Crisis on the ground, caviar in the air — the Middle East offers luxury at 30,000 feet
A century ago, the mayor of St. Petersburg, Florida boarded a 23-minute flight across the bay and became the world’s first paying airplane passenger. The humble “flying boat” carried Mayor Abram C. Pheil the 21-mile distance from St. Petersburg to Tampa.
We’ve come a long way since that flight. And while it may be the home of flying carpets, the Middle East hasn’t always been known for aviation. Now, things are changing.
First off, the region is a natural link between Asia and Europe — much of the world’s population is within a 6-hour flight away — and its airlines have a growing client base in China, Africa, and Malaysia. Continue reading below »
Gulf airlines are positioning the region as a transfer point for long haul flights. Global ambitions are bringing significant airport expansion in Jordan, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and, most recently, Qatar.
Despite regional turmoil and relatively small population, Airbus Global Market Forecast 2013-2032 predicts traffic within, to and from the Middle East will represent 12% of global air transport in 20 years!
As an emerging travel hub, this region’s carriers are offering silver-spoon extras that bring new meaning to luxury at 30,000 feet. And it’s not going unnoticed.
The 2014 Skytrax World Airlines Awards marked Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways as the World’s Leading Airline. In another report, Qatar Airways took second-best airline, with Etihad coming in at the still-respectable seventh-best.
Gulf carriers are also becoming innovators in luxury cabin design. Etihad and Emirates fleets include the Airbus A380, a jumbo plane that can fly 800 passengers 8,000 miles without refueling. Etihad’s A380s offer hi-tech “apartment” seats to first-class passengers. Not posh enough? Don’t worry, you can upgrade to a flying suite complete with your own living room, bath and bedroom.
As for in-flight services, you can forget that scratchy blanket and measly bag of peanuts. These Middle East carriers are decked out with designer pajamas and swanky spa treatments, in-flight nannies and Michelin-starred chefs. All at deep-pocket prices, of course.
Here’s our introductory guide to the region’s best flight options and their ultra-luxed out perks that will make you envy first class even more. Look past Air Algerie’s accident and the mayhem around Malaysia Airlines; while western carriers are distracted by carbon tax and competitive cost-shaving, our crisis-riddled region is looking to live it up in the skies. Fasten your seat belts!
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