How Luxury Flies
Business Traveler|April 2017

Pre-flight to arrival, global airlines are going the extra mile to cater to their very top customers

Ramsey Qubein
For many of us, flying can be a grueling experience. Long queues, unfriendly security personnel and dwindling seat room are all culprits. Since the majority of airline profit is often derived from a small subset of business travelers, it makes sense for them to invest mightily in the premium product.

In his new book SOAR: How the World’s Best Airline Brands Delight Customers and Inspire Employees, author Shashank Nigam explains the power behind an airline’s identity and perception, especially how an investment in their product and brand can actually make them more profitable in the long run.

As airlines up the ante on each other, passengers in the pointy end of the plane stand to benefit the most. All of a sudden, going to the airport doesn’t seem so bad anymore.

 It Begins Before Liftoff

Fanciful travel starts even before getting to the airport thanks to airlines like Emirates, Etihad and Virgin Atlantic, all of which offer luxury VIP transfers from within a specific radius of the airport for business class passengers. Once at the airport, staffers with trolleys rush to the car to collect bags and usher guests to a sit-down check-in.

When it comes to first class travel, the amenities are seemingly unlimited. Lufthansa, for example, offers a dedicated first class terminal in Frankfurt designed to pamper with private passport control, on demand meal service and luxury lounging spaces that include perks like cigar bars or bubble baths (complete with rubber ducky). These days, it’s hard not to lose a little bit of dignity with hands in the air and legs akimbo at US security checkpoints. But at Lufthansa’s first class terminal, there’s private security, and the staff even helps you put your bags through.

Once past security, premium passengers at most airports are finding more to enjoy. For instance United is really stepping up with the introduction of its Polaris premium cabin product which begins at the Polaris lounge (one in Chicago O’Hare is open with more coming to its hub airports). It is arguably the best business class lounge of the major North American carriers with on-demand dining, shower suites, relaxation areas with pillows and blankets, and even storage cabinets for the preferred wine bottles of frequent fliers. It is only accessible to Polaris travelers or Star Alliance premium passengers (meaning it is less crowded).

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