Luxury flights return

The recent domestic airline alliances and the overall surge in passengers have many international carriers looking for new ways to compete. One carrier at the forefront is Virgin Atlantic, which introduced bars and lounges in its upper cabins last year. Next, the carrier expects to install private bedrooms with double beds in the forward lower deck. There’ll also be a bar and lounge area, showers, an exercise and massage area and a Jacuzzi. Virgin expects to have its A340 craft equipped with these new amenities by 2002. These new perks, however, will only be available for first-class customers. Virgin is still considering what to charge for the bedrooms.

While Virgin is the first to add such elaborate amenities, other carriers aren’t far behind. Although no details have been revealed as yet, Singapore Airlines will unveil new cabin and luxury services next year. Scandinavian Airlines Systems has installed sleeper seats on their transatlantic flights. Cost to passengers: about $600, in addition to the normal business-class fare.

“Everyone’s trying to outdo each other for the international business,” says Jeff Austin of Austin Travel in Melville, Long Island, New York. “Although business-class travel continues to be popular, there’s a growing demand for luxury- and first-class amenities, especially among the entertainment industry clients who have ‘carte blanche’ expense accounts and who want to travel in style.”

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