With the spotlight on improvements in coach and business class over the past year, does first class still matter?Yes, at least on some airlines. This summer, Swissair and Cathay Pacific--which tied for second place among international airlines in our World's Best Awards--may have started a new trend by overhauling their most expensive class of service.
Swissair has introduced 24-inch-wide, 79-inch-long sleeper seats (inspired by the Eames lounge chair), electronically controlled ottomans, 26-by-30-inch tables ("the biggest in the air"), and dining service that delivers your meal all at once or in as many as eight courses. The new class is now in place on the majority of Swissair's long-haul fleet.
Cathay Pacific's spruced-up first-class cabins-currently on all 747-400's-have sleeper seats that are 79 inches long and 22 inches wide (25 when reclined-they expand), plus privacy screens and an array of luxe amenities (down duvets and pillows, fleece pajamas). Food service has an ý la carte format (onboard rice cookers, toasters, and skillets ensure freshness), and personal TV screens are larger (10.4 inches, compared with 6.2 before). Expect more pampering on the ground, too. Both airlines have state-of-the-art lounges at their hub airports, and Swissair is testing computerized cards that will speed up check-in and customs, and even stock your cupboard at home through a special grocery-shopping service. When you're paying about $10,000 for a round-trip ticket, why not?
Name: Dr. Irwin Smigel
Occupation: Dentist to the stars; inventor of Supersmile whitening toothpaste home base: New York City
Frequent flier: Since 1975, I've been away giving lectures at least once a month. I have a busy practice at home, so I try to schedule appearances on weekends and go for about three days. When I travel internationally, I usually take a week.
Making the most of it: Through my travels, I've introduced aesthetic dentistry all over the world: India, Japan, South Korea, Brazil, Turkey, Israel, France.
Jet lag: I never have a problem because I drink only water and eat very light. My wife, Lucia, always has champagne and caviar in the air, and she suffers terribly.
Don't leave home without: Mouthwash. One time it leaked all over the only suit I'd packed, and I was very aggravated. But it prompted me to create Supersmile dry mouthwash for traveling-you just add water!
—Interviewed by Hillary Geronemus
Best Business Hotel: The clubby Oberoi New Delhi (Dr. Zakir Hussein Marg; 91-11/436-3030, fax 91-11/436-4578; doubles from $320), next to the Delhi Golf Course.
Expense-Account Restaurant: Seventy Seven (Manor Hotel, 77 Friends Colony West; 91-11/692-5151; dinner for two $50), for fabulous tiger prawns on fresh greens.
Car Service of Choice: Sathya Sai Travel (91-11/431-4257 or 91-11/431-0814) can arrange a car and driver; or ask your concierge if the hotel has a private fleet for guest use.
If You Forgot To Pack A Tie Or Scarf: Fab India (N-14 Greater Kalish 1; 91-11/621-2183), for affordable, exec-appropriate Western and Indian attire.
If You Have A Free Afternoon: Tour the buildings and gardens of Humayun's Tomb, an elaborate 16th-century Moghul monument that's a precursor of the Taj Mahal (it's also five minutes from the Oberoi).
Web Resource: www.delhitourism.nic.in.