a bed in a plane

It’s been a big year in the world. People got back to travel like it was going out of style perhaps forever, and along with that — airlines got their groove back, big time.

Innovation returned, new planes rolled off the shelves and plans for the future were unveiled. And in a world of very “same-y” experiences, that’s a wonderful thing.

If you are ever lucky enough to fly business class, you quickly realize that even when two airlines fly the same exact seat or suite, the experiences can be wildly different. Incomparable, even.

Little things can make big differences from comfort to privacy or personalization. A flight can be so much more than just a mass produced flat bed, even though all are very welcome! Let’s take a look at the most innovative and interesting things to happen in the world of airline luxury.

a seat in a plane

Wireless Bluetooth Takeover

Airline headphones are rarely as comfy as a good quality pair of your own. Plus, with each pair needing to be constantly sanitized, plastic wrapped and refurbished, there’s a lot of waste.

2022 was the year bluetooth finally made its way into the skies, paving the way for people to enjoy their seat back entertainment wirelessly, by pairing their own Beats, Bose, Apple’s or Google’s — and yes every other brand too — to their seat.

No more getting tangled up in wires when you stand up.

Virgin Atlantic was the first airline to roll out bluetooth wireless connectivity at every seat with the Airbus A330-900neo, and Air France is bringing the same delight to business class. More airlines are shortly on the way.

a bed with a television on it

Privacy Doors Became Standard

Looking back just two or three years, privacy doors were almost exclusive business class features to two or three airlines. Now, that’s hardly the case. Once one did it well the others had to follow. That “one” was Qatar Airways, by the way.

ANA took doors to new height standards, British Airways brought them back down again and now just about everyone putting a business class seat on a long haul plane is building with doors in mind.

Air France has doors on their new business seats, Delta has doors on their flagship seats, American will also debut doors, Etihad got involved, Virgin Atlantic added doors, Iberia added doors. You get the gist. They’re here, they’re coming and whether they’re functional or just a bit fashionable, they’re enjoyable.

a room with a large wall of tables and chairs

Lounges Became Exclusive Again

During the global health crisis, airlines couldn’t turn down dollars anywhere. In efforts to create new revenue taps, or just keep the lights on — lounge experiences got really, really watered down.

Suddenly, anyone with a certain type of credit card could access spaces once reserved for people flying business or first class.

2022 was the year that this phenomenon hit its breaking point. People rushed back to travel and very quickly airlines and lounge space operators realized they’d given way too many people access.

Accordingly, airlines and lounge space operators are dialing back the access and also creating separate more exclusive passengers only for people actually traveling in the business or first class cabins. Air Canada was among the first to create spaces purely for “ticketed” passengers with the Air Canada Signature Suite, and the feedback from those lounges is consistently among the best.

This isn’t necessarily wonderful news for people who earn elite status to access lounges, but it’s good for people who are ticketed in a premium airline cabin who miss hot meals, ample seating and a feeling of exclusivity.

a person holding a phone

Actually Streamable Wifi

I’ve been on too many flights with airline CEO’s and in-flight wifi company CEO’s where things don’t quite go as planned. For almost a decade now, fast and streamable wifi on planes was more of an idea than a reality.

This was the first year I can remember where I found consistently streamable speeds. Viasat has consistently been the most impressive to me. The only downside is that I now really have no excuse but to have a fully productive day in the air.

One day we may all miss the days we were unavailable for the duration of a flight!

Emirates First Class Champagne

Exclusive Booze Deals

As we begin to say “cheers” for the holiday season, it’s hard not to reflect on the power moves with airline booze.

Emirates secured rights to exclusively serve Veuve Cliquot, Moet & Chandon and Dom Perignon in the sky this year in a renewed bid to hold the top cellar in the sky. They are definitely not alone. British Airways tied up with Aviation Gin and the list goes on.

Airlines are increasingly leaning on chef, sommelier and luxury partnerships to add unique or exclusive touches to the experience and that extends to credit card oriented lounges as well. American Express, Capital One and soon JPMorgan Chase will duke it out bringing on their best mixologists and chefs.

Let’s see how bubbly things get up at 33,000 feet in 2023?

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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