The future of luxury airline cabins


For anyone who hasn’t had the chance to ride first class with one of the world’s most luxurious airlines, the concept of having a pillow-topped bed, the option to take a shower, and your own widescreen TV might seem far-fetched (after all, tickets on some of these airlines can cost tens of thousands of dollars, sometimes even just for a one-way trip). Some of these tickets get you a cosy pod which still feels like you’re on a plane with other passengers; others get you what may as well be a private hotel room in the air.

As far as comforts go, a few airlines in particular stand out. The beds on Singapore Airlines’ Airbus A380 are probably more comfortable than whatever you’re sleeping on at home. Emirates offers first-class passengers full bathrooms complete with designer toiletries to keep people feeling fresh on long-haul flights. And if you want to go a step further in your airplane hygiene routine, Etihad Airways provides passengers with bathrobes. You can even opt for an “apartment” experience on this airline if you want a personal bathroom, armchair and bed. Clearly, if you want to forget you’re riding in a plane and have some extra money to spend, there are plenty of incredibly high-class travel options.

The one thing missing from the luxury airline experience is entertainment to match the rest of the atmosphere. Some companies have taken steps to address this demand by putting bars and lounges on board that passengers can access when the ride is free of turbulence. Emirates and Qatar Airways are especially well-known for their lounge options, which are usually open to both first and business class passengers. Korean Air has pretty unique bars on board some aircraft that are operated in partnership with Absolut vodka and serve aviation-themed cocktails in a simple white-and-blue hangout spot. As far as other sources of entertainment go, most airlines typically only offer the traditional screen-based entertainment: movies, TV shows, news broadcasts and sometimes games.

We think that there is huge potential for expanding entertainment options on these upscale long-haul flights. For one thing, it’s almost shocking that there aren’t yet high-profile in-air casinos (the way there are on cruises). Gambling sites based in Ireland and England have largely digitised this entire form of entertainment, which means that an airline could easily partner with an existing online casino to provide real-money gaming opportunities on board. Alternatively, one of the more high-end, luxury airlines could even establish a physical casino lounge, perhaps adjacent to a bar accessible to the first-class cabin.

We would also love to see some of these airlines embracing other, distinctly modern forms of entertainment. For example, we mentioned that games are occasionally offered to passengers – but what about virtual reality? If you’ve seen a VR arcade, you may have noticed that relatively little space is required, with gamers immersing themselves in virtual gaming experiences in cubes or kiosks about as small as some seating compartments on these airlines. A miniature ‘VRcade’ on an aircraft is perfectly feasible.

Overall, luxury airlines have already dedicated plenty of space to comfort and mingling among passengers, through both personal suites and shared lounges. So it is not unlikely that they will soon start to incorporate more robust entertainment options in the near future.

About the author

Rafa Mills worked for financial companies before deciding to leave the corporate realm and become a freelancer. He now takes on consultancy projects, as well as writing opportunities that cover economy, business and tech, while doing some serious travelling on the side.

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