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At the beginning of November, Singapore Airlines announced the world's most luxurious, fully enclosed first-class seat. Passengers can expect bedding (for two, if desired) embroidered by Lalique, dinner served on Wedgewood, a 32-inch HD screen, two bathrooms and a full-sized wardrobe. Ten days later, Emirates Airline sought to outdo this with its own first-class suite featuring hardwood floors, mood lighting, kelp-infused moisturising pyjamas and design details inspired by the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. The high-end one-upmanship would appear to herald a new golden age of luxury air travel, at least for those who can afford tickets that cost more than $10,000 (R143,000) a passenger. In fact, first-class cabins have been shrinking under pressure from the price-focused global airline industry and the changing demographics of flying. It's not clear that first-class has a future at all. The idea of first-class harkens back more than half a century to the golden age of air travel, when seati...

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