How Much Does A First Class Suite Cost An Airline To Install?

Passengers who are lucky enough to travel in long-haul first class suites experience unparalleled luxury on commercial flights. Such cabins are as close as one can get to flying on a private jet without actually doing so. Of course, such tickets demand understandably high prices. But what about for the airlines themselves – how much they pay to install such glamourous suites?

Emirates, Airbus A380, United Kingdom
Emirates is known for having some of the most exclusive cabins in the sky. Photo: Getty Images

Money talks

To install a long-haul first class suite will generally cost an airline hundreds of thousands of dollars. For example, Executive Traveller reports that the price can range from $250,000 to $500,000 per suite, compared to $30,000 to $80,000 for a business class seat.

According to The Points Guy, some suites can even reach the million-dollar mark! Of course, the nature of a first class suite can vary in terms of its size and offerings, hence the wide range of prices. For example, Etihad’s legendary ‘Residence’ on its Airbus A380s featured three whole rooms of airborne luxury for its lucky guests!

Gizmodo reports that an aspect of the cost beyond the seat itself is the extra work that needs to be done to the cabin to allow for its installation. This can include “extensive rewiring, ductwork changes and reinforced cabin floors.” All in all, these various costs make for considerably more expensive ticket prices. Last June, Simple Flying found that a flexible London-Sydney return with Emirates in August came in at around $12,200, compared to $1,800 in flexible economy.

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Emirates First Class Suite
First class suites on Emirates’ Airbus A380s feature opulent light fittings. Photo: Shahram Sharifi via Wikimedia Commons

Correspondingly classy catering

Not all long-haul airlines offer a first class product. However, for those that do, it needs to represent a tangible step up from business class (which will likely already be very nice) in order for passengers to justify the extra expense.

As such, first class products will generally offer advantageous aspects like an enhanced onboard catering service. First class passengers generally have access to the best quality and widest range of onboard food and drink. Of course, onboard meal service has undergone significant changes since the start of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Other advantages

Increased space. First class suites feature roomier seats than their business class counterparts, both in terms of pitch and width. To use the example of Singapore Airlines’ Boeing 777-300s, its first class suites offer 11 inches more pitch (71 vs 60) and 10.5 inches more width (35 vs 24.5) than in business class.

Emirates First Class
Direct aisle access for window seat passengers gives first class an edge over some business class products. Photo: Getty Images

More favorable configuration. The aforementioned increased space generally results in a preferable seating configuration for first class passengers. Staying with the example of Singapore Airlines‘ 777s, first class is in a 1-2-1 layout. This means that every suite has direct aisle access. Meanwhile, some of these aircraft (standard -200 and -300 variants) have a 2-2-2 business class setup. In such a cabin, window seats do not have this advantage.

Increased privacy. Many long-haul first class products allow passengers a greater sense of privacy. Some may have dividers between you and your neighbor, whereas others might be fully enclosed altogether. Combined with the nicer seat, this can make for a very relaxing experience.

Overall, when one considers the cost of installing a first class seat, and the advantages over an airline’s corresponding business class product, it is understandable that such tickets demand high prices. For those who can afford it, ir represents a very glamorous way to see the world!

Have you ever flown in a first class suite? Was it worth the price you paid? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!