First Class Experiences

First Class Experiences
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Highlighting the Best Luxury Travel Experiences by Air and Rail

Travel is a luxury many of us indulge in, whether backpacking around Europe, enjoying a quick city break with friends, or taking our family on a week-long holiday. However, only some of us seek out the most luxurious travel experiences available.

Often costing more than an arm and a leg, the unfortunate truth is that these experiences are out of reach for many people, with high prices ensuring their exclusivity. While flying first class simply doesn’t make sense for most of us, we can certainly appreciate the splendour that a first class ticket provides.

With this in mind, the research team at Slingo wanted to uncover the best luxury travel options. We’ve sought out the top airlines for first class experiences and the most opulent and exclusive train journeys that money can buy.

Emirates Offers the Best First Class Flying Experience

Top 3 First Class Flying Experience

1. Emirates First Class Score: 7.12

With an overall score of 7.12, Emirates takes first place as the best airline for flying first class. Emirates has one of the highest amounts of first class leg room, with a minimum of 69 inches, while also receiving a perfect score for in-flight entertainment, beverages, amenities and facilities, and short and medium-haul experience.

Additionally, Emirates received the most Instagram and TikTok posts, showing that passengers rate the first class experience so highly that they can't wait to show off online.

2. Lufthansa First Class Score: 5.99

The airline with the second highest first class score is Lufthansa, scoring 5.99 out of 10. The flagship German airline guarantees slightly less legroom than Emirates, with a minimum of 64 inches on first class flights. However, the carrier receives a perfect score for its first class airport experience, in-flight beverages, and service.

The Lufthansa first class experience also received the second-highest number of Instagram and TikTok posts, with 10,081 and 1,276, respectively. 

3. SWISS First Class Score: 5.14

SWISS takes third place with a first class score of 5.14. As the flag carrier of Switzerland, SWISS does its country proud, earning a perfect score for airport experience and in-flight amenities and facilities.

However, legroom on first class SWISS flights is slightly more conservative, with a minimum of 60 inches. The airline’s first class experience also receives noticeably less attention on Instagram, with 1,860 posts, though it still retains the third-highest number of TikTok posts, with 1,097.

Best First Class Flying Experience Table

The Top Airlines for each First Class Travel Factor

Minimum First Class Legroom

First Class Legroom

The best airline for legroom in first class is Cathay Pacific, which provides first class passengers with at least 81 inches of space in front of their seats. With such spacious accommodations, you could enjoy even the longest flights in perfect comfort.

Instagram Posts

Top Airline Instagram Posts

The most popular first class experience on Instagram is that of Emirates, with 47,750 posts tagged with #EmiratesFirstClass. This suggests that Emirates first class provides an excellent visual experience and has some of the strongest brand recognition.

TikTok Posts

Top Airline TikTok Posts

The airline with the most TikTok posts for its first class offering is also Emirates, with the hashtag #EmiratesFirstClass used 3,914 times. Having such a strong presence on TikTok suggests that Emirates first class is popular among younger travellers while being top on both social media platforms shows it to have a broad appeal.

Airport Experience

Top Airline Airport Experience

Three airlines were tied for having the best first class airport experience, with Lufthansa, SWISS and Qatar Airways all receiving a perfect score. Having a pleasant and seamless airport experience is crucial to enjoying your flight and getting the most out of your trip away.

Cabin & Seat

Top Airline Cabin and Seat

There was no clear winner when comparing each airline's first class cabin and seat rating, with almost every airline scoring nine out of 10. While first class seating can vary between airlines, they all provide their spin on luxury and comfort, with many now offering private booths with your very own bed space to lounge in while you fly. 


Top Airline Cuisine

The airlines with the best first class cuisine are Qatar Airways and Japanese carrier ANA, both of which earned perfect scores. While a standard in-flight meal can just about get us through a long-haul flight, first class fine dining is on another level. For instance, if you’re flying first class with ANA, you could enjoy a seven-course meal that’s on par with some of the best restaurants in Tokyo.


Top Airline Beverages

Two airlines were tied for having the best beverages when flying first class, with both Lufthansa and Emirates receiving perfect scores. After all, enjoying a fine gin and tonic or a refreshing soft drink at 35,000 feet is an excellent start to any trip.


Top Airline Service

Lufthansa, ANA and Qatar Airways received perfect scores for their first class in-flight service. The attentiveness and attention to detail of staff members and flight attendants can turn a pleasant trip into a wonderful experience, where nothing is too much trouble, and all your needs are catered for.


Top Airline Entertainment

Emirates has the best first class entertainment of any airline, being the only one to receive a perfect score of 10. Many of us dread long-haul flights as we can quickly find ourselves bored and trapped with nothing to do. Emirates has an outstanding selection of entertainment options, including thousands of movies, TV shows, games and music.

Amenities & Facilities

Top Airline Amenities and Facilities

Emirates and SWISS have the best first class amenities and facilities, earning a perfect score for this factor. Flying first class is all about going the extra mile to create a seamless travel experience, and these airlines know what they’re doing.

Short & Medium Haul

Top Airline Short and Medium Haul

Emirates has the best first class experience for short and medium-haul flights, receiving a perfect score of 10. Shorter flights may often reduce the level of service and extravagance offered to first class passengers, as there simply isn’t as much time for them to enjoy the experience. 

The Most Airport Lounges can be found at Heathrow and Suvarnabhumi, Thailand

Top 3 Most Airport Lounges

Airport lounges are a vital part of the luxury travel experience, with many airlines offering exclusive areas for their premium class travellers and club members to relax and unwind before flying. This section will reveal which of the world’s 50 busiest airports have the most lounges available to travellers.

1. Heathrow and Suvarnabhumi Airports Lounges: 39

London’s Heathrow Airport and Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok, are tied for first place, offering 39 lounges to qualifying travellers. Heathrow is the eight-busiest airport in the world, with over 61.6 million passengers in 2022, while Suvarnabhumi is the largest airport in Thailand.

3. Dubai International Airport Lounges: 31

Dubai International Airport is in third place, with 31 lounges on offer. The airport is the fifth-busiest in the world and the busiest outside of the USA, with more than 66 million passengers in 2022. Emirates, which operates thousands of flights from Dubai Airport every week, has a range of lounges available depending on your ticket class.

Most Airport Lounges Table

Suvarnabhumi Airport has the Best Lounge-to-Passenger Ratio

Top 3 Lounge Ratio

While the number of lounges is important, so too is how busy they might get. After all, one of the best features of airport lounges is the ability to escape the crowds and enjoy a few peaceful moments before takeoff. With this in mind, we’ve also found out which of the 50 largest airports have the best lounge-to-passenger ratios.

1. Suvarnabhumi Airport

Lounges per 100,000 passengers: 1.36

The airport with the best lounge-to-passenger ratio is Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, where there are 1.36 lounges for every 100,000 annual passengers. As one of the airports that are tied for having the most available lounges while also being the airport with the lowest number of yearly passengers in our study, Suvarnabhumi Airport has the best availability of airport lounges.

2. Singapore Changi Airport

Lounges per 100,000 passengers: 0.78

Singapore Changi Airport has the second-best lounge availability, with 0.78 lounges for every 100,000 annual passengers. Singapore Changi Airport has 25 lounges, with just over 32.2 million passengers in 2022.

3. São Paulo/Guarulhos International Airport

Lounges per 100,000 passengers: 0.73

In third place, with 0.73 lounges per 100,000 passengers, is São Paulo/Guarulhos International Airport. The airport, which serves Brazil’s largest city and economic centre, saw over 34.4 million passengers in 2022 and has 25 airport lounges.

Lounge Ratio Table

Rovos Rail provides the Highest-scoring Luxury Rail Experience

Top 3 Luxury Rail Experience

While flying first class might be the most prominent option for luxury travel, journeying by private train can be an even more exclusive affair. Luxury train travel is less about reaching your destination than enjoying the journey. From their opulent carriages, guests can witness beautiful rolling scenery, enjoy fine dining and entertainment, and take guided tours to explore the curated stops on their journeys. 

1. Rovos Rail Luxury Train Score: 9.21

With a luxury train score of 9.21 out of 10, Rovos Rail provides the finest private rail experience. Rovos Rail is a private rail company based in South Africa that offers luxury train journeys across Southern Africa, with options to visit ten different countries on your trip.

Rovos Rail is a highly popular luxury train experience, seen in the more than 11,000 posts tagged with #RovosRail on Instagram, with many guests and admirers posting their pictures to the platform.

2. Palace on Wheels Luxury Train Score: 6.80

The Palace on Wheels is the second-highest-scoring private rail experience, with a luxury train score of 6.90 out of 10. The Palace on Wheels takes its guests on a tour of Northern India. While this means it only visits a single country, there are many exciting stops along the way, from the stately architecture of Udaipur to the imposing Mehrangarh Fort of Jodhpur and the vibrant streets of Delhi.

Guests staying in the Super Deluxe cabins will enjoy 12.9 square metres of cabin space and the largest beds in our comparison at 3.6 square metres. Super Deluxe guests will also receive their very own private vehicle and English-speaking tour guide on all excursions. They will also have the option to go on a tiger-spotting safari in Ranthambore National Park. 

3. Deccan Odyssey Luxury Train Score: 5.96

The Deccan Odyssey receives the third-highest luxury train score of 5.96. This luxury private train also focuses on exploring India, with different tours available to travel through the north or south of the country. The Deccan Odyssey visits iconic Indian cultural destinations, ranging from Darjeeling and Delhi to Mumbai and Madras.

The most exclusive cabin on the Deccan Odyssey is the Presidential Suite, which provides 19 square metres of cabin space, including a separate lounge complete with a sofa and writing desk and an en-suite bathroom with a separate shower. Presidential Suite guests also benefit from a private chauffeur and tour guide in many destinations.

Luxury Rail Experience Table

The Best-performing Luxury Train for each factor

Largest Cabin Area (m²)

Largest Cabin

The best luxury train for the largest cabin area available is the Maharajas’ Express, with the train’s Presidential Suite Cabin providing a vast 41.6 square metres of space across two bedrooms, a sitting room, a living room, and a bathroom fully equipped with a separate bath and shower.

The Presidential Suite Cabin aboard the Maharajas’ Express covers an entire train car, and guests can use an exclusive butler service. A luxury vehicle is also available for any off-rail excursions.

Largest Bed Size (m²)

Largest Bed Size

The luxury train that offers the biggest bed size is the Palace on Wheels, which provides super king-sized beds in its Super Deluxe cabins, measuring 3.6 square metres (180cm x 200cm). As space on trains is at a premium, most beds on sleeper services are usually fold-down single bunks, so enjoying a super king bed instead is a true luxury.

Instagram Posts

Train Instagram Posts

Rovos Rail is the most popular luxury train on Instagram, with over 11,000 posts on the platform. Tours with Rovos Rail visit some of the most beautiful scenery imaginable. The carriages feature beautifully upholstered interiors, so there are plenty of reasons to bring out your camera on these journeys.

Global Searches 2023

Top Train Global Searches 2023

The most searched-for luxury train in 2023 was the Maharajas’ Express, with over 1.15 million searches. This is almost three times the number of searches of the next-most-searched train, South Africa’s Blue Train, which received 401,400 searches.

Total Countries Visited

Top Train Countries Visited

The Danube Express allows guests to explore locations across 18 different countries, far higher than any other luxury train in our study. Depending on the tour guests select, they can visit locations across Europe, including Paris, Venice, Krakow and Istanbul.


We wanted to explore and compare luxury travel options for both rail and air travel. We split our study into three sections: first class airlines, airport lounges, and luxury trains.

We used data from to compare first class experiences across twelve airlines, looking at eight separate factors. These factors were airport experience, cabin & seat, cuisine, beverages, service, entertainment, amenities & facilities, and short & medium haul.

We also recorded the minimum legroom on first class flights on each airline using data from Alternative Airlines. Finally, we recorded social data and collected the number of posts on Instagram and TikTok for hashtags #[AIRLINE]firstclass and #[AIRLINE]firstclasslounge.

All of these factors were combined into a single score, allowing us to rank the first class experience of the airlines in our study.

To see which airports are best for luxury travellers, we highlighted the most lounges available using data from Lounge Buddy. The airports we looked at were the 50 busiest in the world according to a 2022 report from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which was sourced via Wikipedia.

We also compared the number of lounges to the population data to reveal which airports have the best lounge availability based on the number of lounges per 100,000 passengers.

Lastly, we compared luxury trains using data from The Luxury Train Travel Company to record each train’s largest cabin area, bed size, and the number of countries visited.  We also recorded the number of hashtagged Instagram posts for each train and the number of searches each train received in 2023.

These five factors were combined into a single score, allowing us to rank the trains accordingly.



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