First class for the soul: The airlines leading the wellness ...


First class for the soul: The airlines leading the wellness travel trend

From bespoke meals and spa treatments, to destress programmes, these carriers have your mind, body and soul covered

Zola Zingithwa

Holidays are approaching and planning your long-awaited trip to take your mind off your stressful job is exciting. However, the journey can be tedious and leave you feeling drained, making you question whether it’s worth taking a flight to that faraway destination.
But while we wait for the Elon Musks of this world to roll out teleportation vehicles, some airlines have taken it upon themselves to try to make air travel not only more comfortable but also healthier for your mind, body and soul.
Here are eight airlines that have tailored experiences for first- and business-class passengers, both in the air and at airports, to help them feel rested and invigorated, even after long-haul flights.
Singapore Airlines has just introduced a programme in collaboration with wellness brand Canyon Ranch for their non-stop long-haul flights to America, according to Robb Report. It aims to make long-haul travel less arduous, as well as to decrease the adverse effect it can have on health. One focus is on wellness cuisine, centred on nourishment and hydration, prepared by the airline’s International Culinary Panel. Other features of the programme include integrative medicine and stretching videos guided by Canyon Ranch physiologists. No wonder they were voted the number one airline in the world this year.
Ranked second-best in the world by Skytrax, Qatar Airways has a dedicated page on its website you can browse before flying, with tips on how to boost your energy levels and relax while flying. It has also partnered with British Airways to offer a Flying With Confidence course around the world, run by cabin crew and a clinical psychologist. At Hamad International Airport in Doha first-class passengers have the choice of two lounges, with offerings such as Vitality Spa treatments and a hydrotherapy tub.
If the first-class experience on Emirates is good enough for Jennifer Aniston, surely it is good enough for the rest of us. The airline offers luxurious travel amenities, such Bvlgari kits, luxe cabins and an on-board spa shower. They also focus on wellness travel, offering healthy meals created by international chefs. First-class passengers can indulge in complimentary spa treatments, such as a back massage at the Timeless Spa at Dubai airport. There is a reason this Gulf carrier consistently makes it onto Skytrax’s list of top airlines in the world.
Cathay Pacific is also among the top 10 airlines in the world, which means it takes its service offering seriously. Not only can you request a light, healthy meal from a renowned celebrity chef on some long-haul flights, it is now also possible get in-flight yoga lessons, Robb Report says. Their Travel Well with Yoga programme was developed in collaboration with New York studio Pure Yoga. Instructors lead guests in a series of customised videos on the in-flight Lifestyle channel. The yoga and meditation exercises for before, during and after the flight are aimed at improving comfort and rest levels by helping “to improve circulation, enhance joint mobility and relax the mind”.
In June 2017, Air France introduced the Mind app, a mindfulness programme that includes guided meditation sessions viewed on seat-back screens. The aim is to improve passenger comfort on board by helping them achieve “inner calm and peace”, according to the airline. There is a session developed for people who are afraid of flying and ones that are child-centred, Robb Report says. At Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, their business-class lounge offers a detox bar, two private saunas and a Clarins spa giving revitalising facial treatments.
On the home front, South African Airways’ business class offers top-class food prepared by local celebrity chefs. If you fly with SAA there is no need to book a coveted table at a Reuben’s or go to Tsogo Sun because Reuben Riffel and Benny Masekwameng have created signature dishes for the airline, hoping to make your meals the highlight of your journey. The airline also has a five-star sleep rating on Skytrax for its 180° leather flatbed seat, which comes with luxurious pillows and noise-cancellation headsets.
Richard Branson’s Virgin brand is well known for being service oriented and the airline is no different. Virgin Australia has partnered with meditation outfit Smiling Mind to create a programme that helps passengers overcome anxiety. The meditation and deep-breathing exercise videos can be viewed during the flight. Anxious people can look forward to other initiatives being rolled out through the programme to help calm nerves before the flight. The focus on reducing anxiety will hopefully catch on with other carriers and lead to fewer people popping pills.
The first thing to note about Etihad is that its first-class cabin on the A380 is referred to as an “apartment”. This makes sense when you consider it has a couch that can be converted into an 2m bed and an armchair that allows you to put your feet up while watching TV. Say goodbye to circulation problems! You can ask the on-board chefs to create personalised meals for you during the flight, if nothing on the a la carte menu takes your fancy. To make sure you feel your best before or after flying with Etihad, you can book a Six Senses Spa Treatment at the Abu Dhabi First Class Lounge & Spa.
• Visit CNN Travel for the airlines that were voted the best in 2018 by Skytrax.

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