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The best luxury suites in the sky and how to fly them

May 20, 2020
25 min read
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Aside from some unfortunate exceptions, just about every long-haul aircraft offers lie-flat seats in business class. Sure, privacy and amenities vary significantly, but, for the most part, you'll have a decent shot at getting a full night's sleep.

For many travelers, though, premium-cabin travel is about the experience — they wouldn't dream of wasting a business or first-class flight by sleeping the miles away. And, for those travelers after something special, a handful of airlines now offer a product that makes for a truly once-in-a-lifetime flight.

A flight in Emirates' latest suite makes for an experience that's hard to beat. (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

Now that we've had a chance to try them all on for size, we're rounding up the very best luxury seats and suites in the skies. I'll be including cash and award rates for both, and, since these products are worth traveling out of your way to reach, I'll even break down the "hourly rate," giving you a sense of which routes offer the most bang for your buck.

So buckle up, and get ready to build your balance of points and miles — in many cases, these products really are within reach.

1. Etihad: The Residence

Etihad's flagship product is a true three-room suite, with a living room (main seating area), bedroom (with a real bed!) and a private shower-equipped lavatory. TPG has had an opportunity to travel in The Residence twice — most recently, during an "All-Class Takeover" of Etihad's A380, from New York-JFK to Abu Dhabi (AUH).

Booking with cash

It should come as no surprise that the most exclusive airline experience in the world comes at a price. While fares for many products fluctuate from day to day, the rate for Etihad's Residence is fixed, with the lowest fare priced at $11,500, for a one-way flight from Paris (CDG) to Abu Dhabi (AUH). There is a (small) silver lining here, though — since The Residence is designed for up to two guests, you can add a second passenger at a significantly reduced rate.

To Abu Dhabi

OriginDestinationCostFlight timeHourly rate
LondonAbu Dhabi$11,6507:00$1,660
New YorkAbu Dhabi$27,45012:40$2,170
ParisAbu Dhabi$11,5006:45$1,700
SydneyAbu Dhabi$18,70014:50$1,290

From Abu Dhabi

OriginDestinationCostFlight timeHourly rate
Abu DhabiLondon$19,8008:05$2,450
Abu DhabiNew York$24,65013:40$1,800
Abu DhabiParis$16,5507:40$2,160
Abu DhabiSydney$19,45013:55$1,400

In some cases, you can save a considerable amount on each leg by booking a round-trip. The lowest fare is available from Paris to Abu Dhabi, at just over $16,000 round-trip.

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Redeeming miles

First, the good news — it is indeed possible to book The Residence using miles. Unfortunately, however, it can only be booked through the Etihad Guest program, and at astronomical rates. Here's how the pricing breaks down for a one-way flight, including an extra column outlining your redemption value per mile — which, unfortunately, isn't great.

The Residence offers a true three-room onboard suite. (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

To Abu Dhabi

OriginDestinationMilesFlight timeHourly ratePer-mile value (cents)
LondonAbu Dhabi1,244,8427:00177,8350.93
New YorkAbu Dhabi3,022,22212:40238,7220.91
ParisAbu Dhabi1,244,2846:45184,3380.92
SydneyAbu Dhabi2,056,14814:50138,6170.91

From Abu Dhabi

OriginDestinationMilesFlight timeHourly ratePer-mile value (cents)
Abu DhabiLondon2,197,8228:05271,8960.90
Abu DhabiNew York2,734,42213:40200,0800.90
Abu DhabiParis1,833,9387:40239,2090.90
Abu DhabiSydney2,156,98713:55154,9930.90

As you can see, you'll be getting less than a cent in value for each Etihad Guest point, when booking each direction individually — among the lowest redemption rates you'll encounter for an award flight. Unlike with most award bookings, you can often find much lower rates for each direction of travel when booking a round-trip award, since redemption rates appear to be tied to the cash fare. The lowest round-trip rate is available between Paris and Abu Dhabi, at 1,742,478 miles — "just" 871,239 each way, compared with the 1,244,284 you'll pay for a single leg.

If you insist on redeeming miles for your trip, you do have a few options. Etihad Guest is a 1:1 transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards (instant transfer) and Citi ThankYou Points (7-day transfer), and a 2:1.5 transfer partner of Capital One (24 hours) — just know that there are far better uses for your hard-earned points.

2. Emirates: 777 First Class Suite

Dubai-based Emirates operates an exclusively wide-body fleet, and many of the carrier's aircraft offer some variation of its flagship suite. As a result, you can score a first-class experience on some extraordinarily short flights — some last mere minutes, but, even there, the chance to fly up front doesn't come cheap.

The latest experience, meanwhile, is only available on a very small number of the carrier's Boeing 777-300ERs — while elusive, the carrier's "Game Changer" is worth the effort to seek out.

The new @Emirates first-class suite, in 360 degrees. #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Unfortunately, the new suite is only available on a grand total of nine aircraft, and that's unlikely to change anytime soon. Eventually, the six-suite cabin is expected to make its way to regular flights to the U.S., but that almost certainly won't be until Emirates takes delivery of several of its upcoming 777X aircraft, and, with delays at Boeing and now a drop in demand following the coronavirus pandemic, it's unclear when that may happen.

In the meantime, customers can most often find the new suite on a handful of routes from Dubai (DXB), with destinations including twice daily to Brussels (BRU), Geneva (GVA) and London's Stansted (STN), and once a day to Frankfurt (FRA), Tokyo (HND) and Vienna (VIE). You might also find the new cabin on occasional U.S. flights, to destinations like Chicago (ORD), Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) and Seattle (SEA), and even on short-haul flights to regional airports, like Kuwait (KWI), but substitutions are possible, so getting the new plane on these routes is never a guarantee.

Booking with cash

While fares for a cash or award flight in the Etihad Residence are astronomical, Emirates' new suite is a bit more within reach. If you're after the absolute cheapest option, a $1,700 last-minute flight between Dubai and Kuwait could be worth considering — booked within 24 hours, you're less likely to have your six-suite 777 swapped for the more common (and far older) eight-suite version. Your best bet, though, is to book one of the routes below.

To Dubai

OriginDestinationCostFlight timeHourly rate

From Dubai

OriginDestinationCostFlight timeHourly rate

You might also consider beginning your travel in Colombo, Sri Lanka (CMB) — as I explain here, first-class fares from CMB to Dubai to Brussels, Frankfurt, Geneva, London or Vienna are typically far cheaper than a nonstop itinerary from Dubai to Europe. For example, while you'll pay $5,430 for a flight from Dubai to Geneva, the fare drops to $2,640 if you begin the trip in Colombo — a savings of just over 50%.

Redeeming miles

Emirates appears to be blocking most award availability for its latest first-class cabin, even on short-haul flights, like Dubai to Kuwait, though last-minute awards have become available up to two days before departure in the past. While you can't easily redeem miles for these flights in the traditional sense, you can make use of your transferrable points.

The simplest option is for Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders to redeem points through the Ultimate Rewards portal to book a paid flight — points are worth 1.5 cents apiece toward the cost of a revenue ticket at the cash rates outlined above. Alternatively, customers with The Business Platinum Card® from American Express can effectively redeem points at 1.54 cents apiece, thanks to the card's 35% rebate on premium-cabin airfare booked via Amex Pay With Points (up to 500,000 points per calendar year).

3. Singapore: New A380 Suite

While I have yet to travel as a passenger in Singapore's new A380 suite myself, I've had a chance to check it out during two separate flights — the delivery of Singapore's first A380 with the new product, from the Airbus factory in Toulouse, France (TLS) to Changi Airport (SIN), and again while photographing TPG founder and CEO Brian Kelly's review. It's one impressive suite for sure.

Singapore's new A380 suite has been flying around the world for roughly two and a half years, but unfortunately it has yet to travel to the U.S., where most of the carrier's routes — including the world's longest flight — are operated by the more fuel-efficient Airbus A350. The new suite could eventually make its way to Singapore's one-stop service between New York-JFK and Changi via Frankfurt (FRA), though the carrier has yet to confirm its plans there.

Booking with cash

For now, you'll need to go a bit out of your way to experience Singapore's new suite — the product flies daily between SIN and a number of airports in Asia, Europe and the South Pacific, with fares that vary significantly depending on distance and route.

Singapore's latest suite features a separate bed and seat. Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.

To Singapore

OriginDestinationCostFlight timeHourly rate
Hong KongSingapore$2,2004:00$550

From Singapore

OriginDestinationCostFlight timeHourly rate
SingaporeHong Kong$2,1504:00$540

*In the unique case of Zurich-Singapore, one-way flights are considerably more expensive, at $12,650, so I'm listing the full round-trip price.

Redeeming miles

While Etihad's Residence is priced astronomically, both when redeeming miles and paying cash, Singapore's new A380 suite offers far more value, with cash and redemption rates in line with what you'd expect for international first class — and, on some routes, even quite a bit lower.

Award tickets for Singapore Suites are typically only available through the airline's KrisFlyer program — with just six suites on each aircraft, Saver awards can be especially hard to find, though they are available from time to time. You'll typically find far better availability for Singapore's higher-priced "Advantage" awards, and in some cases you may be able to confirm an Advantage award while opting to "waitlist" a Saver segment, which will clear at the lower redemption amount if it becomes available before departure.

To Singapore

OriginDestinationMilesFlight timeHourly ratePer-mile value (cents)
Hong KongSingapore40,5004:0010,1255.43

From Singapore

OriginDestinationMilesFlight timeHourly ratePer-mile value (cents)
SingaporeHong Kong40,5004:0010,1255.30

Fortunately, it's easy to quickly build up a balance of eligible miles — KrisFlyer partners with all major transferrable-points programs, with a 1:1 transfer rate, including American Express Membership Rewards (miles arrive in less than 24 hours), Chase Ultimate Rewards (same-day) and Citi ThankYou Rewards (1 day). You can also transfer from Capital One, but at a far-less-appealing 2:1 rate.

4. Etihad: The Apartment

When I flew the Etihad Apartment, from Sydney to Abu Dhabi, I thought it was the best thing since sliced bread — for just 60,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles (back in 2015), I scored over 14 hours of flight time, with my own large chair, wall, door and a sofa that folds into a bed. Not to mention the fact that you can sleep next to a companion, hang out in a lounge and experience a shower in the sky. Pure bliss!

Since then, new Emirates and Singapore suites took the luxury equation through the roof, so here's where The Apartment lands, on the bottom half of this very prestigious list.

Booking with cash

Etihad operates The Apartment on the same routes as The Residence, since both products are only found on the superjumbo Airbus A380. Fares for the more common Apartment are far lower, though — in fact, you can typically book two Apartments for less than the cost of a single Residence ticket, which, in many cases, may actually make more sense, since you can lower the dividing wall and share space between two Apartments, instead.

And, since it's considerably more efficient to book the next three products on this list as part of a round-trip, I'll be including half the round-trip fare below, rather than the price of a one-way ticket.

Etihad Apartment customers can expect to find significant personal space and comfort. Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.

To Abu Dhabi

OriginDestinationCostFlight timeHourly rate
LondonAbu Dhabi$2,9507:00$420
New YorkAbu Dhabi$11,50012:40$910
ParisAbu Dhabi$2,3506:45$350
SydneyAbu Dhabi$4,95014:50$330

From Abu Dhabi

OriginDestinationCostFlight timeHourly rate
Abu DhabiLondon$3,7008:05$460
Abu DhabiNew York$4,60013:40$340
Abu DhabiParis$3,7007:40$480
Abu DhabiSydney$4,40013:55$320

Redeeming miles

Along with The Residence, Etihad's Apartment is the oldest premium-cabin on this list. Fortunately, it's also one of the most accessible, since you can routinely book award travel through a variety of programs.

As with The Residence, you can book The Apartment via the airline's own Etihad Guest program, but you'll find better redemption values elsewhere. Asiana Club offers some of the lowest rates, but the carrier specifically prohibits redemptions for Etihad's New York-JFK flight, the only A380 option to the United States. Flights between Europe and Abu Dhabi can be booked for just 40,000 miles — see our detailed booking guide for more.

One of the most common options for booking Etihad's Apartment is via American's AAdvantage program, though, with limited transfer partners, it might take a bit more effort to build up your balance, as detailed in our guide right here. Since this is likely to be the preferred redemption method for many TPG readers, I'll include redemption amounts via AAdvantage right here.

To Abu Dhabi

OriginDestinationMilesFlight timeHourly ratePer-mile value (cents)
LondonAbu Dhabi62,5007:008,9294.72
New YorkAbu Dhabi115,00012:409,07910.00
ParisAbu Dhabi62,5006:459,2593.76
SydneyAbu Dhabi100,00014:506,7424.95

From Abu Dhabi

OriginDestinationMilesFlight timeHourly ratePer-mile value (cents)
Abu DhabiLondon62,5008:057,7325.92
Abu DhabiNew York115,00013:408,4154.00
Abu DhabiParis62,5007:408,1525.92
Abu DhabiSydney100,00013:557,1864.40

Be sure to check out this post for more on how to earn AAdvantage miles, including credit cards, Marriott transfers and more. You'll also find similar redemption amounts through Air Canada's Aeroplan program, a transfer partner of American Express, Capital One and Marriott Bonvoy.

5. ANA: The Room

Last summer, Japanese carrier All Nippon Airways (ANA) introduced a brand-new business class called "The Room," offering private suites, complete with sliding doors. It's a trend we've seen roll out to some of the world's top carriers — including Qatar Airways, with its Qsuite business-class product — and a welcome improvement for ANA.

ANA's The Room is truly the business-class product to beat (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

In fact, ANA's The Room has unseated Qatar's Qsuite as the top business-class product on this very list — both are incredibly compelling offerings, but All Nippon comes out a hair ahead, thanks to superior catering and a much larger seat.

The Room is still hard to come by, though — currently, it's only available on a very small number of Boeing 777-300ERs. A quick glance at the seat map will help confirm your flight has the new product — it's the only 777 version with 64 business-class seats, with an ExpertFlyer map that looks exactly like this (ExpertFlyer is owned by the same parent company as TPG):

So far, ANA is offering The Room only on flights between Tokyo and Frankfurt (FRA), London (LHR) and New York (JFK). It'll likely roll out to more flights in the future, but for now, it's even hit and miss on those routes. Be sure to check the seat map carefully — if you see row 20 as the last row of business class, you've landed on the right flight.

Booking with cash

As with Etihad's Apartment, cash fares for The Room are far more reasonable when booking a round-trip ticket — generally, you'll even pay less for a round-trip than you will for a one-way flight, so you'll want to do some comparison shopping before you settle on a route. As a result, I'll list half of the round-trip fare below, rather than the price of a one-way ticket.

The Room amenities include a sliding door and a huge HD display (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

To Tokyo

OriginDestinationCostFlight timeHourly rate
New YorkTokyo$3,80014:15$270

From Tokyo

OriginDestinationCostFlight timeHourly rate
TokyoNew York$2,75012:30$220

Redeeming miles

Since ANA is a member of the Star Alliance, there are a huge variety of options available to book your award seat. When it comes to U.S.-based programs, you're limited to United MileagePlus, which recently removed its award charts for partner flights. As a result, it's no longer possible to share confirmed redemption amounts.

Other redemption options include ANA's own loyalty program, Mileage Club, which is a transfer partner of Amex Membership Rewards, with points taking roughly 48 hours to make their way to ANA. Additionally, ANA requires that awards be booked as a round-trip, which doesn't make that an ideal option here. If you are looking to book a round-trip, both ANA and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club are worth a look — the latter because it's an instant transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards.

In my opinion, your best option for one-way award tickets is Air Canada's Aeroplan program, an instant transfer partner of Amex Membership Rewards. Aeroplan allows customers to book most one-way awards online, and while the program does charge high surcharges with some carriers, they're usually not more than $150 each way with ANA. As a result, I'll be including Aeroplan redemption rates below.

To Tokyo

OriginDestinationMilesFlight timeHourly ratePer-mile value (cents)
New YorkTokyo75,00014:155,2635.01

From Tokyo

OriginDestinationMilesFlight timeHourly ratePer-mile value (cents)
TokyoNew York75,00012:306,0003.67

Note that your search may generate an error when searching certain routes through Aeroplan's website — as I experienced for flights between London (LHR) and Tokyo (HND) — in which case you may need to call to book your award.

6. Qatar: Qsuite

While it's landed a spot at the bottom of this especially prestigious list, Qatar's Qsuite remains one of the world's very best premium-cabin products — it's business class at business-class prices, but travelers can expect a level of service, privacy and personal space that exceeds first class on a number of international carriers.

Qatar Airways is quickly working to roll out Qsuite across its fleet — as of now, it's available on all Airbus A350-1000s and many A350-900s, along with a number of Boeing 777 planes. As a result, Qatar flies its best product to all of its U.S. destinations, including Atlanta (ATL), Boston (BOS), Chicago (ORD), Dallas (DFW), Houston (IAH), Los Angeles (LAX), Miami (MIA), New York (JFK), Philadelphia (PHL) and Washington, D.C. (IAD).

Qatar's Qsuite business class on the Airbus A350 (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

Booking with cash

Qsuite is now available on many Qatar Airways flights to destinations all around the world, but given how widely available it is within the United States, I'll be focusing exclusively on fares between the U.S. and Qatar's Doha hub here. As with Etihad's Apartment and ANA's The Room, Qsuite rates are considerably more reasonable when purchased as part of a round-trip, so I'll include half the round-trip fare here.

To Doha

OriginDestinationCostFlight timeHourly rate
Los AngelesDoha$4,05015:55$250
New YorkDoha$3,90012:15$320
Washington, D.C.Doha$4,20012:50$330

From Doha

OriginDestinationCostFlight timeHourly rate
DohaLos Angeles$3,30016:25$200
DohaNew York$3,00014:05$210
DohaWashington, D.C.$2,95014:35$200

Redeeming miles

As a member of the Oneworld alliance, Qatar Airways flights can be booked via all Oneworld members, including American Airlines in the U.S.

American's program, AAdvantage, prices awards based on region, so all flights between the United States and Doha require the same 70,000 miles for business class — you may be on the hook for additional miles if you're traveling beyond Doha or the U.S. See our guide to earning AAdvantage miles for more details on how to boost your account.

Qsuite passengers can expect to experience something truly special (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

To Doha

OriginDestinationMilesFlight timeHourly ratePer-mile value (cents)
Los AngelesDoha70,00015:554,3985.79
New YorkDoha70,00012:155,7145.57
Washington, D.C.Doha70,00012:505,4556.00

From Doha

OriginDestinationMilesFlight timeHourly ratePer-mile value (cents)
DohaLos Angeles70,00016:254,2644.71
DohaNew York70,00014:054,9704.29
DohaWashington, D.C.70,00014:354,8004.21

Some of the other more popular booking options include British Airways Executive Club, a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards and Capital One.

Both of those other Oneworld programs could be a reasonable option, depending on which regions you're traveling from and to — see our detailed Qsuite guide for a better idea of how else you might want to book your award flight.

Bottom line

Premium-cabin travelers can expect to find improved amenities, more space and a lie-flat seat, regardless of which airline they book. But, for certain trips, it can be exciting to experience something truly aspirational, and unique. If you're willing and able to put in a bit of extra work — and, perhaps, some more time in the air — the six products here make for an extra-special treat.

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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