The best luxury suites in the sky and how to fly them

May 25, 2020

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Aside from some unfortunate exceptions, just about every long-haul aircraft offers lie-flat seats in business class. Sure, privacy and amenities vary significantly, but, for the most part, you’ll have a decent shot at getting a full night’s sleep.

For many travellers, though, premium-cabin travel is about the experience — they wouldn’t dream of wasting a business or first-class flight by sleeping the miles away. And, for those travellers after something special, a handful of airlines now offer a product that makes for a truly once-in-a-lifetime flight.

A flight in Emirates’ latest suite makes for an experience that’s hard to beat. (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

Now that we’ve had a chance to try them all on for size, we’re rounding up the very best luxury seats and suites in the skies. I’ll be including cash and award rates for both, and, since these products are worth travelling out of your way to reach, I’ll even break down the “hourly rate,” giving you a sense of which routes offer the most bang for your buck.

So buckle up, and get ready to build your balance of points and miles — in many cases, these products really are within reach.

In This Post

1. Etihad: The Residence

Etihad’s flagship product is a true three-room suite, with a living room (main seating area), bedroom (with a real bed!) and a private shower-equipped lavatory. TPG has had an opportunity to travel in The Residence twice — most recently, during an “All-Class Takeover” of Etihad’s A380, from New York-JFK to Abu Dhabi (AUH).

Booking with cash

It should come as no surprise that the most exclusive airline experience in the world comes at a price. While fares for many products fluctuate from day to day, the rate for Etihad’s Residence is fixed, with the lowest fare priced at $11,500 (about £9,400), for a one-way flight from Paris (CDG) to Abu Dhabi (AUH). There is a (small) silver lining here, though — since The Residence is designed for up to two guests, you can add a second passenger at a significantly reduced rate.

To Abu Dhabi

Origin Destination Cost Flight time Hourly rate
London Abu Dhabi $11,650 7:00 $1,660
New York Abu Dhabi $27,450 12:40 $2,170
Paris Abu Dhabi $11,500 6:45 $1,700
Sydney Abu Dhabi $18,700 14:50 $1,290

From Abu Dhabi

Origin Destination Cost Flight time Hourly rate
Abu Dhabi London $19,800 8:05 $2,450
Abu Dhabi New York $24,650 13:40 $1,800
Abu Dhabi Paris $16,550 7:40 $2,160
Abu Dhabi Sydney $19,450 13:55 $1,400

In some cases, you can save a considerable amount on each leg by booking a round-trip. The lowest fare is available from Paris to Abu Dhabi, at just over $16,000 (about £13,078) round-trip.

Redeeming miles

First, the good news — it is indeed possible to book The Residence using miles. Unfortunately, however, it can only be booked through the Etihad Guest programme, and at astronomical rates. Here’s how the pricing breaks down for a one-way flight, including an extra column outlining your redemption value per mile — which, unfortunately, isn’t great.

The Residence offers a true three-room onboard suite. (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

To Abu Dhabi

Origin Destination Miles Flight time Hourly rate Per-mile value (cents)
London Abu Dhabi 1,244,842 7:00 177,835 0.93
New York Abu Dhabi 3,022,222 12:40 238,722 0.91
Paris Abu Dhabi 1,244,284 6:45 184,338 0.92
Sydney Abu Dhabi 2,056,148 14:50 138,617 0.91

From Abu Dhabi

Origin Destination Miles Flight time Hourly rate Per-mile value (cents)
Abu Dhabi London 2,197,822 8:05 271,896 0.90
Abu Dhabi New York 2,734,422 13:40 200,080 0.90
Abu Dhabi Paris 1,833,938 7:40 239,209 0.90
Abu Dhabi Sydney 2,156,987 13:55 154,993 0.90

As you can see, you’ll be getting less than a cent in value for each Etihad Guest point, when booking each direction individually — among the lowest redemption rates you’ll encounter for an award flight. Unlike with most award bookings, you can often find much lower rates for each direction of travel when booking a round-trip award, since redemption rates appear to be tied to the cash fare. The lowest round-trip rate is available between Paris and Abu Dhabi, at 1,742,478 miles — “just” 871,239 each way, compared with the 1,244,284 you’ll pay for a single leg.

If you insist on redeeming miles for your trip, you do have a few options. Etihad Guest is a 1:1 transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards — just know that there are far better uses for your hard-earned points.

2. Emirates: 777 First Class Suite

Dubai-based Emirates operates an exclusively wide-body fleet, and many of the carrier’s aircraft offer some variation of its flagship suite. As a result, you can score a first-class experience on some extraordinarily short flights — some last mere minutes, but, even there, the chance to fly up front doesn’t come cheap.

The latest experience, meanwhile, is only available on a very small number of the carrier’s Boeing 777-300ERs — while elusive, the carrier’s “Game Changer” is worth the effort to seek out.

The new @Emirates first-class suite, in 360 degrees. #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Unfortunately, the new suite is only available on a grand total of nine aircraft, and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon. Eventually, the six-suite cabin is expected to make its way to regular flights to the U.S., but that almost certainly won’t be until Emirates takes delivery of several of its upcoming 777X aircraft, and, with delays at Boeing and now a drop in demand following the coronavirus pandemic, it’s unclear when that may happen.

In the meantime, customers can most often find the new suite on a handful of routes from Dubai (DXB), with destinations including twice daily to Brussels (BRU), Geneva (GVA) and London’s Stansted (STN), and once a day to Frankfurt (FRA), Tokyo (HND) and Vienna (VIE). You might also find the new cabin on occasional U.S. flights, to destinations like Chicago (ORD), Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) and Seattle (SEA), and even on short-haul flights to regional airports, like Kuwait (KWI), but substitutions are possible, so getting the new plane on these routes is never a guarantee.

Booking with cash

While fares for a cash or award flight in the Etihad Residence are astronomical, Emirates’ new suite is a bit more within reach. If you’re after the absolute cheapest option, a $1,700 (£1,390) last-minute flight between Dubai and Kuwait could be worth considering — booked within 24 hours, you’re less likely to have your six-suite 777 swapped for the more common (and far older) eight-suite version. Your best bet, though, is to book one of the routes below.

To Dubai

Origin Destination Cost Flight time Hourly rate
Brussels Dubai $3,600 6:30 $550
Frankfurt Dubai $4,500 6:20 $710
Geneva Dubai $5,900 6:30 $910
London Dubai $3,600 7:00 $510
Tokyo Dubai $5,750 11:15 $510
Vienna Dubai $4,350 5:35 $780

From Dubai

Origin Destination Cost Flight time Hourly rate
Dubai Brussels $5,350 7:00 $760
Dubai Frankfurt $5,150 6:50 $750
Dubai Geneva $5,450 6:45 $810
Dubai London $6,700 7:30 $890
Dubai Tokyo $6,100 9:55 $620
Dubai Vienna $4,400 6:00 $730

You might also consider beginning your travel in Colombo, Sri Lanka (CMB) — as I explain here, first-class fares from CMB to Dubai to Brussels, Frankfurt, Geneva, London or Vienna are typically far cheaper than a nonstop itinerary from Dubai to Europe. For example, while you’ll pay $5,430 (£4,438) for a flight from Dubai to Geneva, the fare drops to $2,640 (£2,158) if you begin the trip in Colombo — a savings of just over 50%.

Redeeming miles

Emirates appears to be blocking most award availability for its latest first-class cabin, even on short-haul flights, like Dubai to Kuwait, though last-minute awards have become available up to two days before departure in the past. While you can’t easily redeem miles for these flights in the traditional sense, you can make use of your transferrable points.

The simplest option is transferring American Express Membership Rewards points to Emirates at 1:1 rate.

3. Singapore: New A380 Suite

While I have yet to travel as a passenger in Singapore’s new A380 suite myself, I’ve had a chance to check it out during two separate flights — the delivery of Singapore’s first A380 with the new product, from the Airbus factory in Toulouse, France (TLS) to Changi Airport (SIN), and again while photographing TPG founder and CEO Brian Kelly’s review. It’s one impressive suite for sure.

Singapore’s new A380 suite has been flying around the world for roughly two and a half years. The new suite could eventually make its way to Singapore’s one-stop service between New York-JFK and Changi via Frankfurt (FRA), though the carrier has yet to confirm its plans there.

Booking with cash

For now, you’ll need to go a bit out of your way to experience Singapore’s new suite — the product flies daily between SIN and a number of airports in Asia, Europe and the South Pacific, with fares that vary significantly depending on distance and route.

Singapore’s latest suite features a separate bed and seat. Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.

To Singapore

Origin Destination Cost Flight time Hourly rate
Auckland Singapore $2,750 10:40 $260
Hong Kong Singapore $2,200 4:00 $550
London Singapore $5,350 12:55 $410
Paris Singapore $6,250 12:35 $500
Shanghai Singapore $2,150 5:50 $370
Sydney Singapore $2,700 8:20 $320
Tokyo Singapore $5,900 7:40 $770
Zurich Singapore $8,250* 12:25 $660

From Singapore

Origin Destination Cost Flight time Hourly rate
Singapore Auckland $5,050 9:50 $510
Singapore Hong Kong $2,150 4:00 $540
Singapore London $6,700 14:00 $480
Singapore Paris $6,700 14:00 $480
Singapore Shanghai $2,900 5:15 $550
Singapore Sydney $3,850 8:00 $480
Singapore Tokyo $3,850 6:35 $580
Singapore Zurich $5,800 13:20 $440

*In the unique case of Zurich-Singapore, one-way flights are considerably more expensive, at $12,650, so I’m listing the full round-trip price.

Redeeming miles

While Etihad’s Residence is priced astronomically, both when redeeming miles and paying cash, Singapore’s new A380 suite offers far more value, with cash and redemption rates in line with what you’d expect for international first class — and, on some routes, even quite a bit lower.

Related: How to book the new Singapore Suites for as little as £19

Award tickets for Singapore Suites are typically only available through the airline’s KrisFlyer programme — with just six suites on each aircraft, Saver awards can be especially hard to find, though they are available from time to time. You’ll typically find far better availability for Singapore’s higher-priced “Advantage” awards, and in some cases you may be able to confirm an Advantage award while opting to “waitlist” a Saver segment, which will clear at the lower redemption amount if it becomes available before departure.

To Singapore

Origin Destination Miles Flight time Hourly rate Per-mile value (cents)
Auckland Singapore 85,000 10:40 7,969 3.24
Hong Kong Singapore 40,500 4:00 10,125 5.43
London Singapore 125,000 12:55 9,677 4.28
Paris Singapore 125,000 12:35 9,934 5.00
Shanghai Singapore 53,000 5:50 9,086 4.02
Sydney Singapore 85,000 8:20 10,200 3.18
Tokyo Singapore 70,000 7:40 9,130 8.43
Zurich Singapore 125,000 12:25 10,067 6.60

From Singapore

Origin Destination Miles Flight time Hourly rate Per-mile value (cents)
Singapore Auckland 85,000 9:50 8,644 5.94
Singapore Hong Kong 40,500 4:00 10,125 5.30
Singapore London 125,000 14:00 8,929 5.36
Singapore Paris 125,000 14:00 8,929 5.36
Singapore Shanghai 53,000 5:15 10,095 5.47
Singapore Sydney 85,000 8:00 10,625 4.53
Singapore Tokyo 70,000 6:35 10,633 5.50
Singapore Zurich 125,000 13:20 9,375 4.64

Fortunately, it’s easy to quickly build up a balance of eligible miles — KrisFlyer partners with Amex Membership Rewards at a 1:1 rate.

4. Etihad: The Apartment

When I flew the Etihad Apartment, from Sydney to Abu Dhabi, I thought it was the best thing since sliced bread — for just 60,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles (back in 2015), I scored over 14 hours of flight time, with my own large chair, wall, door and a sofa that folds into a bed. Not to mention the fact that you can sleep next to a companion, hang out in a lounge and experience a shower in the sky. Pure bliss!

Since then, new Emirates and Singapore suites took the luxury equation through the roof, so here’s where The Apartment lands, on the bottom half of this very prestigious list.

Booking with cash

Etihad operates The Apartment on the same routes as The Residence, since both products are only found on the superjumbo Airbus A380. Fares for the more common Apartment are far lower, though — in fact, you can typically book two Apartments for less than the cost of a single Residence ticket, which, in many cases, may actually make more sense, since you can lower the dividing wall and share space between two Apartments, instead.

And, since it’s considerably more efficient to book the next three products on this list as part of a round-trip, I’ll be including half the round-trip fare below, rather than the price of a one-way ticket.

Etihad Apartment customers can expect to find significant personal space and comfort. Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.

To Abu Dhabi

Origin Destination Cost Flight time Hourly rate
London Abu Dhabi $2,950 7:00 $420
New York Abu Dhabi $11,500 12:40 $910
Paris Abu Dhabi $2,350 6:45 $350
Sydney Abu Dhabi $4,950 14:50 $330

From Abu Dhabi

Origin Destination Cost Flight time Hourly rate
Abu Dhabi London $3,700 8:05 $460
Abu Dhabi New York $4,600 13:40 $340
Abu Dhabi Paris $3,700 7:40 $480
Abu Dhabi Sydney $4,400 13:55 $320

Redeeming miles

Along with The Residence, Etihad’s Apartment is the oldest premium-cabin on this list. Fortunately, it’s also one of the most accessible, since you can routinely book award travel through a variety of programmes.

As with The Residence, you can book The Apartment via the airline’s own Etihad Guest programme, but you’ll find better redemption values elsewhere. Asiana Club offers some of the lowest rates, but the carrier specifically prohibits redemptions for Etihad’s New York-JFK flight, the only A380 option to the United States. Flights between Europe and Abu Dhabi can be booked for just 40,000 miles.

One of the most common options for booking Etihad’s Apartment is via American’s AAdvantage programme, though, with limited transfer partners, it might take a bit more effort to build up your balance. Since this may be a popular redemption method for TPG readers, I’ll include redemption amounts via AAdvantage right here.

To Abu Dhabi

Origin Destination Miles Flight time Hourly rate Per-mile value (cents)
London Abu Dhabi 62,500 7:00 8,929 4.72
New York Abu Dhabi 115,000 12:40 9,079 10.00
Paris Abu Dhabi 62,500 6:45 9,259 3.76
Sydney Abu Dhabi 100,000 14:50 6,742 4.95

From Abu Dhabi

Origin Destination Miles Flight time Hourly rate Per-mile value (cents)
Abu Dhabi London 62,500 8:05 7,732 5.92
Abu Dhabi New York 115,000 13:40 8,415 4.00
Abu Dhabi Paris 62,500 7:40 8,152 5.92
Abu Dhabi Sydney 100,000 13:55 7,186 4.40

5. ANA: The Room

Last summer, Japanese carrier All Nippon Airways (ANA) introduced a brand-new business class called “The Room,” offering private suites, complete with sliding doors. It’s a trend we’ve seen roll out to some of the world’s top carriers — including Qatar Airways, with its Qsuite business-class product — and a welcome improvement for ANA.

ANA’s The Room is truly the business-class product to beat (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

In fact, ANA’s The Room has unseated Qatar’s Qsuite as the top business-class product on this very list — both are incredibly compelling offerings, but All Nippon comes out a hair ahead, thanks to superior catering and a much larger seat.

The Room is still hard to come by, though — currently, it’s only available on a very small number of Boeing 777-300ERs. A quick glance at the seat map will help confirm your flight has the new product — it’s the only 777 version with 64 business-class seats, with an ExpertFlyer map that looks exactly like this (ExpertFlyer is owned by the same parent company as TPG):

So far, ANA is offering The Room only on flights between Tokyo and Frankfurt (FRA), London (LHR) and New York (JFK). It’ll likely roll out to more flights in the future, but for now, it’s even hit and miss on those routes. Be sure to check the seat map carefully — if you see row 20 as the last row of business class, you’ve landed on the right flight.

Booking with cash

As with Etihad’s Apartment, cash fares for The Room are far more reasonable when booking a round-trip ticket — generally, you’ll even pay less for a round-trip than you will for a one-way flight, so you’ll want to do some comparison shopping before you settle on a route. As a result, I’ll list half of the round-trip fare below, rather than the price of a one-way ticket.

The Room amenities include a sliding door and a huge HD display (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

To Tokyo

Origin Destination Cost Flight time Hourly rate
Frankfurt Tokyo $1,650 11:25 $150
London Tokyo $2,250 11:50 $190
New York Tokyo $3,800 14:15 $270

From Tokyo

Origin Destination Cost Flight time Hourly rate
Tokyo Frankfurt $2,600 12:20 $210
Tokyo London $2,700 12:50 $210
Tokyo New York $2,750 12:30 $220

Redeeming miles

Since ANA is a member of the Star Alliance, there are a huge variety of options available to book your award seat. When it comes to U.S.-based programmes, you’re limited to United MileagePlus, which recently removed its award charts for partner flights. As a result, it’s no longer possible to share confirmed redemption amounts.

Other redemption options include ANA’s own loyalty programme, Mileage Club. ANA requires that awards be booked as a round-trip, which doesn’t make that an ideal option here. If you are looking to book a round-trip, both ANA and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club are worth a look.

In my opinion, your best option for one-way award tickets is Air Canada’s Aeroplan programme. Aeroplan allows customers to book most one-way awards online, and while the programme does charge high surcharges with some carriers, they’re usually not more than $150 each way with ANA. As a result, I’ll be including Aeroplan redemption rates below.

To Tokyo

Origin Destination Miles Flight time Hourly rate Per-mile value (cents)
Frankfurt Tokyo 75,000 11:25 6,569 2.20
London Tokyo 75,000 11:50 6,338 3.00
New York Tokyo 75,000 14:15 5,263 5.01

From Tokyo

Origin Destination Miles Flight time Hourly rate Per-mile value (cents)
Tokyo Frankfurt 75,000 12:20 6,081 3.47
Tokyo London 75,000 12:50 5,844 3.60
Tokyo New York 75,000 12:30 6,000 3.67

Note that your search may generate an error when searching certain routes through Aeroplan’s website — as I experienced for flights between London (LHR) and Tokyo (HND) — in which case you may need to call to book your award.

6. Qatar: Qsuite

While it’s landed a spot at the bottom of this especially prestigious list, Qatar’s Qsuite remains one of the world’s very best premium-cabin products — it’s business class at business-class prices, but travellers can expect a level of service, privacy and personal space that exceeds first class on a number of international carriers.

Qatar Airways is quickly working to roll out Qsuite across its fleet — as of now, it’s available on all Airbus A350-1000s and many A350-900s, along with a number of Boeing 777 planes. As a result, Qatar flies its best product to all of its U.S. destinations, including Atlanta (ATL), Boston (BOS), Chicago (ORD), Dallas (DFW), Houston (IAH), Los Angeles (LAX), Miami (MIA), New York (JFK), Philadelphia (PHL) and Washington, D.C. (IAD).

Qatar’s Qsuite business class on the Airbus A350 (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

Booking with cash

Qsuite is now available on many Qatar Airways flights to destinations all around the world, but given how widely available it is within the United States, I’ll be focusing exclusively on fares between the U.S. and Qatar’s Doha hub here. As with Etihad’s Apartment and ANA’s The Room, Qsuite rates are considerably more reasonable when purchased as part of a round-trip, so I’ll include half the round-trip fare here.

To Doha

Origin Destination Cost Flight time Hourly rate
Atlanta Doha $3,700 13:30 $270
Boston Doha $5,400 11:40 $460
Chicago Doha $3,950 13:10 $300
Dallas Doha $3,750 14:35 $260
Houston Doha $4,250 14:30 $290
Los Angeles Doha $4,050 15:55 $250
Miami Doha $4,850 13:50 $350
New York Doha $3,900 12:15 $320
Philadelphia Doha $3,900 12:20 $320
Washington, D.C. Doha $4,200 12:50 $330

From Doha

Origin Destination Cost Flight time Hourly rate
Doha Atlanta $3,300 15:35 $210
Doha Boston $2,950 13:55 $210
Doha Chicago $3,300 14:45 $220
Doha Dallas $3,300 15:55 $210
Doha Houston $3,300 16:15 $200
Doha Los Angeles $3,300 16:25 $200
Doha Miami $3,300 16:05 $210
Doha New York $3,000 14:05 $210
Doha Philadelphia $2,950 14:20 $210
Doha Washington, D.C. $2,950 14:35 $200

Redeeming miles

As a member of the Oneworld alliance, Qatar Airways flights can be booked via all Oneworld members, including American Airlines in the U.S.

American’s programme, AAdvantage, prices awards based on region, so all flights between the United States and Doha require the same 70,000 miles for business class — you may be on the hook for additional miles if you’re travelling beyond Doha or the U.S.

Qsuite passengers can expect to experience something truly special (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

To Doha

Origin Destination Miles Flight time Hourly rate Per-mile value (cents)
Atlanta Doha 70,000 13:30 5,185 5.29
Boston Doha 70,000 11:40 6,000 7.71
Chicago Doha 70,000 13:10 5,317 5.64
Dallas Doha 70,000 14:35 4,800 5.36
Houston Doha 70,000 14:30 4,828 6.07
Los Angeles Doha 70,000 15:55 4,398 5.79
Miami Doha 70,000 13:50 5,060 6.93
New York Doha 70,000 12:15 5,714 5.57
Philadelphia Doha 70,000 12:20 5,676 5.57
Washington, D.C. Doha 70,000 12:50 5,455 6.00

From Doha

Origin Destination Miles Flight time Hourly rate Per-mile value (cents)
Doha Atlanta 70,000 15:35 4,492 4.71
Doha Boston 70,000 13:55 5,030 4.21
Doha Chicago 70,000 14:45 4,746 4.71
Doha Dallas 70,000 15:55 4,398 4.71
Doha Houston 70,000 16:15 4,308 4.71
Doha Los Angeles 70,000 16:25 4,264 4.71
Doha Miami 70,000 16:05 4,352 4.71
Doha New York 70,000 14:05 4,970 4.29
Doha Philadelphia 70,000 14:20 4,884 4.21
Doha Washington, D.C. 70,000 14:35 4,800 4.21

Some of the other more popular booking options include British Airways Executive Club and Cathay Pacific Asia Miles — both of which are transfer partners of Amex Membership Rewards.

Both of those other Oneworld programmes could be a reasonable option, depending on which regions you’re travelling from and to — see our detailed Qsuite guide for a better idea of how else you might want to book your award flight.

Bottom line

Premium-cabin travellers can expect to find improved amenities, more space and a lie-flat seat, regardless of which airline they book. But, for certain trips, it can be exciting to experience something truly aspirational, and unique. If you’re willing and able to put in a bit of extra work — and, perhaps, some more time in the air — the six products here make for an extra-special treat.

Featured image of Emirates 777 First Class Suite by Zach Honig / The Points Guy.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.