First-class seats are the most coveted airline tickets for both business and leisure travelers. After all, what is there not to love about having unlimited legroom and champagne drinks on your journey? Not to mention, first-class passengers get access to VIP lounges and complimentary gifts from their carriers. It may not be the most practical way to get to your destination, as a single one-way ticket could cost around $15,000 to $23,000. Still, jet setters are willing to pay for a luxurious experience and air travel comfort.
But amid a pandemic, are first-class tickets still worth the price? Do passengers even get the same perks pre-coronavirus? Well, we weighed in significant changes from airlines that are still offering first-class seats in this new normal.
One value that passengers find in their first-class tickets is having access to the VIP section of any airport lounge. When the pandemic first hit, lounges were closed for a few months. But now that flights are gradually picking up, lounge areas have reopened.
The choices for food and drinks at airport lounges rival that of hotel buffets; guests can shower thoroughly, sleep on an actual bed, and even enjoy a massage. However, with newly imposed hygiene protocols, some of these benefits have come to a halt or modified to prevent virus spread. Refillable drinks stations for coffee, draft beer, wines, and juices are swapped for canned or bottled drinks. Food items are now individually plated and wrapped. And massages are no longer offered until further notice.
While there may be some restrictions in these lounges, some passengers still think it’s helpful for them, especially when they have a long layover.
Comfort & Privacy
Privacy is an esteemed privilege for first-class passengers. It also adds the benefit of being physically distant from other passengers. We still can’t get over Singapore Airlines’ roomy sky suite! But to ensure a safer journey, cabin crew members will limit their contact with passengers. Nevertheless, they are still within reach for any hospitality requests, including making flatbeds for the lights-off.
Onboard Food Service
Just like most airport lounges, bottled drinks and wrapped food are now the new normal. And so, the free-flowing champagne service may not be as free-flowing as it was before. Some airlines, regardless of flight class, have stopped serving hot meals to ensure safety. One example is United Airlines United Airlines has switched to all-in-one sealed snack bags for their onboard food service. Understandably, this is one of the most significant downsides of the recently imposed health protocols as passengers have also complained that they are not getting their money’s worth.
The good news is some airlines have kept their onboard hot meals and flowing drinks service without compromising health and safety. Etihad is still serving its signature hot tea and dates after takeoff and other signature menu items throughout the flight. And Lufthansa continues to offer full course meals and complimentary champagne to their business and first-class passengers. The only difference is that some airlines may require passengers to pre-order their meals before the flight. Plus, cups and cutleries are now individually wrapped to give all parties peace of mind.
Amenity Kits & Comfort Items
Ah yes, the luxurious amenity kits presented in designer labels. Nothing has changed with this benefit as they are still given to both first class and business class passengers. If anything, the only tweak here is the additional safety kit, which consists of a face mask, hand sanitizer, and disposable antibacterial towels.
Hot towels will not be offered at the moment; instead, the cabin crew will hand you disposable towels. As for the availability of pajamas and slippers, these may vary per airline. Duvets, pillows, and blankets are still offered as they were already wrapped in plastic before.
Social spaces in planes won’t be too social anymore. Emirates may have attracted jet-setters with their A380 lounge area. But in the new normal, this area is temporarily closed to limit passengers’ interactions. Good things, snacks, and beverages can be requested anytime during the flight, and individual cabin fridges are still stocked with the usual first-class bottled drinks.
As for the inflight shower rooms with Emirates and Etihad, first-class passengers can still use these for long haul flights.
The Verdict: Undeniably, there has been a significant “downgrade” effect with first-class flights when it comes to special features. Passengers would often say that the experience is just not the same these days. On a positive note, having spacious seats and privacy adds value for safety in a pandemic. And even if cabin crew members are in PPEs, they remain to be hospitable, ensuring your comfort and safety.
So, should you book that first class flight? As long as you are getting full course meals, spacious seats, and other flight provisions that aren’t accessible to business class and economy, then yes, your ticket will still be value for money. However, if the airline you’re flying with has reduced a lot of its first-class benefits, but you still want that additional legroom, then we suggest looking into your miles or points for a free upgrade to first class.
Let your Viyahe travel assistant help you in booking your first-class flights for less. Download the Viyahe app today to begin a safe and hassle-free journey in this new normal.