First class gets a 'suite' makeover

With new private suites, turn down service and noise canceling headphones, getting a good night's sleep has never been easier. But counting sheep doesn't come cheap.

By Jessica Dickler, staff writer

NEW YORK ( -- As more airlines upgrade their first class offerings with soft sheets, big beds and a lot more privacy, the jet set may just be tempted to fly commercial.

On Thursday, Singapore Airlines unveiled its new first-class suites on flights from Singapore to Sydney. The top-of-the-line accommodations on the airline's new Airbus 380 superjumbo jet take flying to a whole new level.

Each of the 12 suites on Singapore Airlines has a chaise lounge so guests can curl up and watch TV.
Couples can get cozy in double beds with high-end linens by Givenchy.
A work space doubles as a dining table for two in first class on Jet Airways. Here, Dom Perignon is a popular drink at dinner.

As more high-net worth travelers take on fractional jet ownership or even splurge on their own Gulfstreams, this is the latest attempts on by commercial carriers to lure big spenders back with luxurious perks like Beluga caviar and Dom Perignon.

And Singapore Airlines has spared no expense.

Each of the 12 roomy suites in the front of the plane has a chaise lounge so guests can curl up and watch one of 100 movies on their 23-inch widescreen LCD TV, or listen to a selection of CDs with accompanying Bose headsets.

And gone are the days of pushing the seat back when you want a snooze. There's a standalone full-sized bed that folds down, with a plush mattress and a Givenchy-designed duvet.

The suites in the center row have double beds roomy enough for two. The amenities kit furnished by Salvatore Ferragamo features his latest fragrance to create a little atmosphere.

Of course if you're more focused on business than pleasure, the television also comes with a keyboard and a suite of office applications so passengers can plug a thumb-drive into the USB port and get to work.

"It's a class beyond first," according to a spokesman for the company -- with a price tag to match. A roundtrip ticket from Singapore to Sydney on the A380 will set you back $7,350 (including tax) -- a 15 percent premium over the standard first class fare of $6,400.

While Singapore Airlines may be breaking ground with a new level of luxury, it's not the first airline to upgrade its first class offerings.

"First class is getting ever more plush, ever more private, ever more luxurious," according to Peter Frank, editor in chief of

Indian carrier Jet Airways also recently unveiled eight private suites aboard its Boeing 777-300ER. As part of the airline's $3.7 billion expansion, Jet Airways has added service between Mumbai and New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco. But a first-class round-trip ticket from Newark to the Indian city is $10,080.

Ten grand gets you a suite separated from the main cabin by sliding double doors with mood lighting, a whopping 7-foot long bed, a 23" flatscreen TV, storage closets and work table that doubles as a dining table a deux.

When hunger strikes, the fare includes both Indian and international meals -- all served on hand painted porcelain -- coupled with top-of-the-line wines and vintage champagnes. Not to mention an extensive assortment of Single Malt Whiskeys poured into crystal cocktail glasses.

On the new Emirates A340-500, there are 12 first-class cabins fit for a king, outfitted in leather and walnut with gold accents.

Beyond their rooms, passengers have plenty of space to move about the cabin (thanks in part to a lack of overhead storage bins), hit the communal bar and mingle with the other royal guests if they're feeling social.

If not, the suites are equipped with a personal mini-bar and meals or movies can be ordered on demand from a hand-held remote. The plush leather seat reclines to become a fully-flat bed at the press of a button. There are also buttons to close the doors to your suite and illuminate a 'do not disturb' sign. Once safe and sealed inside, the walls are even insulated to reduce noise.

But at over $10,000 a ticket, few will actually get to enjoy the perks of this new level of first.

"The front of the cabin will get fancier, plusher and frillier while the back of the bus will remain the back of the bus," Frank said.

For the rest us, sequestered in economy with a bag of pretzels and a coke, dozing off for the duration of the flight may remain just a dream.  Top of page