Saturday, May 28, 2022
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Cruising on cloud nine

With its uber-luxury offering Residence, Etihad has set a new standard in opulence

Cruising on cloud nine
Queen of the skies Etihad

It is the festive season, the time of the year for gifts and who else deserves a gift more than yourself? If you are planning to treat yourself by setting foot abroad for a perfect holiday to any of the attractive destinations across the globe, get ready to fly in these ultra luxurious air carriers that will pamper you with their exquisite state-of-the-art amenities and princely hospitality to make your journey a remarkable flying experience.

The service begins right from the moment you arrive at the airport, by escorting you for a priority check-in. You would then be ushered to the first-class lounge where you can relax and dine, choosing from a wide range of lip-smacking delectables specially curated by top chefs. Once you step in to the luxury airline, you would witness the comfort of your house being replenished with much exuberance in your private cabinet.

Airbus 380 and Boeing 747-8 of Lufthansa airlines are configured with 8 first class seats that can easily be converted into beds. The first class in the B747-8 carrier, which flies from Bangalore, is located in front of the main deck, where the curvature fuselage enables enchanting views from the flight. More space is created for the customers with a high cabin ceiling and absolutely no overhead bins. “The sound-absorbing curtains, special sound-insulating material in the outer skin of the aircraft and the sound-absorbing carpets help in blocking the noise of the footsteps ensuring absolute quietness,” says Wolfgang Will, director-South Asia, Lufthansa Airlines. All this will set you back by Rs.29.3 lakhs between New York and Hong Kong, although the rates might vary according to the dates. However, with the launch of the Mumbai and Frankfurt routes earlier this year, Will says that the ‘Queen of the skies’ has been specially customised for Indians right from having Indian flight attendants to specially curated menus and entertainment programs. 

Apart from the cuisines and privacy, what makes the experience truly memorable is the well-designed setting. ‘The Residence’ in Etihad is a treasure in itself that offers the most opulent private cabin on-board ever. “Earlier air travel only focused on getting people to their destination in the safest and fastest possible way. But now, the focus is on how to make travelling an entirely different experience so that the passenger may want a trip to last even longer,” says Neerja Bhatia, vice-president - Indian sub-continent, Etihad Airways.

The Residence occupies a total area of 125 square feet in the nose of the upper deck of all Airbus A380s, accommodating up to two guests and thus offering total privacy. The living room component offers a two-seater reclining sofa, upholstered by Poltrona Frau, as well as a retractable ottoman with a built-in chilled refreshment cabinet, a dining table, full height sliding door and a flat screen TV with dual controls. Unlike smaller private jets, the separate bedroom and bathroom offer exceptional comfort and convenience. Along with this, the full-length wardrobe, under-bed stowage, a full-height shower with vast selection of premium toiletries and ready-to-wear sleep suits cocoons the passengers in the folds of luxury. These can come at a cost of Rs.23.34 lakhs if you are travelling between Mumbai and New York, via Abu Dhabi for a one-way trip. The same services from San Francisco and Abu Dhabi might cost about Rs.18 lakhs. Etihad offers these facilities in its A380 carriers that are operational from Mumbai, London, Sydney, Melbourne and New York. “Our guest consists of Bollywood personalities, fashionistas, businessmen, and affluent individuals who have the earning capacity to travel in luxury. Our decision to deploy the A380 on the Mumbai route has been proven right decision,” says Bhatia.

Along with their magnificent cabins, the iconic carrier of the Emirates also offers on-board lounge and shower spa for its passengers to indulge them in the best of the body comforts.  The spa and the restaurants do not fall a whisker short of a resort offering similar services, except this being in the air. Along with this, Emirates stands out when it comes to offering the entertainment services. With over 2,500 entertainment channels and unlimited Wi-fi connectivity, passengers can stay connected. Emirates also offer chauffer drive service to its passengers. “It is our responsibility once the passenger steps out of his house, until he reaches his destination,” says Essa Sulaiman Ahmad, vice-president, India and Nepal, Emirates. The same services between Los Angeles and Mumbai via Abu Dhabi can cost you about Rs.21.2 lakhs.

If these are the flagship services offered by various airlines in B747 and A380 carriers, Cathay Pacific offers its diamond class suite on its Airbus A350 carrier. It allows its passengers to choose any time of their convenience to order and customise their meals. “To complement the meal, we carry a broad selection of the best champagne and wines, handpicked by our panel of experts,” says Rajesh Menon, regional sales and marketing manager, South Asia, Cathay Pacific airlines.

Alongside a fully flat bed, the extra stowage space is designed so that it is within easy reach. To make the entertainment more realistic, they provide noise-cancelling headphones that are designed by Bose. Not just that, the system doubles up as your personal assistant with its built-in “Do Not Disturb” and “Wake Up Call” functions. This can cost about Rs.17.7 lakhs between Hong Kong and New York in its B777-30ER carrier. Cathay Pacific has started these services in six Indian cities.

When it comes to the British Airways, the Boeing 787-8 and 787-9 Dreamliner including the Airbus A380 offers a royal experience with its contemporary British designs. “The passengers can enjoy the turndown service offered by the cabin crew, who will lay out a 200-thread count Egyptian cotton mattress accompanied by a 400-thread count duvet and a pillow,” says Moran Birger, regional general manager, South Asia, British Airways. An afternoon tea service inspired by The Dorchester, an iconic hotel in London, is offered on board, recreating the British ritual and tradition of finely cut sandwiches, sumptuous cakes and teas. However, Birger declined to comment on the rates for these exclusive services between London and India.

Apart from these major airlines, few others like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner of Virgin Atlantic, and Singapore Airlines offers grandeur in its services. However, the routes between New York and Singapore in Virgin Atlantic can cost up to Rs.14 lakhs, according to a report in Economic Times.

Now that you have discovered that your wings already exist, all you need to do is fly in style.