The Tatler Guide to the Best First Class Suites and VIP Lounges in the World
The Best First Class Suites
Get the full royal treatment with three of the world’s best first-class experiences, where nothing is too much to ask for.
Singapore Airlines Suites
Singapore Airlines raised the bar once again when it launched its new A380 Suites. Practically mini hotel rooms, the SIA suites on the flagship Airbus A380 double-deckers come with a swivelling chair upholstered in full grain leather by Poltrona Frau, a massive 32-inch touchscreen monitor, as well as a separate full‑sized bed.
Travelling with a loved one? Not a problem. On the A380, the centre divider between two adjacent suites can be lifted, forming a luxurious double bed.
If you are departing from Singapore, the pampering experience begins as soon as you arrive at Changi Airport, where a porter will escort you from check-in all the way to the SIA Private Room—a lounge accessible only to first class passengers rather than status cardholders.
From there, and possibly throughout your journey, it will be a tough call between the 2004 Krug or the 2006 Dom Pérignon to pair with the airline’s exceptional in-flight menus. Better yet, take advantage of the Book the Chef programme, where you can choose a main course crafted by the airline’s acclaimed culinary panel consisting of top chefs from around the world.
Emirates First Class
Emirates’ new first class suites onboard its B777-300ER aircraft are the first in the industry to be fully enclosed, with sliding doors that extend all the way from the cathedral-like ceiling to the floor. Each suite features its own temperature control unit and you can request room service, as you would in a five-star hotel, via the video call function of your personal entertainment system.
It is also the first airline to have found a creative solution to the unpopular middle seats. On its new 777s, Emirates has installed virtual windows, and the view is exactly the same as through the real windows. Needless to say, Emirates’ onboard experience offers unparalleled luxury: passengers receive Bvlgari amenity kits and are served wild caviar and free-flowing Dom Pérignon, while the fully flat beds can be placed in a “zero-gravity” position inspired by Nasa technology, giving a feeling of relaxation and weightlessness.
Etihad Airways The Residence
Arguably the closest experience to a private jet in commercial aviation, Etihad’s A380 The Residence continues to set the benchmark in first class travel. The Residence is a three-room private suite that can accommodate up to two people. Upon entry, guests see the living room, which features a gorgeous sofa; it also has a separate bedroom and private bathroom with shower.
On the ground, trust the Etihad VIP Travel Concierge team to take care of everything—from booking the chauffeur-driven limousine to bringing you to your own private airport lounge. Passengers are encouraged to make special requests before departure. For instance, if you want a specific bottle of vintage whisky onboard or like a specific cologne waiting for you in your ensuite bathroom, just ask. The Residence is currently available to or from Abu Dhabi, London, New York, Sydney, Paris and Seoul.
(Related: 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Etihad Airways)
The Best First Class Lounges
From prestige wines to designer interiors, these airlines have upped the stakes in their relentless quest to provide the finest first class lounge experience.
Cathay Pacific lounge in Hong Kong International Airport
Designed by Studioilse, Cathay Pacific’s first class lounge in Hong Kong International Airport, The Pier, woos premium travellers with its elegant ambience. The entire space is decked out with natural materials, warm, cosy lighting and stellar runway views. Naturally, The Pier has its own fine dining, a la carte restaurant serving up local and international delights, a spa offering full-body and foot massages, and eight day-suites for those on longer transits.
Japan Airlines lounge in Narita Airport
Japan Airlines is welcoming guests to its new first class lounge at Narita Airport, which opened in mid-2019. Made for the gourmand in mind, it offers a variety of seating and dining options including a dedicated Tsurutei sushi bar, Afuri ramen on demand, and freshly baked breads from Maison Kayser. There’s also a medical massage chair and a shoeshine service in collaboration with British premium shoemaker John Lobb.
(Related: From Food By Michelin-Starred Chefs To Prestige Champagnes—Here’s How You’ll Dine On Japan Airlines' First And Business Class)
Qantas lounge in Changi Airport
In December, Qantas opened its newest first class lounge—a luxurious space spread over 10,000sqft at Singapore’s Changi Airport with a capacity for 240 first class passengers and top-tier frequent flyers. The interiors were spearheaded by Australian designer David Caon, in collaboration with Kelvin Ho of architecture and design firm Akin Atelier.
The lounge has a number of Singaporean influences, from design touches that reference the city’s shophouses and Peranakan details, to local food and drink offerings. An open kitchen serves the Rockpool a la carte seasonal menu featuring delicacies such as the signature tea‑smoked duck breast and crayfish laksa alongside perennial favourites such as chef Neil Perry’s salt and pepper squid.
(Related: Here’s Why Qantas First Class Is A Culinary Journey In The Sky)
Thai Airways lounge in Bangkok International Airport
Departing from Bangkok, the Thai Airways first class experience begins kerbside where a uniform- and glove-clad porter will escort you to the exclusive check-in area. After you sit down for formalities, an attendant will lead you through a premium class-only immigration zone to the airline’s fabled Royal First lounge and spa.
The lounge and spa are a class act of their own, offering complimentary, hour-long treatments. The Touch of Silk full-body oil massage remains a favourite among Thai frequent flyers; they can also take advantage of the steam, shower and slumber rooms. Food-wise, they have an exclusive, a la carte fine dining area serving traditional Thai and international cuisine.