With travel looking a little different this year and for the near future, airlines are making changes to cleaning, seating procedures and more. Many airlines ensure social distancing during each step of the flight process while also reducing food and beverage service on flights and requiring all crew and passengers to wear a mask. All of these changes will help prevent the spread of COVID-19, but, pre-pandemic, airlines around the world made some big changes to their first and business class cabins.
Airlines constantly evolve and change to be the best and attract more customers. The industry frequently finds ways to keep up with the demands and needs of travelers. With the rise of budget airlines, competitors roll out attractive fares, new routes and big enhancements to premium class cabins — all competing to be the best.
Although frequent travelers naturally have loyalty toward a certain airline, they also know while first- and business-class accommodations are all premium, some differences among the airlines put some above others.
Each year Global Traveler honors the best overall airlines, as well as the best premium-class services, in the GT Tested Reader Survey awards to help travelers get an idea of which airlines stand out to our readers. In addition, Skytrax, a U.K.-based consultancy organization that runs airline ranking and review sites, releases a ranking system of the World’s Best First-Class Airlines, a great tool to keep in mind while looking to book the perfect flight.
American Airlines is introducing more dining options for passengers traveling in first class on most domestic flights and select shorter-haul international flights of more than 900 miles or more than 2.5 hours. Meals will be individually packaged and served with silverware. For morning flights departing 5–9:45 a.m., passengers have a choice of a continental breakfast box or a turkey and Swiss croissant. On eligible flights departing 9:46 a.m.–9 p.m., first-class passengers can choose from the fruit and cheese tray or a turkey and Havarti sandwich.
Attendants will serve all drinks, including alcohol, by request only and offer complimentary fresh snacks in addition to the snack bag passengers receive upon boarding. With these new changes in place, American Airlines will continue to listen to feedback from customers and work closely with flight attendants and catering partners to meet demands for in-flight food and beverage services in this ever-changing landscape.
Along with dining changes, American Airlines takes comfort to the next level with Flagship First, only available on Boeing 777-300 aircraft, and Flagship Business. These cabins give passengers access to the most comfort and exclusive, personalized amenities and services on transcontinental and international flights between the United States, Asia, Europe, Australia and South America.
American isn’t the only airline making changes to keep up with demand; earlier this year Delta Air Lines introduced new domestic first- class seats for its Airbus A321neo fleet. The new Airbus is set to arrive late this year. The seats, designed with passengers’ comfort and experience in mind, include a new headrest that allows more privacy and better sleep without compromising seat space. Power outlets and memory foam cushions provide convenience and added comfort.
“As an industry leader in innovation, we are always looking for new ways to improve the overall customer experience,” said Mauricio Parise, managing director of product development, Delta. “Customer insights were instrumental to the new design, and we spent hundreds of hours listening to customers so that we could respond with thoughtful improvements. We’ve completely customized every feature on the seat to create a truly unique, premium seating product for domestic first class.”
Speaking of new, British Airways recently unveiled its highly anticipated business- class seat. The airline’s newly branded Club Suite offers direct access to the aisle, more privacy and luxurious flat-bed seats in a 1-2-1 configuration. Amenities include an in-flight entertainment screen, more storage, a vanity unit with a mirror, WiFi and more.
Club Suite is now available on select Dubai (DXB) and Toronto (YYZ) services on the Airbus A350 aircraft and select New York ( JFK) services on the Boeing 777 aircraft, as well as select Tel Aviv (TLV) and Bangalore (BLR) flights and across the London Heathrow (LHR) long-haul fleet. Travelers flying in the Club Suite enjoy faster check-in and boarding, room for extra bags, a space to relax before the flight and delicious cuisine.
All airlines constantly redesign first and business class cabins with customer comfort in mind. Travelers flying business class on Turkish Airlines experience top-notch comfort with a fully lie-flat bed; a seat control panel; an in-chair massage feature; and an amenity kit filled with an eye mask, earplugs and socks, perfect for rest during the flight.
It also seems more and more airlines enhance the onboard dining experience. Many carriers hire chefs to redesign their menus to cater to passenger needs and tastes. Turkish Airlines introduced Turkish dining into its business class cabins; depending on the flight and destination, passengers can choose dishes like shish kebap, karniyarik, manti and other traditional Turkish menu items. The in-flight dining on Turkish Airlines is a big reason passengers come back for more.
United takes comfort to the next level on international flights with United Polaris business class. The custom-designed United Polaris seat is perfect for passengers who want to sleep, work or relax throughout the flight; the seat features one-touch adjustability that lets you choose the perfect position and offers cabin lighting controls at your shoulder in case you need more or less light.
Not only does Air France keep passenger comfort in mind, it mainly focuses on the overall experience. From the moment you pull up to the airport to the second you step off the plane, Air France is at your service. Guests flying La Première from Paris can access a private driver, private check-in, priority boarding and more, while on the flight passengers can enjoy their own private suite/living space, personalized service and great entertainment.
Fiji Airways does not focus on in-flight dining but instead pre-flight, on-the-ground dining. Business-class guests will enjoy a hearty breakfast and dinner in the airline’s flagship Fiji Airways Premier Lounge before hopping on their mid-morning or late-evening flight. These meals include coffee, made-to-order breakfast items, a full bakery and a selection of fresh fruit juices. Passengers with a later flight enjoy hot meals designed by Fiji Airways’ executive in-house and guest chefs and can sip on delicious signature cocktails and mocktails at the full-service bar.
Fiji Airways hopes offering before-flight meals will take the pressure off feeling the need to eat in the air. If passengers still want an onboard dining experience, select flights offer full-course meals.
With technology constantly evolving and as demands from customers change, airlines will continue to bring new experiences and luxuries to their premium cabins. Given the new travel procedures and social distancing rules brought on by COVID-19, we may start to see airlines focusing on providing an even more private passenger experience; we can’t wait to see what comes in the future.
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