The luxury goodies you get flying first class with eight different airlines

Updated
Our experts review the best first class offerings in the business
Our experts review the best first class offerings in the business - Heathcliff O'Malley for the Daily Telegraph

It costs an awful lot to travel first class – a return trip from London to New York in June with British Airways was priced at £3,786 per person at the time of writing, compared with £557 in economy; London to Dubai with Emirates came in at £7,353 compared with £516. Even if you have cash to splash (or are able to use points), you may be wondering whether it’s really worth it.

Turn left upon entering the cabin and there are certainly plenty of luxuries to enjoy. Some airlines offer prestige champagne on selected routes (normally priced at upwards of £150 per bottle) and some even have showers onboard. Meanwhile, specially designed amenities come from the world’s best brands, from Elemis to Diptyque.

Below, we look at what the amenities, menus and other special touches look like in the highest cabin class on 8 major airlines. Beauty Director Sonia Haria gives her insight into the labels inside their amenity kits while Food Editor Amy Bryant assesses their sample menus (though bear in mind these can vary on different routes and at different times of the year).

Cathay Pacific

Limited first class cabins means this airline often flies under the radar for luxury seekers, but Cathay operates up to two 777 routes per day from Heathrow that make the grade.

The amenities

It was a surprise to find cult British organic brand Bamford in Cathay’s sleek onboard amenity kit. Not only is the company B Corp certified, but Haria describes their flight amenities as “ultra-chic”. The brand “knows a thing or two about premium wellness,” she adds. Separate his and hers kits come with the helpful addition of mouthwash.

Travellers are treated to British organic brand Bamford in Cathay's amenity kit
Travellers are treated to British organic brand Bamford in Cathay's amenity kit - Heathcliff O'Malley

The food

“Fresh? Tick. Seasonal? Tick? A ‘wellness menu’ of lighter dishes? Tick. Cathay Pacific has rolled out the requisite culinary buzzwords for a contemporary spread, but the promise of caviar with vintage champagne will more likely have first-class customers salivating,” says Bryant. She points out that many of the dishes have “potent flavour combinations to enliven taste buds desensitised by low air pressure: smoked duck stars a sweet and sour dressing; pork ribs come with a strawberry sauce”. She also applauds a 4.2% pale ale that’s been “lovingly tuned for altitude” according to the brand. “A bottle of Betsy (named after the airline’s first aircraft) is a stylish step up from the household beer brands served on other carriers,” she says.

What else?

Bamford made the 600 thread-count sheets too, for what Cathay deems “the softest bed in the sky”. Meanwhile, upmarket and bespoke Hong Kong shirtmaker PYE is behind its incredibly cosy pyjamas. And there’s even a pillow menu. Look out for the brand’s new first class cabin onboard its 777-9 planes, launching in 2025.


Emirates

Emirates has thought of everything – moisturising pyjamas infused with shea butter and argan oil to ensure limbs don’t dry out in the air; unlimited caviar; and, on selected A380 routes, shower spas with adjustable heated floors where passengers can scrub up and even dry their hair. It’s little wonder that this is one of the world’s most popular first class services.

The amenities

The Emirates’ set by Bulgari, featuring the pricey Le Gemme Desiria fragrance (or Le Gemme Gyan for men), was a winning combo for Haria. “As far as covetable beauty kits go, this luxury selection by Bulgari is definitely high up on the list,” she says, highlighting the rose and jasmine notes of Le Gemme Desiria as “a stunning floral blend”. The embossed compact mirror is a nice extra touch and, out of all the kits, these had the highest resale prices on eBay.

Emirates has one of the most covetable beauty kits
Emirates has one of the most covetable beauty kits - Heathcliff O'Malley

The food

Bryant points out that, although Emirates highlights healthier options on its menus (dishes that it claims contain “lean protein, fibre and healthy fats, and have less salt, sugar and saturated or trans fats”), these are limited. “Passengers may as well resign themselves to having a full-blown breakfast of waffles with berry compote, or dinner of pan-seared salmon with sweet-potato mash and beurre blanc,” says Bryant. That’s probably OK, as Emirates appeals to those with rich (in more ways than one) palates: online, some frequent flyers rave about the onboard Henessy Paradis – a rare cognac that sells for more than £1,000 per bottle.

What else?

Seats in its Boeing 777s have been inspired by NASA and can be placed in a “zero-gravity” position that’s said to create a feeling of relaxation and weightlessness.


Etihad

Emirates may get much of the attention, but this Middle Eastern airline’s first class offering is every bit as opulent. It’s earned the brand some loyal customers among in-the-know frequent flyers.

The amenities

In 2024, its amenity kits got a seriously chic overhaul – even economy passengers get their bits and bobs in a tasteful tote bag. Meanwhile, in first, there’s one of the most comprehensive offerings of all, featuring Espa products. “You can’t go wrong with these minis,” says Haria. “Who doesn’t want to smell like a fancy spa resort? The quality of the brand’s shampoo and conditioner easily rivals bigger haircare brands too.”

Etihad's amenity kits got an overhaul in 2024
Etihad's amenity kits got an overhaul in 2024 - Belinda Jiao

The food

“Overnighters are in luck,” says Bryant. “Etihad offers the broadest range of breakfast options, from ricotta pancakes with orange vanilla sauce and caramelised pecans to the ever-Instagrammable north African favourite, shakshuka.” Meanwhile, à la carte comes with a vast range of dishes. Highlights for Bryant include “wasabi and togarashi (a Japanese seven-spice blend) in the mix with crab tian; olive tapenade and basil oil with three-cheese ravioli; and a seafood medley of scallop, salmon and lobster complete with lobster bisque.”

What else?

Etihad has a trick up its sleeve to entice the most pampered travellers: three-room “The Residence” (currently available on flights from London and New York to Abu Dhabi) comes with its own departure lounge, dedicated cabin crew and ensuite shower. Meanwhile, its “normal” first class seats on the A380 are larger than average too – and you get chic Giorgio Armani loungewear to swan around in.


Singapore Airlines

Awarded the world’s best first class by world airline rating programme Skytrax for 2023, Singapore Airlines is a reliable choice.

The amenities

Lalique kits (for women, men and with a unisex version) scooped another Skytrax award – for best first class airline amenities. The brand may be better known for its glassware, but its fragrances have a cult following – Haria says that the néroli one featured in the women’s kit is her favourite of all: “The zesty notes are vibrant and invigorating, making for the perfect pick-me-up before you touch down”. Beware if you’re not a néroli fan though – this kit contains a room spray for passengers to spritz at will. Still, the embossed vanity case that the toiletries come in is the most elegant of the lot.

Singapore's first class kit has scooped a Skytrax award for best first class airline amenities
Singapore's first class kit has scooped a Skytrax award for best first class airline amenities - Heathcliff O'Malley

The food

“Singapore Airlines goes big on promoting the brains behind its food offerings – its ‘international culinary panel’ of five top chefs from around the world,” says Bryant. On some flights, passengers can also take advantage of a “Book the Cook” service and pre-order more elaborate dishes such as Cantonese-style fish congee or Malay braised beef rendang. But “for all the starry skills behind the scenes each of the cuisines still plays it rather safe,” notes Bryant.

What else?

First class suites are available on A380 planes (and are the prettiest in the sky). They come with ensuite loos and comfy beds – you can even combine two to make a double.


Qatar Airways

Qatar’s business class wins awards left, right and centre, but its first class flies under the radar. Exemplary service makes it a safe bet, though it’s not as fancy as some offerings.

The amenities

For status symbol smellies, it’s hard to beat Diptyque. Qatar’s kits come with different fragrances for men and women (Tam Dao and Eau des Sens), but it’s worth noting that passengers in business get a similar offering. “The French perfume brand has instant handbag appeal,” says Haria. The products work too: “While its fragrances really are the stars of the show – Eau des Sens is particularly lovely – the skincare is surprisingly good”.

Qatar Airways' Diptyque products are a hit with travellers
Qatar Airways' Diptyque products are a hit with travellers - Heathcliff O'Malley

The food

Qatar’s sample menu is “one of the more modest” says Bryant, noting that miso glazed black cod is “a dish that was big in the 1990s but feels dated now”. It’s not all bad news though. “Three cheers, however, for the pair of British cheeses on board and an on-trend non-alcoholic pink sparkling wine,” she adds.

What else?

Loungewear comes courtesy of the White Company. Watch out for a new Qatar first class cabin, announced by the group CEO in March 2024.


British Airways

BA’s first class offering holds its own among more lauded competitors, with brilliantly British labels adding extra excitement (amenities come in Alice Temperley branded bags and she designed the pyjamas too, which are the comfiest of all the airlines’ sets).

The amenities

BA’s his and hers kits are a hit with Haria. “You can always rely on British brand Elemis for skincare basics done really, really well. They’re zero fuss and these kits have everything you need for a well-hydrated, glowing complexion,” she says. In fact, there are seven items in these bags – far more than most of the competitors. There’s a compact mirror too.

British Airways champions British labels within its amenity kits
British Airways champions British labels within its amenity kits - Heathcliff O'Malley

The food

Will passengers clock the Dartington Crystal glassware and William Edwards crockery that’s rolled off the trolley? “It’s doubtful,” says Bryant. “But hats off to BA for crowbarring in plenty of other iconic British elements to its menus”. Examples she cites include courgette blossom in a London Pride batter, English-made continental-style charcuterie and cheese (“très a la mode”) in the form of west country beef carpaccio with Yorkshire pecorino, and posh fish finger butties.

What else?

First class customers get free Wi-Fi for the duration of the flight – which should be a given at this price point but is payable on some other airlines, while some don’t offer it at all.


Qantas

If anything justifies the extortionate cost of flying in first, it’s the long slog between London and Sydney. Although not the most showy of services, Qantas’s premium offering is reliably good – with one of the comfiest beds in the air.

The amenities

The label LaGaia UNEDITED might not ring many bells with Brits and this kit is minimal compared with some of the others. “This Australian mother-and-daughter founded brand has a strong focus around essential oils and benefits of aromatherapy,” says Haria. “The recovery mist is really handy for on-the-go hydration while travelling”.

Qantas' in-flight kit is minimal compared to a lot of its competitors
Qantas' in-flight kit is minimal compared to a lot of its competitors - Heathcliff O'Malley

The Food

Bryant thinks employing Australian superstar chef Neil Perry as Qantas’s creative director of food “lends the menu some heft. He’s on the nose with plant-based dishes including Goan vegetable and tofu curry,” she says. There’s a slight doubt, however, about whether a slant towards light, verdant flavours will “penetrate altitude-dulled senses”. However, puddings including “top-rung Valrhona chocolate mousse and Amadei chocolate pralines” are “hard to beat”. As you might expect, the Australian airline often scores highly for its coffee too.

What else?

The memory foam mattresses and Aussie brand Sheridan bedding makes for one of the most comfortable sleeps in first. It’s also worth watching out for Qantas’s new first class suites, which will be available on its non-stop flights from London, New York and Paris to Sydney and Melbourne from mid-2026.


Virgin Upper

Virgin doesn’t have first or business class – instead making upper its premium product. This can mean cheaper prices – but also a less luxurious product, especially in its older planes.

The amenities

At first glance, this tiny kit seemed a bit underwhelming (though the recyclable pouch got a few sustainability points – if you can ignore the giant carbon footprint of travelling in the Upper Cabin). Haria, however, thinks “it’s a delight to see REN on a long-haul flight. The Atlantic Kelp and Magnesium scent is instantly uplifting, with a formula that sinks into the skin quickly”.

Virgin Atlantic offers REN products on its long-haul flights
Virgin Atlantic offers REN products on its long-haul flights - Heathcliff O'Malley

The food

Bryant found Virgin’s menus slightly limited but praised the onboard cream tea, “including a white chocolate and orange scone, morello cherry jam and lemon curd – well pitched to counter compromised tastebuds at 30,000ft”. She’s also a fan of Virgin’s small plates, singling out dishes such as satay chicken bao buns and, for vegans, a Beyond Meat burger with coriander mango mayo.

What else?

In 2023, the brand introduced two retreat suites on its newest plane the A330neo, featuring larger screens and a longer, fully flat bed (at extra cost and only on limited routes). The airline also has a dedicated upper class wing at Heathrow, complete with a revivals area where passengers can have a shower and get their clothes ironed.

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