliers.
If you’re a family of four, ‘The Quad’ can be configured to create an open-plan living room before reverting to four private suites.
Return from London to Doha, from £5.095, qatarairways.com
AIR FRANCE: PARIS HOTEL STANDARDS
Your suite has soft leather, suede, wood and metallic finishes. The memory foam mattress (which uses your body heat to mould to your shape), fluffy duvet and bedside light are meant to make you think you’re in a Paris hotel.
There is no shower, but you get your own washroom and, after take-off, caviar is served off Bernardaud plates and wines in bevelled Christofle glasses.
The suites have floor-to-ceiling curtains, giving privacy with the help of a magnetic closing device.
Return from London to Los Angeles, with overnight in Paris outgoing, from £6,304, airfrance.co.uk
KOREAN AIR: DESIGNER PJS AND GLOBAL MENU
These penthouses are called Kosmo Suites 2.0 — offering a ‘five-star hotel at 40,000 ft’. Passengers can see out of the walls from inside, but no one can see in.
In-flight ‘comfort clothing’ has been designed by Gianfranco Ferre, the self-styled ‘architect of fashion’. When you wake up, the cabin lights brighten gradually to give your eyes time to adjust.
Return from London to Seoul, from £7,758, koreanair.com
BRITISH AIRWAYS: MINI BEDROOM SUITE
Each suite in the new business class cabin will feature an in-flight entertainment screen that is 18.5 inches wide
The new suites will boast privacy doors and a lie-flat bed with luxurious bedding provided by The White Company
This week, BA unveiled Club Suite seats for business class travellers, complete with mini sliding doors for privacy, to be introduced on the carrier’s new A350 aircraft in October — the first routes will be from London to Toronto and London to Dubai.
Perhaps the use of ‘suites’ is cheeky: the flat-bed seats, long enough for 6ft 6in passengers, are more like small, comfortable enclosed spaces.
But they are fitted out with 18.5 in TVs, wifi, vanity units with mirrors and White Company toiletries. There is also 40 per cent more storage than business class customers usually enjoy.
Return from London to Toronto, departing October 23 and returning October 31, from £1,783, ba.com
- Prices are for flights in mid-April unless otherwise stated.