The Perks of Flying First

At this time of year, it seems that everyone is rushing to head home for the holidays, and airplane conditions for the hoi polloi will most likely become tense, at best. But for those who can fly first or business class, travel can be much calmer and comfortable.

Two separate stories in today's New York Times and on Yahoo!'s homepage offer a secret glimpse into the luxury world of upper-class seating, and explain the history of some of the perks we now take for granted.

Lufthansa, for example, has kept its first class on most flights but has removed half the seats, guaranteeing a more personal experience. In the new A380 aircraft, the airline also installed a system that increases the humidity in the first-class cabin by 25 percent, which reportedly helps to ease jetlag. It has also insulated the cabin with special soundproofing material. Emirates, based in Dubai, has personal suites for first-class passengers, as well as two showers on its Airbus A380 planes for them.

Delta, United and US Airways are installing seats in premium international cabins that recline into flat beds. American doesn't have flat-bed seats (although the angled business-class seats on partner Qantas are perfectly comfortable), but is adding turndown service on some routes; at bedtime, passengers are given pajamas and slippers while flight attendants lay down a quilted seat cover, duvet and pillow. For dining options, US Airways serves citrus mahi-mahi with lemon herb sauce, jasmine rice, baby carrots and grilled asparagus in international business class. American serves Ben & Jerry's ice cream sundaes. Hot fudge, butterscotch, berries, pecans and whipped cream are added at each seat.

What are some perks that your clients like best on a first-class flight? What do airlines still need to do to make flying more comfortable? Sound off on Twitter or Facebook (buttons above)!

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