The Best Luxury Seats in the Sky and How to Fly Them
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While some travelers may argue that the best days of air travel are behind us, we at The Points Guy believe that we’re actually in a Golden Age of Travel. Sure, seats in economy may have never been smaller, but inflation-adjusted airfares have never been lower. Flights to both Hawaii and Europe are now regularly in the $300s and sometimes even cheaper.
But, one thing is for certain: Flying in the front cabin of the world’s best airlines has never been more luxurious. Travelers currently have a treasure trove of spectacular first class products to choose from, and naturally, The Points Guy himself has reviewed them all. Here’s our list of the best luxury seats in the sky, video tours and reviews from all of them and how you can book each one for yourself.
How could we not top the list with the only three-room suite available on a commercial airliner? Etihad’s The Residence debuted in late 2014, and The Points Guy made sure to book the very first flight out of New York’s Kennedy (JFK) on the new product. It made for quite the memorable Thanksgiving:
Booking: Booking this one isn’t going to come easy. TPG had to shell out $32,058 to purchase the first revenue flight from JFK. Currently, revenue fares from New York to Abu Dhabi (AUH) are relatively cheap at $27,230 one-way or $38,177 round-trip.
Points: Technically, you can book the product with points. But you can only redeem Etihad Guest Miles, and rates currently start at 3,022,222 miles one-way, plus $30 in taxes and fees. Etihad Guest is a 1:1 transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards (instant transfer), Citi ThankYou Points (7-day transfer) and Starwood Preferred Guest (8 days). You can also transfer miles to Etihad via Marriott’s Hotel + Air packages but Etihad Guest isn’t the best option available… and there are much better uses of your points.
Emirates has been known for having a top-notch first class product for years, but in late 2017, the Dubai-based airline stepped it up another notch with a brand new first class suite on its 777:
The downside is that only a few Emirates aircraft have the new product — and it’s going to be that way for a while. By the end of 2019, Emirates is only projected to have nine 777-300ERs with the incredible new suites, and Emirates A380 aircraft won’t start getting the new suites until at least 2021. Currently, the Mercedes Benz-inspired product is only reliably flying from Dubai (DXB) to Brussels (BRU), Geneva (GVA) and London’s Stansted (STN).
Booking: Flights between Dubai and Brussels/Geneva/London in the new first class suite aren’t cheap, though they’re nowhere near the price of Etihad’s Residence. Currently, the cheapest nonstop route is Brussels to Dubai, costing $3,902 one-way or $5,149 round-trip. But, as TPG Editor-at-Large Zach Honig shared, you can save thousands by booking a flight to or from a third city and connecting through Dubai.
Points: As far as we’ve been able to determine, Emirates has been blocking first class awards for its new 777 suite — perhaps to maintain its exclusivity. If awards eventually open up, you’ll hear about it here at TPG. In the meantime, here’s a briefer on how to book (other) Emirates first class awards.
The newest product on this list was just unveiled in November 2017 and started flying only days before the end of 2017. TPG checked it out for himself in February 2018 and was absolutely blown away:
With this product only debuting half a year ago, you can’t find it on many routes. So far, Singapore’s new Suites are flying from Singapore (SIN) to Sydney (SYD), Hong Kong (HKG) and London Heathrow (LHR). Starting August 1, you can also try out the new product on Singapore’s A380 flights to Shanghai (PVG) and Zurich (ZRH).
Booking: Considering how amazing of a product this is, you can book it for a relatively reasonable price. A one-way nonstop flight from Hong Kong (HKG) to Singapore (SIN) in the new suite starts at $2,113, and a round-trip is just $3,263 on the same route.
Points: The only way of booking Singapore first class awards is through Singapore’s own KrisFlyer program. The good news is that it’s not hard to collect these miles. KrisFlyer is a 1:1 transfer partner of every major mileage program: American Express Membership Rewards (under 24 hours), Chase Ultimate Rewards (same day transfer), Citi ThankYou Points (1 day transfer) and Starwood Preferred Guest (4 days). You can also transfer miles to KrisFlyer via Marriott’s Hotel + Air packages, but it’s a poor transfer option.
While Etihad’s Residence gets top honors on our list, there’s another cabin in the very same aircraft that also makes our list: Etihad’s Apartment.
Booking: Flying the Apartments isn’t going to come cheap. Currently, revenue fares from New York to Abu Dhabi (AUH) start at a pricey $15,887 one-way or $26,680 round-trip. Or, you can fly from London Heathrow (LHR) to Abu Dhabi (AUH) starting at just $5,837 round-trip. The very cheapest one-way fare we’re currently seeing is from Paris (CDG) to Abu Dhabi for $4,354.
Points: There are a number of choices for booking the Apartments, but the cheapest way of experiencing the product for yourself is by using American Airlines miles from Paris or London to Abu Dhabi for 62,500 miles one-way. However, AAdvantage is only a transfer partner of Starwood Preferred Guest (2 day transfer time). You can also transfer miles to AA via Marriott’s Hotel + Air packages.
If you’re looking to book a round-trip, use ANA miles. The round-trip from Paris/London to Abu Dhabi will cost just 120,000 miles round-trip. ANA is a 1:1 transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards (48 hours transfer time) and Starwood Preferred Guest (4 days). You can also transfer miles to Etihad via Marriott’s Hotel + Air packages, although ANA is one of the worst transfer packages. Note: Etihad award bookings using ANA miles are “paused” on some routes.
If you’re going to use miles from Etihad Guest itself, the program’s mileage calculator indicates that you’ll need a minimum of 136,249 miles to fly from New York to Abu Dhabi in first class:
However, that’s for saver award availability — which is hardly ever available. When we search for awards, we generally find that award rates currently start at 1,761,889 Etihad miles one-way, plus $30 in taxes and fees. Etihad Guest is a 1:1 transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards (instant transfer), Citi ThankYou Points (7 day transfer) and Starwood Preferred Guest (8 days). You can also transfer miles to Etihad via Marriott’s Hotel + Air packages, although Etihad Guest isn’t the best option available.
All of the top products so far have been in first class cabins, but now we get to the product dubbed “First in Business”: Qatar’s Qsuite. You’ll find the world’s best business class seat on some of the carrier’s 777-300ER, 777-200 and A350-900 aircraft, as well as all A350-1000 aircraft:
For the planes that don’t have Qsuite yet, Qatar has an aggressive retrofit schedule. The airline plans to have Qsuite on all long-haul aircraft except the 787 Dreamliner by the “middle-end” of 2019 (although that’s coming from Qatar’s CEO, who’s known to be a bit overly optimistic). For now, you can find the Qsuite on US routes from New York’s Kennedy, Washington DC (IAD), Houston (IAH) and Chicago (ORD).
Booking: With an ever-growing list of routes with the new product, the cheapest option changes often. For the US routes with Qsuite, the cheapest nonstop price we’re seeing is $6,085 one-way from New York’s Kennedy or $5,383 round-trip from Washington, DC to Doha.
Points: Qatar’s decision to code Qsuite as business class instead of first class is excellent for points and miles travelers, allowing us to fly one of the most luxurious products in the sky for business class rates.
The most relevant mileage program for US-based flyers — and one of the better options overall — is American Airlines AAdvantage. You can use 42,500 miles one-way from European gateways to Doha or beyond into the Middle East or Indian subcontinent. From the US to the Middle East/Indian subcontinent, an award will set you back a very reasonable 70,000 miles. AAdvantage is a 1:1 transfer partner of Starwood Preferred Guest (2 day transfer time), but you can also transfer miles to AA via Marriott’s Hotel + Air packages.
You can get even cheaper Qsuite awards using Japan Airlines’ Mileage Bank. While one-way awards are similar in pricing to AAdvantage (42,000 one-way to Europe and 63,000 one-way to the US East Coast), round-trip awards are significantly cheaper. For example, you can fly round-trip from London-Doha-London for 63,000 miles or New York City-Doha-NYC for 85,000 miles round-trip. Like AA, Japan’s Mileage Bank is a 1:1 transfer partner of only Starwood Preferred Guest (4 day transfer time). You can also transfer miles to Mileage Bank via Marriott’s Hotel + Air packages, although JAL is part of the worst transfer package option. Finally, keep in mind that JAL is raising prices on many of its premium cabin redemptions in November.
With international airlines dominating this list, only one US-based airline’s product made the cut for the most luxurious seats in the sky, and it’s Delta’s newest business class product called Delta One Suites.
Like Qatar, the Delta One Suites routes are ever-expanding. The easiest way of finding this seat is by looking for an Airbus A350-operated aircraft, as all Delta A350s have the new product. However, Delta is now starting to retrofit suites onto its 777-200 aircraft, with the first aircraft taking to the skies earlier this week.
You’ll find the new suite on at least the following routes: Detroit (DTW) to Tokyo’s Narita (NRT), Seoul (ICN), Beijing (PEK), Amsterdam (AMS) and Shanghai (PVG), along with Atlanta (ATL) to Seoul and Los Angeles (LAX) to Shanghai.
Booking: If you’re interested in checking out the new suite itself, the cheapest way — with cash or miles — is to catch one of Delta’s A350s on their periodic domestic positioning flights. International flights are going to be understandably more expensive. The cheapest nonstop option we can currently find is from Detroit to Amsterdam for $3,271 round-trip. But, we’ve seen one-stop deals to China in Delta One Suites for as cheap as $2,209 round-trip.
Points: Delta is quite proud of its new Delta One Suite, and it’s pricing its awards to reflect this. The SkyMiles cost ranges from high to astronomical for booking Delta One Suites on international flights.
Thankfully, SkyMiles aren’t the only way of booking Delta One Suites. Instead, consider using Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles. We’ve found solid availability in the past for Delta’s newest business class product from the US to Europe for just 50,000 miles and $5.60 in taxes one-way. Even better, Flying Club is a 1:1 transfer partner of every major mileage program: American Express Membership Rewards (instant transfer), Chase Ultimate Rewards (instant transfer), Citi ThankYou Points (instant transfer) and Starwood Preferred Guest (1 day). You can also transfer miles to Virgin Atlantic via Marriott’s Hotel + Air packages.
Featured image of Emirates 777 First Class Suite by Zach Honig / The Points Guy.
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