Back to Best of Class

Review of International First Class

Air New Zealand
Professional service and consistency, but poor cabin comfort:

  • 2x2 seating, with decent width, but seats do not fully recline, making for uncomfortable sleeping on long-haul flights. One of the poorer Int’l 1st class seats.

  • No face-to-face dining option

  • Food is generally good, with starters such as King Prawns and smoked salmon, but not as high-end as some carriers

  • Wines are good, with selection of Kiwi and some international reds and whites

  • Amenities kits are good with Evolu products; good wool blankets, no sleeper suits


American Airlines
AA’s trans-Atlantic and many South American flights offering Flagship service: 

  • Seating is all solo and converts to fully-horizontal beds with good comfort

  • Leather seating can be converted to offer face-to-face private dining for 2 (or even 4 on some planes)

  • First class being phased out on several long-haul routes (i.e. US to France)

  • Food and wines vary according to perceived competition on routes, but is generally quite a notch below other carriers. Wines are sub-premium throughout, and meals have been notably downscaled over the past year

  • Excellent Bose acoustic noise-canceling headsets provided with good variety of movies


Trans-Pacific to Japan
America’s largest carrier should be embarrassed with this service, which lags far behind almost every competitor (no Flagship service offered): 

  • 2x2x2 seating means up to 18 passengers where most carriers accommodate only 12

  • Leather seating reclines to fully-horizontal and smooth, with decent width

  • Window seats mean climbing over next-door neighbor when seats are reclined

  • Cabins are tired, with small dank washrooms and few amenities

  • Food and wines are decidedly non-luxurious, below even many business class offerings

  • Excellent Bose acoustic noise-canceling headsets provided with good variety of movies

[Note: Most Flagship lounges have closed, but access to showers, etc. can be obtained by request.]


Reasonably young fleet and attentive flight attendants mark this Korean carrier: 

  • 2x2 seating converts to fully-horizontal 83” bed with good width and comfort

  • Window seats may mean climbing by neighbor’s feet when in bed position

  • Some cabins need updating

  • Very good food service, with option to select your meal at time of reservation

  • Wines are often strong (though sometimes uneven). Can be up to 3 top-tier champagnes on board (Krug, Taittinger Comtes de Champagne, etc.)

  • Good amenities offerings, sometimes including “gifts” such as designer ties


British Airways
Ultra-professional service and good comfort mark this carrier’s front cabin: 

  • All solo seating converts to fully-horizontal bed with excellent comfort

  • Leather seating can be configured of offer face-to-face private dining for 2

  • Amenities include cotton-covered comforters, large pillows, sleeper pajamas

  • Food is good to excellent, “designed” by name chefs, often including foie gras, Scottish smoked salmon, cheese selection, etc. Dine-as-you-wish setup means ordering whatever you want from the menu whenever you want it- eat lightly or select a full array of courses

  • Wines are usually very good, though downgraded a notch in last 4 months. Sometimes what’s on the list isn’t on board. Champagnes are often excellent (Krug most notably)

  • Departure 1st class lounges are excellent; many offer full dining room for pre-takeoff meal. Heathrow T4 features free spa massages, facials and clothes pressing

  • Poor-quality audio headsets with no acoustic noise-cancellation capability


Cathay Pacific
Luxe service and great comfort vie with Singapore for best-in-the-sky:

  • All solo seating converts to fully-horizontal bed with excellent comfort.

  • No face-to-face dining option

  • Very large TV monitors; good headsets with noise cancellation. Very wide variety of audio and video selections

  • At bedtime, attendants hand out Shanghai Tang sleeper suits, and while you change in lavatory, they outfit beds with fitted comforters and literally “tuck you in”

  • Food is very good to excellent, with oscetra caviar, Russian smoked salmon a regular starter. Choices of Asian or western main courses, some set by top restaurants

  • Wines come from “Cellar in the Sky” with top champagnes (Krug, Taittinger Comtes de Champagne) and aged selections (‘89 Lynch Bages, ’95 Mazis-Chambertin)

  • Washrooms are cleaned by cabin crew after seemingly every passenger use

  • 1st class lounges “Wing” and “Pier” in Hong Kong are excellent oases, with good dining options and great comfort and facilities


Japan Airlines
Very good and traditional service, though offerings can vary widely by route and aircraft: 

  • 2x2 “SkySleeper” seating converts to fully-horizontal bed with fair comfort [Note: 2x2 seating being replaced by SkySleeper solo seating on some routes]

  • Window seats mean climbing right over your neighbor when fully reclined

  • Narrow seat width and lack of lumbar support means seat comfort only OK

  • Food is very good, with both Japanese and western choices, with first multi-course meal served 1-2 hours after takeoff and dine-as-you-wish lighter meals thereafter

  • Wines are excellent. Champagnes top-drawer (Gosset Celebris, Taittinger Comtes de Champagne), reds intelligent and aged (’96 Le Corton) and several Dai-Ginjoshu sakes

  • Amenities are fair, average blankets but no comforters

  • JAL provides plush sleeper suits, but insists on taking them back at end of flight

  • Relatively small selection of English-language audio and video; adequate noise-canceling headsets and small video screens

  • Better-than-average washrooms kept extremely clean

  • Service quite attentive, but with few gaijin 1st passengers, communications can be rough


Korean Airlines
Very good service, but struggling to overcome legacy of poor safety record:

  • 2x2 seating converts to fully-horizontal 83” bed with good width and comfort (may be in process of upgrading)

  • Window seats may mean climbing by neighbor’s feet when in bed position

  • No face-to-face dining option

  • Food is good, but more attention seems to be paid to Korean meals than western ones

  • Wines are very good though vintages uneven. Champagnes can be excellent, with typical choice of Krug and Dom Perignon

  • Service is very strong, with 3 cabin attendants for 12 passengers in most cabins

  • Amenities are good, with cotton sleeper suits on trans-Pacific flights

  • Communications sometimes a bit rocky due to predominantly Korean clientele

[Note: Korean differentiates between Premium (P) class, which has sleeper seats, and First (F) class, which has inferior non-horizontal seats; not all long-haul flights have P class.]


A leader in long-haul service, very professional but friendly:

  • All solo seating converts to fully-horizontal bed with excellent comfort

  • Seating can be configured to offer face-to-face private dining for 2

  • Amenities include cotton-covered comforters, large pillows, sleeper pajamas and excellent toiletry kits from Aire Labs

  • Food is very good, with classic multi-course offerings or dine-as-you-wish; intelligent selection of boutique Aussie cheeses. Some meal choices designed by top chefs

  • Wines were formerly excellent, but downgraded in last months. Mostly Aussie and US selections, but no longer all from top tier. Champagnes can still be top-drawer

  • Qantas 1st flyers have access to BA arrival/departure lounges world-wide

  • Wide selection of audio and video features; some planes have noise-canceling headsets


Singapore Airlines
The perennial winner among 1st and business travelers. Working hard to stay on top:

  • All solo leather seating converts to fully-horizontal bed with excellent comfort

  • Food is top-flight, with excellent range of luxurious courses, plus “Book The Cook” advance option for many routes

  • Wines are very good to excellent; Krug &Dom Perignon champagnes and wide variety of well-chosen bottles from around the world

  • 14” TV monitors are largest in the sky, with amazing variety of audio and video programming, all able to “play when you choose.” Noise-canceling headsets provided

  • Amenities are very good, with down comforters and Givenchy sleeper suits offered

  • Service has never been less than 1st class. Mostly male front cabin crew has replaced the well-publicized (but dated from a marketing standpoint) “Singapore Girl”


Thai Airways
Very attentive cabin service is let down by poor seating:

  • 2x2 seating has good pitch, but recline is neither flat nor horizontal [Note: Thai is supposed to be starting a long-overdue upgrading program for its 1st class cabins]

  • Food is imaginative, with good variety of Asian and western courses.

  • Wines can be good but uneven, with excellent selections 1 month and average the next

  • Amenities are good, with large blankets and pillows, nice toiletries, but no sleeper suits

  • Washrooms are well-appointed and kept very clean

  • Cabin service remains strong, with staff always anxious to please

  • Video Walkmans provided, with choice of approx. 10 movies


United Airlines
Quality seating not always matched by smiling service:

  • FirstSuite solo seating on all 747 and 777 Int’l flights reclines into 78” fully-horizontal bed

  • FirstSuite and 767 seats (latter not fully-reclining) feature lumbar/back massager

  • Amenities kit OK, seating mattress pads and comforters provided. No sleeper suits

  • Food is good but unexciting, lacking luxury touches of other carriers

  • Wines have been downgraded notably in last 1-2 years, and now are not top-tier

  • Good quality/size TV screens in FirstSuites, with personal video system and noise-canceling headsets

  • Very intelligently laid-out seating for working in-flight

Back to Best of Class

Home - About This Site - Contact Us

© Copyright 2004




Hit Counter