When you’re planning your world travels, it’s difficult to know which first class cabin to grace with your presence. Who will serve you the best meal? Which airlines have seats that recline all the way to horizontal? And which admit the fewest first class passengers? Because when all those suckers shuffle past you, bound for sardine-land in coach, you want to look as exclusive as possible.
5 Singapore Airlines
For those who like to make every travel detail perfect, pre-order any of 60 dishes through Singapore Airline’s Book the Cook service. The eight first-class seats on their 777-300ERs and refitted 777-300s are a generous 35-inches wide and decked out in leather and mahogany. You’ll enjoy audio and video on demand through your noise-canceling headsets, then sleep on your horizontal bed, which comes with turn-down service.
4 Cathay Pacific Airways
On Boeing 747-400s, Cathay Pacific offers just nine first-class seats. On the 777-300ERs, you’ll find only six. Cathay Pacific won the 2013 World Airline Award for best cabin staff. You get lots of personal attention, including made-to-order Asian or international meals. Choose from hundreds of movies, TV shows and radio channels in 10 languages. On long flights, you’ll get swag bags full of top brand-name products to help you freshen up.
3 Qatar Airways
On Qatar Airways, first class fliers are served a 10-course meal featuring lobster, caviar and Arabic mezzas—platters of Middle Eastern delicacies, such as falafels, hummus and salads. Nibble on fine chocolates for dessert, and wash them down with champagne or fine wine while watching your personal TV. Qatar Airways won second place in the best airline category of the 2013 World Airline Awards.
The World Airline Awards—which Skytrax, a research firm, determines by surveying more than 18 million airline passengers—chose Emirates as the 2013 winner of best airline. Emirates also won for best in-flight entertainment. Its shiny new planes offer showers and an onboard lounge for socializing with other first-class passengers. Of course, if you crave privacy, you can retreat to your private suite, which is equipped with a wardrobe, mini-bar and vanity table. Here you’ll eat stir-fried lobster or glazed duck on fine china, then sleep on a fully reclining bed.
1 Etihad Airways
The World Travel Awards began choosing the world’s leading airline for first class in 1993. Since 2008, Etihad Airways has been the champ every year. The Middle Eastern airline recruits chefs from some of the world’s leading restaurants. Press a button, and your seat—all 6 feet, 8 inches of it—is flat. Want privacy? Your suite comes with a sliding door. Recline on your silk and cotton duvet, dressed in Etihad loungewear, and raid your personal minibar in peace.