You may have heard from a seasoned traveler that “air travel just isn’t what it used to be.” Gone are the days of glamorously dressed flight attendants, greeting passengers with mimosas and fabulous gourmet edibles. The truth is, you can still travel in style if you know where to look.
Over the past several years, the airline industry has gone to considerable effort to reinstitute a new golden age of travel, particularly for business class and first class fliers. Some of these perks include not only extra leg room but some really fun stuff like onboard showers, car service to the aircraft, designer linens and even celebrity chef menus (which is light years ahead from the mundane “snack boxes” often encountered on standard flights).
Let’s face it, one of the most important issues while flying is comfort. Singapore Airlines spares no expense to make their passengers comfortable, and boasts some of the widest seats available on an aircraft, but that’s just the half of it. Private suites are available with leather and wood amenities, and your own 23-inch wide LCD screen for watching movies. They also offer fold down beds that are ensconced in Givenchy linens, and turn down service.
Virgin Atlantic also offers fold out beds to its customers, and if you forgot your pajamas, don’t despair. They offer complimentary sleepwear (I actually own a pair myself and boy howdy are they comfortable).
Of course if you just can’t get to sleep without a shower before retiring, Emirates Air fits the bill. First class tickets allow passengers to take an in-flight shower by appointment. This isn’t a cramped, inelegant experience either. Their showers are complete with personal spa toiletry bags, teak woodwork throughout and a rain forest spa showerhead. Oh, and fluffy white towels for when you are done.
They say that half of the fun is getting there, and your journey begins in the airport lounge. Airlines have gone above and beyond when it comes to their lounges. Singapore Airline’s SilverKris Club House at the Changi Airport for instance boasts a nail and hair salon, and if you have an extended lay over, you can book a massage.
At Heathrow and JFK, the Virgin Atlantic lounge is like going to a nightclub rather than killing time at an airport. Admission into the clubhouse is free with the purchase of an “upper class” ticket. Their facilities include pool tables, an entertainment room, and even a romantic viewing deck that will make you wish your layover was longer.
Airlines are finally getting the message that man survives on more than peanuts and cheap wine. Malaysia Airlines boast a “chef on call” program where you can order caviar and lobster on certain flights. Beware, however, that you must order these items 24 hours in advance.
Virgin Atlantic has some fun touches with regard to dining, like their new grazing menu. There are cheese, dessert and afternoon tea trolleys that meander down the aisles during the flight.
If you would rather have the total convenience of your own mini-fridge, check out Etihad Airways, which provides a personal mini bar to its Diamond First Class passengers.
While experiencing some of this perks can be costly, a surprising number of special benefits can be experienced for a small fee, depending on the airline. Today air travel can be fun and elegant if you know where to look!