Travel

Make turn­ing left when you board a plane your business.

Friday - - Editor’s Letter -

Lengthy queues, wait­ing around in air­port lounges, and se­cu­rity searches that leave you won­der­ing why you both­ered to get dressed in the morn­ing – fly­ing th­ese days is a has­sle. And that’s just on the ground. Once in the air you’re some­times met with taste­less food, cramped seat­ing, and tiny lava­to­ries. And if you’re reg­u­larly tak­ing to the skies, added risk of deep-vein throm­bo­sis caused by sit­ting still in a re­stricted space for long pe­ri­ods of time.

The 1960s’ glam­orous age of travel is a dis­tant mem­ory – or is it? Cer­tain as­pects of fly­ing will al­ways be the same, but es­chew­ing econ­omy class to fly business is un­doubt­edly the best way of en­hanc­ing your travel ex­pe­ri­ence. The catch? Such lux­ury comes with a hefty price tag.

And the lim­its of such lux­ury is ex­pand­ing. Mi­ami-based busi­ness­man Gino Ber­tuc­cio was the first to check into the three-room suite on a dou­bledecker A380 flight from London Heathrow Air­port to Abu Dhabi in De­cem­ber. The Res­i­dence, which mea­sures 125 square feet, is an ul­tra­lux­u­ri­ous fully pri­vate suite that boasts a liv­ing room, bed­room with dou­ble bed and sep­a­rate en suite shower room, per­sonal van­ity unit and wardrobe. Did we add it comes with a per­sonal but­ler? Costs are from $20,000 (Dh80,000) one way for two peo­ple.

Still, even prior to the fi­nan­cial cri­sis, pun­dits were pre­dict­ing the death of business class. But data from avi­a­tion company OAG shows a sig­nif­i­cant rise in the num­ber of first-class seats in the air – up 34 per cent in 2014 glob­ally. In the Far East over­all num­bers have in­creased by 63 per cent in the past five years, while in the Mid­dle East Qatar Air­ways has seen the equiv­a­lent of a 132 per cent rise and Emi­rates business class a rise of 32 per cent.

Air­lines rely on business-class pas­sen­gers – it’s how they make their money – and so the pres­sure is on to be con­stantly up­grad­ing premier cab­ins. Ten years ago a lie-flat bed was a lux­ury, to­day peo­ple are look­ing for Egyp­tian cot­ton li­nen, show­ers and on-board chefs. Cab­ins should have night-time mood light­ing and menus should ri­val those in top restau­rants.

If you think business class is out of your league, you could be mis­taken. If you travel long-haul of­ten – even in econ­omy – sign up for loy­alty pro­grammes. Of course, com­mit­ting to just one air­line – or al­liance – is the best way to ac­crue the most miles, but they all have their ben­e­fits. So what do the top air­lines fly­ing from Dubai and Abu Dhabi of­fer in the line of luxe travel?

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