10 Best Airlines for First Class: Top Airlines for Luxury Travel

by Jon Miksis
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Whoever said, “It’s about the journey, not the destination,” was definitely seated in first class. When it comes to traveling in style and comfort, nothing beats the luxury of first class on an airplane. From gourmet meals and plush seating to impeccable, personalized service, some airlines have truly stepped up their game to provide the customer with a high-end experience.

Those who fly economy may not think the world of first class is attainable. However, with the right planning and deal-scoping, you can easily make first-class flying part of regular travel life. Even if you do it a few times in your lifetime, upgrading to first class on the right flight can be a luxurious experience you won’t soon forget.

There are many budget airlines whose first-class offerings are skimpy at best. For example, airlines like Frontier and Spirit offer more legroom, or even the highly-coveted “Spirit Airlines Big Front Seat” that provides travelers with a little extra space to fidget in one spot.

If this is your idea of opulence, wait until you see first-class accommodations on some of these incredible airlines worldwide. You’ll find the experience even more elite than some of the best 5-star hotels in the country. So much so that you may be more excited about the flight than you are about the trip itself. 

Whether you’re looking for domestic or international travel, keep reading for some of the best airlines for first class in North America, Europe, Asia, and beyond.

the best airlines for first-class text overlay above a photo depicting a first-class meal served in-flight
Disclosure: This article on the best airlines for first class contains affiliate links. As such, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

How to score cheap first class airline tickets

Just because you’re looking for first class airline tickets doesn’t mean you have to pay first class airfare. There are plenty of ways to score the comfiest, roomiest seats without spending an arm and a leg.

One of the best ways to do this is through a service called Scott’s Cheap Flights (now called Going). With Going, you can make an account on their website and sign up for free email alerts. Before you know it, your inbox will be full of extremely cheap flights. 

What’s more? They also offer a premium version of this service, and it’s a great choice for anyone who travels frequently. With the premium subscription, you get even more emails with low-cost airfare. This can be crucial for snagging deals that are only available for a limited time. 

But wait, there’s even MORE! If you’re looking to snag deals on first class fares, sign up for their Elite version. I saved over $3,000 on my last first class flight alone thank to Scott’s! You can use my coupon code JON20 to save 20% on your premium subscription! This will help you put a little more money in your pocket for your next adventure.

Getting the Most Luxurious Experience: Best Airlines for First Class Travel

Whether traveling for a special occasion, a business trip or to indulge in the finer things in life, choosing an airline that offers the best first class experience can make all the difference. Nothing gets the mind and body ready for a relaxing island vacation quite like first class travel! Are you ready for a truly transformative flight? Prepare yourself to step into a world of unparalleled luxury and comfort on your next journey. 

Now, without any further ado, let’s check out some airlines that offer incredible first class options!

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1. Qatar Airways

When you think of the best airlines for first class travel, this one is a real winner. Qatar Airways sets itself apart when it comes to luxury travel. Their first class accommodations, offered on their A380 aircraft, provide passengers with spacious, private seats and access to two large bathrooms. You certainly won’t have a crying child nearby or an irate passenger ruining the relaxing vibe of your vacation in Qatar’s first class cabin.

When you book first class with Qatar, your seat can be converted into a fully flat bed. The plush bedding and pillows are ideal for a snooze to get you primed for vacation. And don’t get me started on the dining options. Looking for the ultimate in-flight culinary experience? Qatar Airways offers a menu of gourmet dishes curated by Michelin-starred chefs from around the world.

Qatar Airways is one of the best airlines for first class travel.
Qatar’s first class accommodations are synonymous with luxury.

2. Lufthansa

Lufthansa’s first class cabins are the definition of luxury, designed for the ultimate comfort experience. The ergonomically designed seats can be converted into fully flat beds to keep you at ease during a long flight. Their seating is so comfortable they’ve continually ranked number one for in-flight sleeping arrangements. Business seats also fold flat, so if you’re not ready to fly first class this time, you can still get a great rest in the sky with a lower-cost ticket.

What’s more, you can also enjoy top-notch in-flight entertainment on the 17” in-flight entertainment monitors in your first class suite. You’re really in for a one-of-a-kind experience when flying Lufthansa.

Lufthansa is one of the best airlines for first class flights
Lufthansa has some of the most comfortable first class and business class seats available.

3. American Airlines

American Airlines Flagship® First International flights offer an experience, unlike the one you may expect if you’ve flown first class on American during a domestic flight. You’ll have a fully lie-flat seat, ideal for getting you well-rested before your destination or after a long journey abroad. 

American first class passengers can also choose when they’d like their meal delivered. And by meal, I mean multiple courses complete with award-winning wines to satisfy even the pickiest eaters. You’ll also receive an amenities kit from lifestyle brands Shinola and D.S. & Durga. These flights also have Casper bedding, pajamas, and slippers created just for American Airlines’ first class customers.

American Airlines Flagship® First International is one of the best airlines for first class.
You will sleep comfortably on custom bedding if you fly first class with American Airlines Flagship® First International.

4. British Airways

When it comes to the best airlines for first class, British Airways is another incredible choice. British Airways flies to over 200 locations—an easy choice when traveling around the UK to almost anywhere in the world. With fully flat beds, comfortable bedding, and plenty of amenities, there’s no doubt you’ll have one of the best in-flight experiences of your life.

For food and drink, British Airways offers a wide selection of options. This includes a vast wine list for those who prefer to fly with a drink in hand. All of their ticket options offer delicious meals and snacks available to passengers. However, the perk to first class is access to their a la carte ‘Dine Anytime’ menu.

British Airways is one of the best airlines with first class for global travel.
British Airways is one of the best airlines with first class for global travel.

5. Air France

Another top choice, Air France is perfect for passengers who like a private space to veg out while flying. Air France’s La Première cabins offer three square meters of space and personalized service from start to finish. More than just a “seat,” the offerings from Air France’s first class feel more like a small apartment you enjoy in the air. With accommodations as comfortable as these, I wonder why Air France is often a slept-on airline choice.

The service on Air France is also top-notch, providing first class guests with a unique experience from start to finish. And with new routes from the US to France starting this year, this may be the time to check out Air France!

Air France is one of the best airlines for first class travel.
When you fly first class with Air France, it’s like getting your own mini apartment.

6. Hawaiian Airlines

One thing Hawaiian Airlines is known for is its incredible customer service. If you can believe it, their customer service is even better in first class. The stewards will pamper you as you lay back in one of the comfiest seats of any airline. Talk about perfect! You’ll certainly want a little shut-eye before you land on one of Hawaii’s stunning islands.

Hawaii is often ranked number one for domestic airlines because of its reliability, overall comfort, and delicious cuisine. Passengers can enjoy a tropical cocktail to get them in a beachy mood, or pull up their privacy screen, sit back, and relax. Of course, nothing beats Hawaiian hospitality. The cabin crew strives to provide personalized and attentive service, ensuring passengers have a comfortable and enjoyable flight experience.

Hawaiian is one of the best airlines for first class travel
Hawaiian Airlines is the best airline for relaxing first class travel to Hawaii.

7. Emirates

Do you love champagne? Then, Emirates is going to be your best airline for first class. When flying Emirates, get ready to have more on-the-house Dom Pérignon than you’ve had in your entire life. On board, you can also enjoy a selection of gourmet dishes that prove why they’re often ranked “best in-flight dining in the world.” Did I mention the unlimited caviar? Yeah, this airline is classy.

They also offer fine wines from around the world to their first class customers. Even the taste buds of economy passengers have an unforgettable experience on board. They really take travel to another level on Emirates.

After a long trip, you can indulge in a long, hot shower in one of their in-flight shower spas. When you’re done, cozy up in the moisturizing pajamas provided to every first class passenger. You’ll feel right at home when flying Emirates to one of their over 150 destinations.

Emirates is one of the best airlines for first class travel.
Emirates is the champagne of the airlines with first class accommodations.

8. Singapore Airlines

Another hero when it comes to delicious in-flight meals is Singapore Airlines. Their first class tickets get you access to some of the best cuisine in the sky, proving that those who make fun of airline food have never flown first class. 

Their cabins provide a luxurious experience for passengers, with lots of space to move around. The ultra-comfortable queen-sized beds will take your napping to the next level. Their first class experience ranks among the top compared to airlines worldwide. S,o if you’re prepared to spare no expense on your next trip to Asia, Singapore Airlines is the choice for you.

singapore airlines is one of the best airlines for first class
Singapore Airlines makes you second-guess what you consider “airplane food.”

9. Cathay Pacific Airways

Cathay Pacific Airways‘ first class offerings are a cut above the rest. In fact, they rank number one on many lists for their consistency in service. When it comes to comfort, Cathay Pacific has you covered with some of the most plush bedding you’ll experience in flight. You may even get better sleep than in your hotel!

The cuisine on a Cathay Pacific first class flight is truly something to write home about. With plenty of dining options for all passengers, it’s hard not to be completely satisfied (and full) when you deboard. For foodies, this is truly one of the best airlines for first class flights! 

Cathay Pacific is one of the best airlines for first class travel
Cathay Pacific is the biggest airline in Hong Kong.

10. Etihad Airways 

Etihad Airways offers first class options on its Boeing 787 Dreamliner as of 2023, providing passengers with one of the most top-of-the-line experiences in air travel. The Dreamliner is one of the fastest commercial airplanes out there. So, in addition to getting to your destination in comfort, you’ll also get there faster. If you’re eco-conscious, you’ll like traveling in first class this way, as it’s a more fuel-efficient flight. 

With that being said, the Dreamliner doesn’t often feature first class accommodations, making Etihad’s offerings unique in design. Even business class benefits from these new additions to Etihad’s fleet. Some amenities you can expect include customized seating to take your experience to the next level. If you want to be one of the first to try out the new Dreamliner, they’ll officially join the fleet in late 2023.

Etihad Airways is one of the best airlines for first class travel
Etihad’s upcoming fleet promises to provide amazing first class travel opportunities.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about best airlines for first class

When you’re looking for the best airlines for first class, you have a lot to consider. For one, you want to make sure that the airline is reliable and known for superior service. You also want to make sure that your experience is going to be worth the price of your upgraded ticket. 

Even with the above list of 10 best airlines for first class, you might still have questions about booking first class tickets, especially if it’s your first time. Whether it’s your first time booking first class or your tenth, here are some common questions (and answers) about booking the best first class tickets. 

Which is the best first class airline?

As a seasoned travel blogger, I am often asked, “Which is the best first class airline?” Join me on this thrilling journey as I reveal the crème de la crème of luxury flying experiences.

When it comes to the epitome of opulence, Emirates takes the crown. Picture yourself reclining in a private suite, complete with a personal minibar and sliding doors for ultimate privacy. Indulge in gourmet cuisine prepared by renowned chefs, savor vintage wines, and embark on a voyage of culinary delight. Oh, and let’s not forget the in-flight shower spa, where you can freshen up at 40,000 feet, feeling like a true jet-setting royalty.

For those seeking the perfect blend of sophistication and personalized service, Singapore Airlines is an exquisite choice. Immerse yourself in the lavishness of their spacious suites, each boasting a plush bed and a separate dining area. And let’s not overlook the iconic “Book the Cook” feature, allowing you to pre-order a delightful array of gourmet dishes tailored to your taste. It’s easy to see why this is one of the best first class airlines.

We also must not forget Etihad Airways, renowned for its innovative and extravagant offerings. Experience the pinnacle of luxury in “The Residence,” an ultra-exclusive three-room suite complete with a living room, bedroom, and private bathroom. With a personal butler attending to your needs, you’ll feel like a true VIP. The inflight chef will craft a bespoke menu just for you, ensuring a gastronomic journey that tantalizes the senses.

So as you traverse the skies, consider these remarkable airlines—Emirates, Singapore Airlines, and Etihad Airways. They are the torchbearers of luxury, offering experiences that redefine the boundaries of opulence. Buckle up, embrace the extravagance, and let your high-flying adventure begin!

How do I save extra money on first class flights?

Flying first class can be expensive, but you can save a ton of money by using Scott’s Cheap Flights (now called Going). Going brings the deals right to your inbox with low-cost fares for over 90 destinations all across the globe.

Going helps you find flights that are anywhere from 40-90% off the regular price. To get the best deals, sign up for their free email alerts and start receiving heavily discounted fares right in your inbox. 

Don’t forget—you can get the most out of your subscription by paying just $49 a year to upgrade to a premium account. Use coupon code JON20 to save 20% today, so you can start planning your next budget adventure.

comfortable, luxurious airplane accommodations in-flight
Flying first class is a wonderful experience everyone should try at least once!

Which airlines have the best first class experience?

There are several airlines known for providing exceptional first class experiences. Here are some of the top contenders for best airlines for first class and what they offer:

  • Emirates: Emirates offers luxurious first class suites with fully enclosed cabins, comfortable beds, in-flight showers (on some aircraft), an onboard lounge, gourmet dining options, and attentive service.
  • Singapore Airlines: Singapore Airlines’ first class cabins feature spacious and private suites with sliding doors, plush bedding, fine dining with a wide range of gourmet options, personalized service, and access to exclusive lounges.
  • Etihad Airways: Etihad’s first class apartments provide a private and spacious environment with sliding doors, a separate reclining bed and seat, in-flight showers, fine dining options with a chef on board, and a dedicated onboard chef.
  • Qatar Airways: Qatar Airways’ first class experience offers luxurious suites with sliding doors, fully lie-flat beds, premium dining options, personalized service, and access to their award-winning lounges.
  • Cathay Pacific: Cathay Pacific provides comfortable first class suites with privacy partitions, lie-flat beds, fine dining options, personalized service, and access to their exclusive lounges.
  • Lufthansa: Lufthansa’s first class cabins offer spacious seats that convert into fully lie-flat beds, gourmet dining with a la carte menus, exceptional service, and access to their luxurious first class lounges.

What amenities can I expect in first class?

Just as regular in-flight amenities vary from carrier to carrier, so, too, do the first class amenities. For instance, not every airline offers complimentary Dom Pérignon like Emirates. However, there are some amenities that are pretty constant across all airlines with the best first class.

Here are some amenities you can expect on a first class flight:

  • Spacious and comfortable seating
  • Priority boarding
  • Dedicated cabin crew
  • Gourmet meals
  • A wide selection of beverages
  • Luxurious bedding and pillows
  • Amenity kits with toiletries
  • In-flight entertainment systems
  • Wi-Fi
  • Access to exclusive lounges
the best airlines for first class travel offer comfortable, lie-flat seats for in-flight sleeping
Most first class accommodations offer comfortable, lie-flat seats for comfortable sleep.

Is flying first class worth it for a four-hour flight?

Flying first class for any amount of time is incredible, but for shorter flights, is it worth it? Here are a few reasons I would consider upgrading to first class for a flight.

Personally, I think first class makes a difference for me for flights over four hours. This is especially true if I plan to nap on the plane. First class on overnight flights can be a game changer when it comes to getting a restful sleep and feeling rejuvenated after a long trip.

Another reason to upgrade to first class is if you’re quickly going from work mode into vacation mode or back to work mode after it’s over. Most people don’t have the luxury of taking a few days off before or after a vacation, so getting as much rest on the plane as possible can put you in the best head space possible when you return to work the next day. That flight may be the one bit of downtime in a busy, fun-filled adventure—use it wisely.

To save a little extra money, it may be worth splurging on first class for just one leg of the trip. Being from the East Coast, my flights out West are usually in the morning or afternoon, but my return flights are often overnight because of the time difference. A 4- to 6-hour flight across the country isn’t as difficult during the day when I’m excited for the adventure to come, but I really appreciate that extra room to sprawl out and relax once I’m worn out.

Ultimately, it’s up to you. But it’s almost always worth it if you can score a great deal on first class seats.

What is the best class flight?

While first class often steals the spotlight, let’s shine a light on the marvelous business class. Embracing the perfect balance between luxury and value, it offers a haven of indulgence for discerning travelers. Picture yourself nestled in a spacious seat that transforms into a fully-flat bed, allowing you to slumber in style on those long-haul journeys.

Business class cabins are adorned with exquisite amenities. This includes noise-canceling headphones and sumptuous bedding and heavenly duvets. Pamper yourself with premium toiletries, relish delectable gourmet meals paired with fine wines, and savor tantalizing desserts that rival those of a five-star restaurant.

But the true allure lies in the impeccable service and personalized attention. Experience the warmth of a dedicated cabin crew, always ready to fulfill your wishes, ensuring your journey is as seamless and enjoyable as can be. It’s easiest to see why this is the best first class flight in 2023.

Are there any frequent flyer programs or loyalty programs for first class passengers?

Yes, most airlines have frequent flyer programs allowing passengers to earn miles or points for travel. These programs often have elite tiers offering additional benefits to frequent travelers, such as priority check-in, airport lounges, and complimentary upgrades.

When looking for the best airlines for first class, check to see which have loyalty programs before booking. This way, if you love the experience, you can earn more rewards for future travel. 

the best airlines for first class offer delicious food and beverage options
Flying first class gets you a more luxurious dining experience!

Is it cheaper to upgrade to first class after booking?

In most scenarios, the answer is YES. Upgrading to first class after booking is cheaper than booking a first class flight. It is also better to wait to upgrade, as airlines often lower cabin fares closer to departure to make room for more passengers looking for economy seats. 

You can always check for first class upgrades when you check in early at the airport. Sometimes they’re available at no extra charge if the front of the plane happens to be empty, but in this scenario, there’s no guarantee.

How can I get first class without paying any extra?

There are a few tips and tricks for scoring a free or deeply-discounted first class seat. One way is to volunteer to be bumped from your flight. Airlines often overbook, and when this happens, they’ll offer passengers the option to switch to a less-crowded flight at a later time or even a day later. This isn’t ideal for everyone, but if your travel plans are flexible, you can really make out well. Once you’re placed on a new flight, the airline may offer you a free upgrade to first class.

Airlines also offer incentives for loyalty program members. For example, let’s look at the American Airlines rewards program. When you have enough points for American Airlines and you are a specific level of membership, you are automatically on a list that, based on availability, will upgrade you for free. If that does not work, you can also use your points to upgrade using the app. However, there are limits around how many times you can upgrade and on which flights you can use this.

best airlines for first class text overlay above a photo of a first class airplane seat
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