The True Ranking of the Very Best First Class Airlines — And Which Are Overrated!

Earlier this month FlightFox put out their rankings of the best first class products in the air and along with those the best prices they’ve found to actually buy each ticket.

I expressed some disagreement with their rankings. For instance, I didn’t agree that Singapore Airlines has the best all-around first class. For instance, I don’t find their seat all that comfortable for lounging although it is good for sleeping, I don’t really find their ground services to be special (although they do a great job with food in The Private Room in Singapore), and they need to work on their snack menu.

The folks at FlightFox underscored though that they were only talking about Singapore’s A380 Suites. Fair enough.

I didn’t agree that Lufthansa has the 5th-best first class.

I’d take Qantas’ A380 First Class Suites (their #15) over Air France (#12) in a heartbeat — as well as over JAL (#11) and Qatar (#7).

They were kind enough to invite me to submit my own rankings, and they offered to publish them on their site. We spent a good bit of time going back and forth about definitions, were they looking at only the inflight product (since they were treating the Singapore Airlines A380 separately from the 777-300ER) or did the whole ground experience count? What about food and amenities?

And I asked that they allow me to asterisk those products that I don’t have first-hand experience with. For instance, I have some general impressions about Transaero’s Imperial Class, I haven’t flown it. But in order to offer a ranking that matched theirs, I’d need to include it. So I want to highlight where my experiences are limited, and thus my opinions both more general and more tentative.

In the end I do rate Singapore’s Suites Class as #1 — ground services leave something do be desired, as do inflight snacks and ‘supper’ service where applicable. But the overall food is great, the seat privacy is outstanding, and the service is as good as any airline in the sky (most of the time).

And I rate Cathay Pacific as #2 — despite having ground services that also leave something to be desired. They have great service in their own right (though far less obtrusive than Singapore’s). They have very good amenities, good food though not as good as Singapore’s (but better snacks). Most of all they have my absolute favorite seat in the sky, the one I get the very best sleep in. And since even first class, to me, is first and foremost about the seat and the spaciousness, and since Cathay offers seating 3-across instead of 4 on their 777s, they rank very highly indeed.

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I don’t think Emirates really compares, even with the suites onboard their A380, but they do have a shower in the sky.

I really love Etihad’s suites, their amenities, and have mostly very good luck with their onboard chef concept. They have one of the most stylish cabins in the sky.

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Qantas’ A380 first class is also very very good, and I am looking forward to flying it again very soon.

Singapore’s 777-300ER first class is my number six — delivering the same pluses and minuses as the A380 which I give my number one to, but without the privacy of the suite or the spaciousness of the two-person ‘double bed’ in the center section.


You can see my full top 25 by clicking ‘Flight Blogger Ratings’ in the upper right here.

I understand that they’ve also reached out to Lucky from One Mile at a Time for his rankings, and will be posting those this week as well. It’ll be interesting — to me, at least — to see how our opinions of first class products compare (or I should say, how our rankings of Lufthansa First Class differ.. hah!).

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I thought you did an excellent job. Ranking Singapore, Emirates and Etihad Suites in the top 4 is the way it should be. I just need to fly Cathay…

  2. I agree with most of your list, but some major disagreements

    TG is no where near #9, but LH deserves way above #14 (from my 4 segments experience of them). LH is also excellent in cabin service, and I don’t even speak German.

    And I don’t see why LX is rated so low considering they’re usually rated as the best F in Europe

    JAL F was a dud for me but ANA was impeccable

  3. Hi Travel Dude, we will be updating the list periodically to include new fit-outs and reviews, so when we have more info on the latest A380s from Asiana, we may upgrade their rank. Where do you think they should be in the list?

  4. What fun! I saw their post & ur rankings. & it will be fun to read Lucky’s take

    Of the ones near the top I have only flown Cathay & love it – the seat the Krug & don’t forget the cabana @ HKG. I’d like to try Qantas & perhaps Singapore. I have flown SQ business on 380 – certainly nice enough. 🙂

    I loved the Lufthansa 747-8 1st. So CX & LH at my top w/out *.

    Last month I flew Asiana new 380 HKG-ICN In suites class w/ business service. The suite is quite nice, but too far away from the window &
    the hall monitor FA always walking the aisle annoyed me.

    I’ll be flying Emirates in shower suites this October SYDNEY-DXB-JFK.

  5. The only surprise for me in your ranking is Transaero. I am curious why you think they are better than BA or AF?

    I think the biggest difference between your ranking and Lucky’s will be AF La Premiere. I think they do deserve a bit more credit.

    This is going to be interesting 🙂

  6. My surprise is that you haven’t tried EK F. Isn’t that almost a rite of passage for any miles & points blogger? 🙂

  7. @justSaying The routes listed are the cheapest we could find on each product, so there are more ways to get to to Europe from the US, but they didn’t come out as the cheapest route for the particular cabin + airline. That will be another addition we hope to publish for the post in future – an easy way to search or see all the routes to fly each product.

  8. Just did Sydney HK in Qantas First in June. Service mediocre at best and my partner ‘ s seat was broken on the Sydney HK trip. It has really gone down hill….

  9. @Diondi EK F A380 shower is what I haven’t done, I mean, I just haven’t chased it and it hasn’t been otherwise-convenient in my plans. I like a good first class product, and I want to travel that way, but I don’t really go out of my way to check products off of a list. That’s why I tend to fly Cathay First and Etihad First a lot — they’ve been going where I want to go, they’ve had the availability, and at a good deal mileage price 🙂

  10. @Patricia – TG for the total package, service can be hit or miss and no one substitutes aircraft the way that they do, but the ground service in bangkok is amazing and the pre-order service pretty good… when they’re on they’re on.

  11. Hey @Joey,
    Flightfox Hackability measures Flightfox’s ability to find fares in these cabins for less than retail.

  12. Lucky has clearly more of a European bias than I do. I bet we’d come to some interesting agreements if we negotiated these rankings together.

    Still, I don’t buy ranking BA better than Malaysia and Thai, and Lufthansa better than Singapore, Etihad, and Qantas.

    Of course, others don’t buy the high rating I give to Thai! It all comes down to weighting the different elements of experience.

    I certainly wouldn’t put American above Air China.

  13. @Alex – I ranked Malaysia #10, though it’s fair to dispute that. Ben ranked them #19 which I don’t buy, I cannot accept that British Airways offers a better first class than MH does

  14. @justSaying & @Gary – because SQ IAH-DME(-SIN) features the “regular” first-class as it’s on 777-300ER and not A380, so JFK-FRA is the only SQ route to Europe with top-rates Suites product. FWIW, DME is doing some major expansion, incl. ability to accept more A380s and IAH has that in the plans as well.

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