Sip Champagne and Don Your Givenchy Sleep Suit for Takeoff

For a mere $10,000, first class airline passengers can now rest their champagne glasses on mahogany tables as they hunker down in Givenchy sleep suits in 30-inch leather seats that turn into cozy beds.

Last month, Singapore Airlines debuted its "Orient Express of the skies" with a 20-hour flight from San Francisco to Seoul and then on to Singapore.

The industry trendsetter is banking on the success of a new fleet of Boeing 777-300ER's, with 19 on order and an option to buy 12 more.

Its new 555-seat Airbus 380 -- due to launch in October -- will have some of the same creature comforts, including a bar on each deck.

In the hype surrounding the world's largest jet, some speculate that customized features might include onboard casinos, beauty salons and even hot tubs.

Online Booking for the Rich

Luxury travel is on the rise, and those who can afford it are flaunting it, according to www.luxurytravelmagazine.com, an online booking service for the über-rich.

As first class lounges and amenities are upgraded, those who find commercial travel a hassle hire private jets to take them to the most remote locations on Earth.

"Travelers are looking for bragging rights and one-upmanship, so the more exclusive they can travel, the better," said Luxury Travel editor Christine Gray. "Private jet travel is also in demand more than ever, as commercial flying becomes more of a hassle."

World travel broke all records in 2006 with 842 million international tourist arrivals -- up 4.5 percent from 2005, according to the World Tourism Organization. Africa saw the biggest increase with an 8.1 percent jump as luxury travelers were lured by "authentic" experiences, according to the United Nations tourism watchdog.

The trend is fueled by a buoyant economy, increase in corporate incentive travel and a shift in the business travel choices of affluent baby boomers. Last year, the typical luxury traveler spent an average of $26,000, a 41 percent jump from 2004, according to Unity Marketing, which tracks luxury spending. This year, it is expected to rise to $28,000.

In the last few years, many international airlines have added lavish VIP lounges to try to build loyalty from their first class passengers. They have also upgraded services and amenities in their first class cabins.

11 Million Luxury Travelers

Luxury Travel magazine considers the 11 million American households with average annual incomes over $256,000 as luxury travelers. The site caters primarily to 30 to 50-year-olds, but the newest buyers are in their 20s and 30s.

"They want the trendy, hip hotels," said Gray. "Luxury travel used to only be for the opulent and retired people who could afford it. Now, it's the Paris Hilton types."

More of those travelers are going online to research, plan and book their travel. Luxury Travel has launched a search engine that works like Orbitz or Expedia for the mass market, but is based on deluxe experiences rather than price and location.

Travelers can search for a villa in Tuscany, mountains or boutique hotel, rather than a nonstop for under $500.

"Luxury travelers are looking for very rare and authentic experiences," said Gray. "The trend in the newest hotels and resorts is exclusivity -- the smaller and more intimate."

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