When first class doesn’t cut it

I’m going to say straight up that my boys fly economy class. This might change one day, if my DH becomes a captain, but for now, when we all fly together, we’re stuffed into the back, usually by the toilets.

There are plenty of expat children ‘with benefits’ here who do fly business class, however. When I first heard that the offspring of pilots at my younger son’s school actually ask each other which class they’re flying, I was pretty shocked, but now it doesn’t surprise me.

I’ve seen enough photos on Facebook of little pipsqueaks sitting in extra-large chairs in front of super-big TV screens to know that the business class cabin, with its soft pillows, fluffy blankets and myriad of buttons, is an environment these children are well acquainted with.

Luxury travel has just been taken to a whole new stratospheric level in the Middle East, though. You might know already that, on my DH’s aircraft, a spa-like shower was launched six years ago in first class.

Since then, the world’s top-notch carriers have moved on from cooking gourmet food at 38,000 feet and increasing the thread counts of their bed linens, to making the entire journey less tiresome. From collecting passengers to driving them from one flight to another, chauffeur services mean some lucky travellers don’t have to schlepp through massive airport hubs, or even give getting to the airport on time a second thought.

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Dream on, Circles!

The next step up, for Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways, is to offer a boutique hotel – on board. Yes, branded as The Residence and located on the upper deck of the Airbus A380, the luxury living space includes a sitting room, separate double bedroom and ensuite shower, designed to accommodate two (very rich) people.

Breakfast in bed will surely be an added perk, as the suite comes with the services of a personal butler, trained at the Savoy Academy – oh, and a chef, too, for those times when the fine foods already stowed in the galley just don’t cut it.

The cost, in case you’re curious, for such outlandish luxury is a sky-high $20,000 ONE-WAY to London – clearly targeted at a select few who could afford a private jet anyway. (Why, oh why, I find myself wondering, did they not use the space to provide a crèche to give some relief to us sleep-deprived, wild-eyed mothers travelling with small children.)

One rung down on the luxury ladder are the First Apartments, which are private suites with a separate reclining lounge seat and full-length bed, along with a chilled mini-bar, vanity unit and wardrobe. There’s going to be nine of these, and two 125-square-foot ‘Residences’, on board.

And no upgrades to “residence class”!

It’s like Etihad has fired the latest salvo in the battle to attract premium air travellers in the Gulf. By making first class a small apartment rather than a chair, in-flight glamour suddenly gets a new meaning.

Your move, Emirates.

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