First-class air travel is disappearing

Flying first-class flights is on the way out. Not gone, and it will never completely disappear, but passengers and airlines are showing less and less affection for the no-holds-barred luxury experience.

Only a small number of the world's airlines offer a first-class service these days, mainly on wide-bodied aircraft, with the Airbus A380 as the airlines' favourite for the regal treatment.

A seat in the first-class cabin costs roughly double the price of business class, about $16,000 for a return ticket from Sydney or Melbourne to London.

That price differential is part of the reason for the decline, but far more potent has been the blurring of the lines that divide first class from business.

Business class has upped its game to the point where first class of two decades ago would be a pale shadow of today's business class.

British Airways was the first to install a lie-flat seat in first-class cabins, in 1995, but on any premium carrier these days you can expect a lie-flat seat in business, plus wide-screen in-flight entertainment systems, noise-cancelling headphones and a silver-service menu curated by a name chef, served at the time of your choosing.

As an example of best-in-class business seats, Qatar's new QSuite allows two travelling together to create a lie-flat couples' bed, with privacy panels that close to create a private "room". 

Not a bad way to take to the skies.