Aloft Can Be a Premier ExperienceIf you are like the majority of airline travelers, when you board your flight, you walk right past the plush, spacious seats at the front of the airplane to the main cabin toward the rear. When you sit down, the cushion is hard and there is barely enough space for your legs.
First and business class passengers are indeed treated to luxuries absent in economy cabins, as noted by one reader of Conde Nast Traveler, a U.S. travel magazine, after a flight across the United States on American Airlines: "A few hours after take-off, a delicious smell began emanating from first class. What are they giving to first class, and how can they justify serving something that smells so good when nothing at all is being given to the rest of us?" The answer, of course, is the cost of a ticket.
Since first class tickets are up to five times more expensive than economy class, and particularly hard to sell on long distance flights, special amenities in premier classes make perfect business sense. While some extra comforts are as simple as the warm chocolate chip cookies on American Airlines, others include space to sleep and work with a laptop computer in comfort.
Economy passengers are not left entirely in the lurch. According to Asiana Airlines, on the Boeing 747, the plane it uses to fly to the United States, the economy cabin accounts for 84 percent of the seats, business class for 13 percent, and first class for a mere 3 percent.
Since space is an absent luxury in coach class, airlines are attracting economy class customers with savings on cost, more comfortable seating and services such as vegetarian menus, toys for children and wedding dress storage.
The JoongAng Ilbo English Edition polled six airlines to find out what services are available for first, business and economy passengers.
These special services are highlighted. And when available, seat dimensions are given, for, according to a Cathay Pacific spokesperson, "At the heart of the premier classes is a comfortable seat."
TO WIN YOUR Business, international carriers ARE DOING MORE TO help passengers relax
Air Canada, which does not offer first class seating, focuses on an upgraded business class.
Extra touches in its business class, Executive First Class, include Nintendo games on A340 aircrafts and sleeper seats with oversized pillows. Each individual armrest video screen has a choice of eight videos.
At the end of a flight, passengers can freshen up with a glass of orange juice.
The airline has prepared a special lactose-free menu; many Asians have a low tolerance for the substance. Special meals also target infants and those allergic to peanuts or seafood. Passengers must notify the airline at 02-779-5654/5 at least 24 hours before departure.
On certain trans-Pacific and leisure routes, Asiana crew members double as entertainers. Depending on the staff on hand, the "magic crew" can perform live music, magic tricks or paint cartoon characters on your child's face.
But the most notable performances revolve around birthdays. If you notify the crew of a birthday celebration, the magic crew will sing a birthday song and take pictures. They can also sing folk songs from Korea, Japan, China, India, Britain, Germany, the United States and Australia.
For newlyweds, the airline offers a wedding dress service. Couples that depart for their honeymoon straight from the marriage ceremony can leave a wedding dress at the check-in counter.
The airline will care for the dress until the customers return from their honeymoon.
The best seat in the house? First class with seats that recline fully into beds. To transform the seat into a cozy "bedroom," there are screens on the aisle side and between the center seats. Passengers also receive luxury comforters, pillows and a "sleepsuit."
The airline has also recently updated its business class offerings to include a CD audio system. Personal video players have 9 channels.
Cathay Pacific has won awards for its wine list. The airline offers 70 wines from classic wine exporters such as France, Italy and Germany, and from emerging suppliers including South Africa, New Zealand and Chile.
The German airline's planes are ready for the 21st century with business travelers in mind. Business and first class passengers on long-distance flights can plug in their laptops and get straight to work or play computer games. Most customers will not need an adapter as sockets are suitable for both two-pin European flat plugs and two- or three-pin U.S. plugs.
The economy seats are ergonomically designed with headrests that can be adjusted for height. To combat falling asleep and waking up with your head resting on your neighbor's shoulder, the headrests can also be folded in at the sides.
For a vegetarian meal (no meat or fish products, nonalcoholic) in Seoul, call 02-3420-0400 at least 24 hours before departure. Children's menus are also available on most flights.
Nortwest Airlines has elimanated first class from its airplanes. Instead, the airline is concentrating on its World Business Class. In March, the company wrapped up an overhaul of World Business Class. The results? Upgraded services and an increase in seat pitch.
Northwest Airlines offers a wide choice of special meal options for diabetics, vegetarians and way beyond. The types of meals range from low sodium, low carbohydrate, sulfite-free, to non-dairy vegetarian and dairy vegetarian. There are also options catering to religious needs such as kosher food and a special cuisine for Muslims and Hindus. Customers should call 02-732-1700 at least 48 hours before departure.
Any passenger on select flights can "book a cook" from a prestigious line-up of chefs. When in Singapore, call reservations at 223-888, or fax the order to 786-6947 at least 24 hours before departure. Vegetarian meals are also available. While most are based on Western and Indian cuisine, there is also a Chinese vegetarian main course with "mock" chicken.
Flight attendants on Singapore Airlines may be able to bring a smile to your child's face. The airline is giving away toys from the Peanuts comic strip on all flights to and from Singapore, except those to and from Kuala Lumpur.
by Joe Yong-hee