Best airlines: Nine bucket-list air travel experiences

THE FIRST TIME YOU FLY BUSINESS

Forget about a $3000-a-night hotel room, nothing's more indulgent than turning left when everyone else walks right, for the very first time. Look at the world up there: flat-bed seats with wide-screen TV screens, flight attendants who know your name and who won't stop pouring drinks and serving food, and a bathroom that never has a queue. There's fluffy doonas too and PJs made by Morrissey. See qantas.com.au

VIRGIN AUSTRALIA PREMIUM ECONOMY AMENITY KIT

Amenity kits are normally the sole domain of business class, but Virgin Australia likes to spoil its premium economy passengers too with a stylish black pouch by Italian fashion designer Mandarina Duck. Inside you'll find a sexy black eye mask, stylish grey and purple striped socks, a toothbrush, pen, ear plugs and a lip balm made with shea butter by Australian natural skin care experts Hunter Lab. See virginaustralia.com

NORWEGIAN'S PREMIUM SEAT

<i>Premium Economy seats on Norwegian's Dreamliner.</i>

What would the ultimate airline experience look like?

An airline with the best food, service and seats in the world? Traveller.com.au's writers name what their dream plane would feature.

Norwegian has built a reputation for its low-cost, long-haul fares across the US and Europe but there's nothing budget about its Premium seat. Housed in a separate 35-seat cabin at the front of its red-nosed Dreamliner 787-9 planes, the seats are spacious and comfortable with 49 centimetres of width (six more than in economy) and a whopping 117 centimetres of pitch – much more than any other premium economy offering. See norwegian.com

See: Airline review: Norwegian offers world's largest premium seat

PERSONAL MINI-BAR IN EMIRATES BUSINESS CLASS

Emirates business class A380

Emirates gets a lot of well-deserved acclaim for its award-winning A380 business class bar and lounge (see below), where you can order a cocktail and nibble on a snack while socialising with other passengers. What's less heralded is that all business class seats also have a personal inbuilt mini-bar stocked with Evian, Perrier and soft drinks, so you don't even have to leave your seat to stay hydrated. See emirates.com

See: Airline review: Emirates, Airbus A380, business class

COMFORT FOOD IN BUSINESS CLASS ON ETIHAD AIRWAYS

Etihad business class
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Gourmet indulgences can be delightful, it's true. Molecular gastronomy and truffle this and that have their place. But sometimes, especially after a long and hectic trip, it's the simple pleasures that really hit the spot. Like the steak sandwich on Etihad's Business Class all-day menu. Juicy and tender, topped with melted cheese, caramelised onions, mayo and rocket leaves, it's cooked to order just how and when you want it. True luxury indeed. See etihad.com

See: Airline review: Etihad Airways, Boeing 787-900 Dreamliner, business class

A COSY SLEEP IN THE SKY

American Airlines business class amenities and seats

American Airlines has partnered with Casper, the premium bedding experts, to give passengers the best sleep possible at 30,000 feet. Guests in Premium Economy on long-haul flights cosy up with Casper blankets and pillows, while those in Business Class also enjoy a mattress pad, duvet, PJs and slippers. Let's face it, any extra nod to comfortable cocooning is welcome on 13-hour flights. No official stats on how many pillows find their way into carry-on luggage. See americanairlines.com.au

See: Airline review: American Airlines business class

THE PIER AIRPORT LOUNGE, HONG KONG

Cathay Pacific's The Pier first class airport lounge in Hong Kong.

No one knows long-haul travel like Antipodeans, and the best way to split a 24-hour, Europe-bound flight is with a shower and champagne in Cathay Pacific's The Pier or new The Deck business class lounges: expect Aesop toiletries and immaculate bathrooms. The Pier's Teahouse also custom brews exceptional pots of tea to order. They're open to Cathay passengers flying first and business classes, and certain Marco Polo and oneworld alliance members. See cathaypacific.com

See: Cathay Pacific unveils newest lounge at Hong Kong International Airport

MASERATI AIRPORT TRANSFERS, ITALY

Embrace Italian style on the roads with a Maserati airport transfer from Milan's Milpensa airport to Lake Como. The black, limited edition Maserati Quattroporte turns all heads, even among the hard-to-impress Milanese. On pressing pedal to metal, the Maserati responds with a throaty, look-at-me growl that echoes satisfyingly throughout the airport or at your destination. Aaah. You've arrived. Airport-Lake Como transfers cost €370 one way. See aurora-limousineservice.com

A COCKTAIL AT THE A380 ONBOARD BAR, EMIRATES BUSINESS CLASS

Emirates Airbus A380 onboard lounge.

Photo: Shutterstock

The Golden Age of airline travel can often feel a long time gone while shuffling through airport security at a glacial pace or struggling to find seating at a packed-out boarding gate. But at the Emirates Business Class A380 in-flight bar, it's possible to relive those halcyon days with a crisp cocktail at 40,000 feet, swapping yarns with fellow passengers while winging your way to a foreign land. See emirates.com

CONTRIBUTORS: BELINDA JACKSON, BRIAN JOHNSTON, UTE JUNKER, NINA KARNIKOWSKI, KRISTIEKELLAHAN, ROB MCFARLAND. STEVE MEACHAM, SHERIDEN RHODES, ALISON STEWART, CRAIG TANSLEY, KERRY VAN DER JAGT, GUY WILKINSON

See also: Is premium economy worth it?

See also: Non-reclining seats and the end of first class: 26 ways air travel is changing

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