What does it mean to fly in first class? Does this golden ticket mean you’ve made it in life or perhaps you’re still on the way up? Regardless, different people have varying expectations when it comes to living the high life. Some want to be plied with food and drink until reaching their destination, while others pay a premium for the comfort, privacy and quiet required to sleep all the way through.
Although no two airlines share the exact same premium cabin, there are qualities that can elevate an aeroplane seat from merely that – a seat – to a comfortable sleeping surface. Passenger feedback has led to airlines prioritising personal space, privacy and quality bedding in first class and that’s excellent news for those who have the money or miles to spend for a ticket in a luxury seat.
Here are 10 of the best first class seats for sleeping – with a fan of each explaining why frequent flyers love them.
Air France's La Premiere
The bedside lamp is dimmed, the remnants of your dinner – from a menu designed by Chef Daniel Boulud – have been cleared and there’s a fresh flute of champagne waiting as a nightcap while you sink back into crisp, white sheets and a fluffy duvet. Is this a luxury hotel room in Paris? No, this is 35,000ft above the ocean, but chic, Parisian hotel is the vibe Air France channels with the design of La Premiere, their first class cabin.
With a bed measuring 30in wide and six-and-a-half feet long when fully flat, it’s one of the largest sleeping surfaces available on a commercial aircraft. La Premiere is best enjoyed on the airline’s Boeing 777-300ER, with its intimate cabin of only four suites (versus nine on the Airbus A380) and floor-to-ceiling curtains with a magnetic closure that provide ultimate privacy for each individual seat.
A fan says: “I love the pillows and bedding – can’t forget the memory foam mattress pad – all by Sofitel, the luxury French hotel chain. The design of the suite is very sophisticated yet cosy.” Sam Chui, Dubai-based frequent flyer and vlogger of premium airline seat reviews. (samchui.com)
Worth it for: The ultra-private cabin of only four suites on the 777.
Best for: Gourmands and Francophiles.
Pad off to the lavatory to change into a complimentary sleep suit, designed by Hong Kong tailor PYE and return to your seat to find it turned down with 500-thread-count cotton duvets, pillows and cushions (and pralines for sweet dreams). Underneath the sheets, the first class seat itself is equipped with massage functions to aid with stress relief and relaxation.
A fan says: “It’s not one of the newer products out there, but Cathay Pacific’s first class provides a really reliable sleep. The seat is wide – they’ve arranged first class seats three-across rather than the standard four-across – and the bedding is comfortable. Crew stay out of the cabin while you sleep, coming only when called.” Gary Leff, travel expert and ViewFromTheWing blogger. (viewfromthewing.com)
Worth it for: Reliably excellent service.
Best for: Sideways sleepers and travellers who enjoy ample shoulder room
Etihad Airways A380
Hit the do not disturb button, slide the door to your suite closed and grab the pillow mist and pulse-point oil from your personal vanity of amenities before sliding into the 6ft 10in bed in the First Apartment suites onboard Etihad’s Airbus A380.
Hidden away and separate from the leather seat, the bed is folded out and prepared by a flight attendant while you’re down the aisle, having a shower. Yes, this is one of those planes with onboard shower suites and only a few feet away is The Residence, the singular three-room suite with a private bathroom and shower plus separate bedroom, that’s in a class of its own.
A mattress, duvet, cotton sheets and pillows and a richly plush throw blanket make up the first class bed’s sleeping surface, finished with a goodnight note placed on the pillow. The suites are so large that, despite being on a “superjumbo” aircraft, there is only one on each side of the aisle, making a total of nine. Couples travelling together can even lower a partition to partially join beds, though only from the waist up.
A fan says: “This has become the benchmark by which I measure all my flying experiences. Flying from Sydney to Abu Dhabi, the food menu looked so good that I told the onboard chef to ‘surprise me’. He responded by coming and chatting with me in my suite about what flavours I like and dislike and then he went off-menu and delivered a wholly personalised main course. Of course watching a movie while tucked into bed and falling asleep, fully comfortable, as the credits rolled, is another excellent memory.” Cynthia Drescher, aviation journalist.
Worth it for: A personalised experience and envy-inducing selfies.
Best for: Those who fantasise about private jets.
Singapore Airlines A380
Designed by French luxury yacht designer Jean-Jacques Coste, the original suites of Singapore Airlines’ highest cabin class ignited a frenzy for luxury, lay-flat beds on aircraft when they premiered on the airline’s Airbus A380 in 2007. Couples posing for selfies with Champagne (Krug or Dom Perignon, as both are served), tucked into their double beds (two suites, paired) at 38,000ft dropped jaws at a time when low-cost airlines were making headlines for slicing space.
A decade on, the suites still rank among the best beds in the sky. Sliding doors close to ensure privacy and the bed itself is a separate surface from the seat, eliminating lumps and bumps. As Singapore Airlines’ route map includes some of the longest flights in the world, the airline understands the importance of being able to enjoy quality rest while en route.
In November the airline unveiled an evolution of the suites and its amenities, nearly doubling personal space in each and introducing amenity kits by French luxury brand Lalique. This design, by yacht and private jet design studio Pierrejean, expands the separate bed and seat concept and more closely mirrors a luxury hotel room than a plane cabin.
A fan says: “I love Singapore’s Suites because, on the Airbus A380, it’s a proper bed and if you can get the double it’s beyond great. I think any time you can have a dedicated bed it’s better for sleep. I like firmer beds, which Singapore’s are, so it’s better for me than first class beds on other airlines.” Amol Koldhekar, frequent flyer and Travel Codex blogger. (travelcodex.com)
Worth it for: The devoted attentiveness of the cabin crew.
Best for: Couples travelling together on a celebratory trip.
The first class cabin on long-haul SWISS flights is a reserved affair, but what the seats lack in glitz they make up for in thoughtfulness. For example, the firmness of the seat is fully adjustable and privacy partitions extend to close off your suite from the aisle (and eyes of other passengers).
Even for restless passengers who simply cannot sleep on planes, the SWISS seat is excellent; there’s a 32in flat-screen in each of the eight suites, ideal for watching films while tucked in.
A fan says: “The seat, especially on the Boeing 777-300ER, is the perfect width and offers plenty of privacy without feeling claustrophobic. When reclined, the bed is long enough for both back and side sleepers to have abundant foot space. And beds are made up with pristine white linens that reflect the traditions of Swiss hospitality: a plush mattress pad, large pillows that are firm yet squishable and oversized duvets that are comfortingly heavy without being too warm.” Tiffany Funk, One Mile at a Time blogger. (onemileatatime.boardingarea.com)
Worth it for: The pristine and exacting service.
Best for: Business travellers relying on a solid sleep before a big day.
Japan Airlines’ JAL Suite
Nothing may be better than sleeping in your own bed, but at least Japan Airlines’ first class services make an attempt at bringing sweet home on board.
Offered on board their Boeing 777-300ER on routes between Tokyo and New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, London and Paris, the first-class suite beds measure six-and-a-half-feet long fully flat and are topped with custom-made Airweave pillows and mattress pads, the latter flipped to your personal preference of a soft or firm sleeping surface.
Turndown for female passengers is more than just a chocolate on the pillow; flight attendants deliver a gift of face cleanser, toner and a moisturising sheet mask from Cle de Peau Beaute, while male guests receive Shiseido products.
A fan says: “I would say the Japan Airlines first class sleep experience is among the best in the world. The flight attendants made up the bed shortly after I was finished with my meal and when I got back to my seat after changing into my pyjamas, it definitely looked and felt like climbing into a bed on the ground, not one 36,000ft in the air. I like the width and length of the bed and the mattress pad that provides both hard and soft comfort for passengers. The bedding and pillows were very comfortable and I enjoyed six hours of uninterrupted sleep on the way to Tokyo.” Alex Navitsky, New York-based frequent flyer and aviation writer.
Worth it for: The incredible, multi-course kaiseki meal and a comfortable seat-bed for sleeping it off.
Best for: Foodies and Japanophiles.
An early holiday present arrived for first class passengers flying on select Emirates Boeing 777-300ER routes when, in early December, the airline introduced a completely refreshed first class seat, complete with LED star lights in the carpeting and overhead panels, faux windows with live-streamed camera views for the otherwise windowless middle suites and privacy doors that reach from floor to ceiling. Although the seat and bed are one in the same for these suites, unlike Emirates’ competitors who have introduced separate bed-and-seat suites, a function does shift the seat to the centre of the suite when in lay-flat bed mode, giving the passenger more room on both sides for sleeping-in-any-position comfort.
A fan says: “For starters, it feels a bit awkward sleeping next to strangers, something any passenger can agree with. So having the fully closed doors gives a sense of comfort that definitely makes it more natural. The crew does a great job of actually making your bed from a seemingly endless supply of duvets and pillows. Plus you have your little personal mini bar so you can snack in between naps. The seat is really wide, the arm rests disappear and after enjoying the onboard shower, it feels oddly appropriate to just close your door, press the do not disturb button and zonk out.” Gilbert Ott, travel commentator and points and miles blogger at God Save The Points (godsavethepoints.com).
Worth it for: The bling factor.
Best for: Treat-yourself travellers.
The Qantas first class suite may not have a privacy door or a chef waiting in the wings to personalise your meal, but it does offer one of the longest beds in the sky, measuring 6ft 11in when fully deployed. When it’s time to sleep, a flight attendant turns down the suite with the addition of a foam mattress with a sheepskin overlay and cotton bedding. Activate the do not disturb button to ensure peace.
A fan says: “I’d say Qantas first class offers one of the best sleep experiences in the sky. While Qantas’s suites aren’t fully enclosed, they’re incredibly spacious and the bedding is excellent. They even recently introduced a pillow menu in first class, with three options to suit every preference.” Ben Schlappig, frequent first class flyer and blogger at One Mile at a Time (onemileatatime.boardingarea.com).
Worth it for: Making the long flight to or from Australia a treat.
Best for: Tall travellers.
Lufthansa’s highest cabin class boasts the usual luxuries of first, with a caviar service, multi-course meal, a small and quiet cabin and fully flat bed, but it’s the on-the-ground services which truly set it apart.
First class travellers are whisked to and from planes at select airports by private car transfer (yes, even on the tarmac) and at Frankfurt, this means a stop at the standalone terminal exclusively reserved for first class, where passengers are soothed with a range of ways to prepare for the deep, in-flight sleep ahead. These include dining at the terminal’s sit-down restaurant, relaxing in a soaking tub or finishing up pressing work in a private office.
A fan says: “My wife says flying in First on Lufthansa’s Boeing 747-400 was her best sleeping experience due to the separate bed. I would agree, as it wasn’t a confining space, which is important for me since I’m 6ft 5in.” James Merrill, Vancouver-based frequent flyer.
Worth it for: A seriously luxurious ground experience, with a private terminal and Porsche transfers straight to the plane for first class flyers.
Best for: European travellers who want to enjoy the layover as much as the flight.
Thai Airways Royal
By the time you reach your seat in first class on a long-haul Thai Airways flight, you’ll be relaxed and ready for a solid sleep. This is ensured by the airline’s dedicated first class lounge at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, where its Royal Orchid Spa exists to treat first class flyers to complimentary full-body treatments, including a Touch of Silk oil massage or a Thai massage.
Onboard, the 26in-wide seats may be spacious, but the cabin even includes a small lounge area that has just the right amount of space for passengers to indulge in some pre or post-sleep stretching.
A fan says: “I thoroughly enjoyed sleeping while flying Royal Thai First. It’s a comfortable seat that turns into a flat bed, with added privacy, all making for a comfortable ride. A sumptuous meal, rounded off with free-flowing Dom Perignon, certainly helped with the sleeping experience.” @starflyergold, Brussels-based frequent flyer.
Worth it for: The luxury touches at every turn.
Best for: Spa snobs.