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Favorites in First Class

The best routes and the best seats on every airline.

Currently 28 airlines offer first class in a three-cabin configuration, but not all first-class cabins on a given carrier are equal. Most airlines put their newest, most luxurious seats on high-yield routes. Installing a new cabin also leads to seat inequities because of the rollout: For example, it will take British Airways until the end of 2011 to complete its first-class upgrades across its entire fleet. Check before you book, because there’s no discount for flying last year’s cabin. To get the best seat, know the options. First off, the conventional recliner—basically an airborne Barcalounger that tilts back no more than 160 degrees—has been banished from elite cabins on long-haul flights. These days any carrier with true international first class has seats that convert to fully flat beds (now even found in some business class). A clutch of carriers has gone further, creating suites with walls that vary from hip- to head-height, and in some cases sliding doors. Make use of websites such as Skytrax’s FlatSeats.com and SeatGuru.com, which offer information, ratings, and reviews. Below, we’ve highlighted the best seats with approximate fares (they can fluctuate significantly) on major international routes.

Air France

Route: New York to Paris
Seat/Fare:
La Première flatbed on A380s / $15,500
Creature Comforts:
Wide seat, hypoallergenic feather pillow, merino wool blanket, loungewear, Clarins skin products

American Airlines

Route: Chicago to Delhi
Seat/Fare:
Flagship Suite on B777s / $9,400
Creature Comforts:
Swivel seat with headrest and lumbar controls, 6.5-foot bed, duvet, Burt’s Bees skin products

ANA

Route: New York to Tokyo
Seat/Fare:
First Square suite on B777-300ERs / $22,400
Creature Comforts:
Extra-wide seat, airweave mattress, wardrobe, 23-inch monitor

Asiana Airlines

Route: Los Angeles to Seoul
Seat/Fare:
Sleeper flatbed on B747-400s / $9,500
Creature Comforts:
Over-7-foot bed, down-filled bedding and duvet, Bulgari amenity kit

British Airways

Route: Chicago to London
Seat/Fare:
New First flatbed on B777-200s / starts at $7,700
Creature Comforts:
Quilted bedding, duvet, wardrobe, large window with electronic blinds, Dr. Harris skin products

Cathay Pacific

Route: Los Angeles to Hong Kong
Seat/Fare:
First-class suite on B777-300ERs / $15,400
Creature Comforts:
Extra-wide massage-function seat, 6.75-foot bed, large table for two, wardrobe, Shanghai Tang pajamas

Emirates (pictured top)

Route: Paris to Dubai
Seat/Fare:
First-class suite on A380s / starts at $6,000
Creature Comforts:
Sliding doors for privacy, 7.5-foot bed, duvet bedding, minibar, 23-inch monitor, showers, lounge/bar

Etihad Airways

Route: New York to Abu Dhabi
Seat/Fare:
First-class suite on A340s / starts at $13,000
Creature Comforts:
Sliding doors for privacy, Poltrona Frau seat upholstery, 6.75-foot bed, wardrobe, minibar, 23-inch monitor

Japan Airlines

Route: Chicago to Tokyo
Seat/Fare:
JAL Suite on B777-300ERs / starts at $14,100
Creature Comforts:
Wide seat, Tempur-Pedic bedding that molds to the body, 19-inch monitor, loungewear

Jet Airways

Route: London to Mumbai
Seat/Fare:
First-class suite on B777-300ERs / $5,800
Creature Comforts:
Sliding doors for privacy, wide seat, nearly-7-foot bed, wardrobe, large table for two, 23-inch monitor

Lufthansa

Route: Frankfurt to Beijing
Seat/Fare:
New flatbed on A380s / $13,500
Creature Comforts:
Humidified cabin, noise dampening, large bathrooms, wide seat, 7.5-foot bed, ergonomic bedding

Qantas

Route: Los Angeles to Melbourne
Seat/Fare:
First-class suite on A380s / starts at $20,000
Creature Comforts:
Nearly 7-foot bed with foam mattress and sheepskin overlay, table for two, leather guest stool

Singapore Airlines

Route: London to Singapore
Seat/Fare:
First-class suite on A380-800s / starts at $14,000
Creature Comforts:
Extra-wide seat, stand-alone bed, Givenchy bedding and pajamas, 23-inch monitor

SWISS

Route: San Francisco to Zurich
Seat/Fare:
SWISS First flatbed on A340s / $15,800
Creature Comforts:
Massage function seat, adjustable pneumatic air cushion, 23-inch monitor, La Prairie skin products

Thai Airways

Route: Madrid to Bangkok
Seat/Fare:
Royal First flatbed on B747-400s / $7,000
Creature Comforts:
6.75-foot bed, table for two, guest ottoman, in-seat telephone, pajamas, Evian natural mineral spray

Tip: If you’re flying domestically, no carrier offers enclosed suites, and only United Airlines has true horizontal flatbed seats, most notably in its Premium Service first class on flights between New York’s JFK and Los Angeles and San Francisco.