Air France unveiled its new first-class section in Shanghai on Wednesday, fuelling an international luxury-seating race to win over Asia's rising number of high fliers.
The airline's "haute couture" suite will feature a seat that reclines into a bed stretching 2.01 metres long and 77 centimetres across (6 ft 7 ins and 30 inches) – one of the most spacious in the world.
"In 2012, we made a promise to identify which products (we needed to improve) to push Air France up into the ranks of the major airlines," said the company's CEO, Frederic Gagey. "Those 50 million euros were needed to propel Air France to the top of those companies."
"It's our clients who will judge the product. We are extremely proud of the result and extremely confident. The improvement in the range affects all of our classes and not only first," he said.
The launch came days after the Emirati airline Etihad revealed a first-class sofa that converts into a bed extending 2.04 metres long and 66 centimetres wide, which will go into Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 planes.
Singapore Airlines currently boasts the most spacious first-class seat, which it revealed in July last year at 2.08 metres by 90 centimetres.
First class occupies just a sliver of the air-travel market, with Air France's 52,000 such customers a year representing an occupancy rate of 38 percent, 0.3 percent of total long-haul passengers and 1.8 percent of long-haul revenue, said Bruno Matheu, head of Air France's passenger business.
But with return ticket prices averaging €9,000 ($12,500) across the company's network the luxury seats are highly profitable and he said they "generate more revenue than if we filled that space with economy or business-class seats".