The state of flying in the early 21st century can seem bleak, particularly if most of your air travel occurs on U.S. airlines, particularly in economy class. While airlines like United, American and Delta are little more than city buses in the sky, however, a previously unseen level of luxury is available in other parts of the world – primarily the Middle East.
Naturally, you get way you pay for, so flying in opulence like the type I'm about to describe isn't going to come cheap. But even if you haven't got tens of thousands of dollars to drop on your next plane ticket, make sure and cite one of these examples the next time you hear someone complaining about what a drag flying has become.
01 of 04
The Residence, Etihad
When Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways named their newest first-class product – their third, and most luxurious – "The Residence," they weren't kidding. Available exclusively aboard the Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner, The Residence includes a separate living room, bedroom and ensuite bathroom. Oh, and your own trained butler and private inflight chef.
The price tag? It obviously varies by flight, but you can expect to pay no less than $20,000 one way to fly in Etihad's Residence, or about as much as you'd pay for a similarly-sized apartment most anywhere in the world.
02 of 04
Singapore Airlines Suites, Singapore Airlines
Prior to Etihad's 2014 unveiling of The Residence, Singapore Airlines' eponymous Suite was probably the most luxurious way to fly. Featuring doors that seal your compartment off totally, and a ground-quality bed (as oppose to one that simply converts from a seat, as is the case in most of the world's first-class cabins), the Singapore Airlines Suite is still an incredible flying experience, to say nothing about the airline's legendary hospitality and service.
Interesting, pricing out sample fares for the Singapore Airlines Suite showed pricing similar to Etihad's Residence. Sorry SIA, but I know which one I'd choose if I were that rich!
03 of 04
First Class Private Suite, Emirates
Emirates and Etihad are always trying to one-up one another, both being airlines from the United Arab Emirates, and while Etihad's Residence is in a totally different class from Emirates' First Class Private Suite, the latter is a decidedly enviable way to fly. Indeed, Emirates made a huge splash when it announced this product in 2013: It featured, at the time, the only shower in the (commercial) sky.
Booking a First Class Suite on Emirates also grants you access to the A380 Sky Bar and lounge, which allows you to mingle with some of the most interesting people in the world. Or, if you're feeling more private – and if you're paying upwards of $10,000 grand for a plane ticket, you might be – enjoy the minibar right inside your suite, which is stocked with the finest liquors, wines (and of course, champagnes) in the world.
04 of 04
The 747-800 You'll Never Fly
If you thought Etihad's Residence was going to be the most luxurious first class on this list, then you were right, sort of. The plane I'm about to describe to you doesn't have classes of service, since it belongs to a single individual.
Indeed, the mysterious 747-800, which was recently featured on Business Insider, belongs to someone so rich he was able to outfit it in a way that's nicer than most homes. From the meeting room, to the bedroom, to the living room, to the lounge, the only thing this extremely luxurious plane is missing is a swimming pool.
Oh, and me! And I guess you, since you were kind enough to read this far. Can you think of any other show-stopping first-class cabins?