Friday, November 09, 2007

Worth Flying First Class?

With flat-beds becoming ubiquitous in business class, I have wondered if flying first class is any longer significantly better. When I checked in at the Lufthansa counter in San Francisco recently to catch a flight to Frankfurt, I got a chance to evaluate for myself. Lufthansa had decided to bump me up to first class. So here are my observations:

On Lufthansa's 747 lang-haul aircraft, the first class cabin is in the upper deck. Pros: the first-class cabin is segregated from the rest of the cabins; people from elsewhere will not keep the toilets occupied! Cons: you have to climb the staircase to and from the upper deck with your luggage.

The seat seems luxurious and wide; however the new business class seats on Singapore Airlines and even Virgin are almost as good; I wouldn't pay extra for the seating comfort.

The entertainment system sucks. The TV screen is very small compared to the newer cabins in Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, etc. Actually, even Lufthansa's business class cabins seem to be equipped with better screens. On the positive side, the seats have ordinary 100V power outlets to connect a laptop without requiring special adapters. Also, plugging in your own Bose headphones is much easier done in these seats as compared to their Business Class.

What else? Let's see... you get a different (better quality?) amenity kit, pajamas to change into, and incrementally better selection of food and wine - I clearly remember the Beluga caviar on toast which never makes an appearance in Business class. :-)

Net-net: I wouldn't pay extra to upgrade from Business to First on Lufthansa. Also, Business class on Singapore's new aircraft offer as much as Lufthansa's First does today.

Singapore Airlines First Class Suite on the A380

BTW, many of you may have already heard about Singapore Airlines' new First Class Suites on their new A380. If you haven't, take a look here. I have also put a few pictures here. As you can see, everything is very tastefully done, and I particularly like their choice of colors.

Singapore Airlines First Class Suite on the A380

Other features: hand-stitched leather armchair, standalone bed (not converted from a seat), turn-down service, more privacy with sliding doors and window blinds, full-length wardrobe, Givenchy designed pajamas & tableware, and an entertainment system consisting of a 23 inch LCD screen, 100 movies, 700 music CDs, and 20 radio channels. Now that a reason to want to make some more money, right? :-)

Singapore Airlines First Class Suite on the A380

13 comments:

foodette said...

It is so expensive to fly first class, that sometimes I wonder if people have that much money, aren't they just chartering a private jet? My only first class experiences have been on domestic flights, where the only real difference is wider seats and good food. But, now, most American airlines don't have first class anymore.

Zhu said...

Never flew first class... to me, it just doesn't worth the money. THe price difference is so huge !

sank said...

That's awesome... I want to work for your company. Mine made me fly from Minneapolis to London in coach. Several times. The last time my team mate sat with me.. we took our seats, he looked at me smiled, swallowed a pill and didn't wake up until we were on final to Gatewick.

9 hours to myself again. A$$

Shantanu said...

@foodette: Exactly. Delta and Virgin only have Business Class and Coach. In fact, only Singapore Airlines (and some of the Airlines in the Gulf countries) seems to have a decent enough First Class which offers some differenciation over Business.

@zhu: This was the first time I did too; and only because they upgraded me. :-)

@sank: Haha! I have done that too. :-D

Hari Nair said...

As Richard Quest said in one his shows recently on CNN, you travel on first class not for luxury & not for comfort. You are paying for the inalienable right to be recognised as being able to pay. Which, since time immemorial, has been called 'Status'. If you need it, you pay for it. As Quest put it, 'punk rockers, movies stars and just the seriously rich' seem to want it. So First Class works well on sectors they frequent, for instance in and out of LA.

As for the rest of us, well, if you want to sit next to one of the above, it is probably a worthwhile investment. If you just want luxury & comfort, Business should do.

Sig said...

Oh man... that bed! I have never flown first class... just because I can't afford it... :( if I could, I would ... look at that bed!!!

Shantanu said...

@hari nair: I guess you are right. :-)

@sig: Like I said, another reason to want to make more money!

backpakker said...

need to look for a sponsor now :)

indicaspecies said...

I'd rather take a vacation twice, what with first class costing so much, unless of course the company wants to pay the air fare.

Shantanu said...

@backpakker: Good luck! :-)

@indicaspecies: Welcome to my blog. Yes, exactly.

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Anonymous said...

I've experienced first class on a Virgin plane and I believe you pay for a brilliant personal service. The crew are very attentive and get you any drinks etc you want for no extra cost. You also get comfortable seats which turn into flat beds making it easier to sleep on night time flights, and silver service (no plastic cutley that snaps). I felt refreshed upon reaching the UK from the US.
It is expensive but I enjoyed it and if you book early enough you can save a lot on the cost - we paid £300pp rather than £1400pp on the day.