Airlines offer private rooms as ultimate in luxury travel

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By David Millward, Transport Editor  www.telegraph.co.uk

Airlines have started to offer private cabins for those who do not have their own jet but require a little more privacy on their journeys.

One of the Emirates private cabins.
One of the Emirates private cabins.

Aimed at businessmen, sportsmen, celebrities and couples on their honeymoon, they come complete with 6ft 7ins bed, leather interior, wash unit and room service.

So far three airlines have fitted planes with cabins including Singapore Airlines which has 12 on board its Heathrow to Singapore flight, Etihad also has 12 on its flight to Abu Dhabi, while Emirates has 14 cabins on its seven-hour flight to Dubai.

Other perks of travelling super first class include a 23-inch television, inbuilt massager, cuisine selected by a “International Culinary Panel” chefs, and a choice of champagne: Billecart-Salmon, Brut Blanc de Blancs 2002 or Baudry Brut Rose. For those who like a little home from home Ovaltine, hot chocolate and Horlicks are also all on the room service menu.

Early indications are that the accommodation has been popular though not all cabins are taken up on every flight. John Terry, the former England captain and Freddie Flintoff, the cricketer have both taken cabins on flights to Dubai, while Danii Minogue, the X-factor judge, regularly takes a suite on her flights back to Australia.

“For that type of passenger, money really isn’t an issue,” a spokesman for Singapore Airlines said. “You are talking about top chief executives or people who are independently wealthy.”

Tim Clark, the president of Emirates airlines, said: “International premium travellers are highly aspirational. You have passengers coming out of luxury hotels, and you can’t have them getting into something that comes out of the dark ages in terms of the airplane. So we brought the service up to high levels, and then went beyond that.”

A one way cabin ticket from Heathrow to Dubai with Emirates costs £2,225, compared with a business class ticket costing £1,628 and an economy class seat for £332.

Etihad charges £2,107 for a one way first class ticket to Abu Dhabi, while the business class fare is £1,678 and economy costs £627. Singapore charges £3,497.40 for a one way first class ticket, £1,898.60 for business class and £452.90 to fly economy.

The “room of your own” model could be followed by some other airlines, but British Airways will not be among them.

“We have invested £100 million in our new First class cabin and the feedback from customers is already very good. We looked at creating a fully enclosed suite, like other long haul carriers have done, but our customer research came out strongly against such an idea.”

City analysts believe the move into ultimate luxury is shrewd business. Gert Zonneveld, of Panmure Gordon, said: “Even if this product made a loss or only broke even, it would still enhance the reputation of the airline.”

Another added: “Presumably the very rich will stay very rich, but I wouldn’t expect this to become the norm.”

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