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12 Highlights From Flying First Class on the World's Swankiest Airlines

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This week, a flight from Newark to Denver had to be diverted because two passengers got in a fight over a reclining seat. It's a testament to the state of domestic economy class that most people I talked to about this weren't surprised—this type of thing was bound to happen.

Sure, complaining about air travel is the Soliloquy Of The Privileged; no one wants to hear about how your satellite TV feed went out or how you had to spend a whole three hours sitting upright and not splayed about like some boneless child. Still, no one would turn down the chance to melt into a full reclining seat and have total privacy on a flight.

You can get this via the first class cabins of international airlines, although this alternative will set you back a few thousand big ones. Those of us who aren't petrol magnates will probably never get the chance to experience these kinds of perks at 35,000 feet. Instead, we'll have to live vicariously through those who are lucky enough to fly on the world's swankiest carriers and who have documented their experiences.

1. Emirates Airlines (Airbus A380; Bangkok to Hong Kong)

Highlights: The shower! Our gracious video host films himself taking a shower mid-flight, which is equal parts insane, mind-boggling, and wonderful.

2. Cathay Pacific (Boeing 777; Hong Kong to Chicago)

Highlights: Cathay was recently named "World's Best Airline," so that must be neat for them. The pre-flight champagne is a nice touch, and so is the personalized hand-written card that comes with the first course wishing the passenger a Happy New Year.

3. Swiss International Airlines (Airbus A330; Zurich to Boston)

Highlights: Free pajamas are a great souvenir, although something tells me first class passengers flying to Zurich can afford PJs.

4. Asiana Airlines (Boeing 747; Incheon to Frankfurt)

Highlights: Here's just some of the food you get to shove down your pampered gullet: Caviar, peppered tuna with carrot-chive slaw, pickled mushroom and chickpea salad, chicken soup with a risotto ball, sorbet, veal tenderloin with lobster, a fruit and cheese plate, and dessert pastries. Keep in mind, that's just one meal. Passengers also get breakfast and lunch if the flight is long enough.

5. All Nippon Airways (Boeing 777; Chicago to Tokyo)

Highlights: Your seat is inside a self-contained little box made with modular pop-out units for entertainment features, charging stations, and storage. You also get a pretty damn big TV.

6. Garuda Indonesia (Boeing 777; Tokyo to Jakarta)

Highlights: Caviar, a nice wine list, and a fully-stocked bathroom kit with like 56 different types of lotions.

7. Etihad Airways (Boeing 777; Abu Dhabi to Sydney)

Highlights: An ornate sliding door provides privacy for each first class passenger. Also, the roof of the cabin transforms into a digital star map at night, which is haunting and seems like something straight out of The Fifth Element's Fhloston Paradise.

8. Singapore Airlines (Airbus A380; Singapore to Melbourne)

Highlights: Turndown service. C'mon.

9. Lufthansa (Airbus A340; Munich to San Francisco)

Highlights: A single rose sits in your armrest's built-in vase. Remember that next time you're jostling your seatmate for elbowroom on the way to Ft. Lauderdale.

10. Qantas (Airbus A380; Melbourne to Dubai)

Highlights: Double-decker A380s have tail-mounted cameras, meaning you can watch take-off or landing on your flatscreen TV from that incredible vantage point (skip to around 15:50).

11. EVA Air (Boeing 777; London to Bangkok)

Highlights: The framed artwork is a nice touch, even if it looks like it belongs in a divorce lawyer's beach house.

12. Thai Airlines (Airbus A380; Frankfurt to Bangkok)

Highlights: Your meals are prepared fresh next to your seat. You may have to bring aboard your own little bag of pretzels if you want that, though.

BONUS: Qatar Airlines (Boeing 787 Dreamliner; Doha to Frankfurt)

While not technically "first" class, this footage comes from an all-business class 787 Dreamliner. This is the newest and nicest passenger jet you can fly, and the features are ridiculous. The armrest magically rises from the console, which is totally unnecessary but that's all part of the joy. The windows are huge on the 787, and you won't find a pull-down shade here; you can control the tint from your digital control handset. It's like transition lenses, except not embarrassing. The toilets "auto-flush" and the bathroom has a window, which is ingenious—there's no reason all plane lavatories shouldn't feature this. Who's going to spy on you? Superman? That guy's a wuss. Oh, and the seatbelts have airbags.

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How Far Out of Town Can You Get in an Hour? This Map Will Tell You
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Sitting through traffic on a Friday is no fun. Depending on where you live, though, it could either be a minor headache, or a traumatic event on par with heading to the airport the day before Thanksgiving. The Washington Post recently mapped out just how far you can get out of town on a Friday afternoon in major American cities in just one hour.

The Post’s Sahil Chinoy used traffic information culled from cell phones and car sensors by the location data company Here Technologies to map out travel times from downtown neighborhoods at 4 p.m., 7 p.m., and 10 p.m., showing how car travel varies by city and time on a Friday night. (They’re all estimates based on July 28 data.)

A U.S. map shows blue radii around cities illustrating a travel time of one hour in a car at 4 p.m. on a Friday.
Sahil Chinoy // The Washington Post

Unsurprisingly, considering geography and city culture, the answer can vary a lot. Compare Southern California and Northern California, for instance. In L.A., well-known for its horrendous traffic, an hour can’t even get you through the county. You’ll be able to travel 25 miles in that time period, at best—probably while suffering through that weird phenomenon where all the cars on the road slow down for seemingly no reason. But in Sacramento, you speed through up to 50 miles at rush hour. (You can get more than 50 miles from Las Vegas, too, but it’ll mostly land you in the middle of the desert.)

Some cities remain active long into the night, too, while others empty out right after the workday ends. In New York City, you can’t even get past the New Jersey suburbs at 4 p.m., and that doesn't change much as the night goes on. In most other cities, though, there's much less traffic by 10 p.m. compared to the late afternoon and evening. In Boston, for instance, you can travel 25 miles farther if you leave at 10 p.m. compared to leaving at 4 p.m.

The map shows what you probably already expected: In cities that were built around the car, it is, for the most part, easier to get out of town. Older cities on the East Coast like Philadelphia or Baltimore have tiny one-hour radiuses, while cities in Texas and the Midwest are easier to navigate behind the wheel.

Geography matters a lot, too. Cities that are built around water tend to be harder to escape from, like San Francisco, Seattle, and New York. If you only have a few bridges that lead out of town, they’re going to get clogged with traffic, while a city with several large highway arteries can move more people. Miami is virtually impossible to travel from because the city is wedged between the ocean and the Everglades.

That traffic time does more than just eat into your weekend plans. It’s really bad for your health. You’re essentially stewing in emissions, and long commutes on a regular basis are associated with stress, high blood pressure, and obesity. That may be fine if you’re trying to get out of the city for a weekend in the country every once in a while, but if you’re just trying to get home on a Friday night, that’s a different story.

For a closer look at the data and how it varies based on the time of day, see Chinoy’s graphics at The Washington Post.

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Take a Tour of Singapore's Incredible Supertree Grove
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There aren't many parks like Supertree Grove. Tucked inside Gardens by the Bay, a nature park in Singapore comprised of 250 acres of reclaimed land, Supertree Grove is a futuristic colony featuring 18 manmade tree-like vertical gardens, which are home to more than 160,000 plants, including more than 200 varieties of bromeliads, orchids, ferns, and tropical flowering climbers.

Visitors to the park are encouraged to walk from one tree to the next along a raised path overlooking the city. At night, the photovoltaic systems built into the supertrees light up with solar power, covering the area in dazzling purple hues.

Supertree Grove was commissioned by the Singapore government as a way to improve the quality of life for its residents, but they seem to have achieved more than that: the park has become a must-see site for horticulture enthusiasts and curious travelers from all over the world.

You can see more of these Supertrees in the video from Great Big Story below:

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