Butler on board: Over-the-top amenities of airlines’ ultra first-class


This is how the 1% lives. Etihad Airways and Air France recently rolled out lavish on-board suites designed to lure high-rollers on long-haul flights who want to maximize comfort when they’re in the air.

Etihad, the airline of the United Arab Emirates, goes high luxe with what it says is the first three-room suite on a commercial airline. The Residence, as its called, covers 125 square feet and will be in the forward upper deck of the airline’s A380s.

In the living room, there’s a reclining leather sofa. There are also two dining tables, a mini-bar, shower, wardrobe for your clothes, a 32-inch flat-screen TV and a bedroom with a double bed. Amenities such as mood lighting, window shades and in-seat massage are controlled with the touch of a screen. Residence fliers have a butler, in uniform, at their service throughout the flight.


Etihad also redid its first-class section that it’s calling First Apartments on A380s and First Suites on B787s. Amenities on each vary, but A380s will include a sliding door, large seat with ottoman that turns into a bed, and access to a shower.

And there’s a handsome lobby with a leather sofa and bar for premium, first-class and business passengers.

Air France rolled out its own La Premiere cabin last week in Shanghai. (Though it’s called a “suite,” it’s still just a single-unit area.)

The airline plans to equip 19 of its B777s with new leather-and-tweed first-class seats starting in September. It’s an attempt to lure long-haul passengers, particularly those traveling to and from Asia.

The seats have storage areas, a table and ottoman-type seating, a closet and 24-inch high-definition TV.

In La Premiere, armrests retract and the seat folds flat to a bed 6 1/2 feet long with a bed-side lamp too. Crew members provide the comfort with a mattress, pillow and duvet.