On Sleeping on Airplanes and in $20,000 Hotel Suites

It's no shock to hear that Americans aren't getting enough sleep. A recent report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that it's all caused by late-night TV watching, Internet surfing and other distractions. The CDC surveyed 19,589 adults in four states: New York, Hawaii, Delaware and Rhode Island. Ten percent reported they did not get enough sleep or rest every single day of the prior month, and 38 percent said they did not get enough in seven or more days in the prior month.

Personally, I'd rather that web surfing and tuning into David Letterman be the cause for my fatigue than a truly torturous overnight flight, where I'm crammed into the middle seat in the coach section of a packed airplane. That's when sleep deprivation takes on an entirely new meaning. We all know that over the past few years most airlines have lost interest in making the coach class experience a positive one, putting their focus instead on the front of the airplane, where premium-paying clients are primped and pampered, wined and dined.

 While coach clients are now paying $25 to check a second bag on United Airlines, first and business class customers flying between New York and California will be snoozing it up with the infamous Westin Heavenly Bed blankets and pillows. It's not a bad idea when you think about it; when Westin launched the Heavenly Bed concept at its hotels in 1999 it spurred most hotel companies to realize that it is indeed "all about the bed."

 Cathay Pacific is phasing in luxury cabins on its long-haul flights and promises fully flat beds in business class. In coach, they seem to have figured out how to create a fixed-back design so that when the passenger in the seat in front of you reclines you're not inhaling the top of his head as your trying to eat your food. (I love that idea, have you ever sat in coach with your laptop set up on your table tray, only to have it fold up and collapse when the oaf in front of you tries to make his cheap seat a flat-bed experience?)

Singapore Airlines on March 18 will make news when it flies one of its new A380 planes from London to Singapore, marking the first time that new vessel takes flight. What's special about the A380? It's billed as the "quietest large passenger aircraft ever built," and in this airline's case it means that the Singapore Airlines Suites will debut. In these very private quarters, the bed is not carved out of a reclining seat, rather, it's a separate full-sized plush mattress. Business class is no slouch either, and in coach, well, there's more "knee and leg room." I personally do sleep better when I have more knee and legroom; anytime I can escape a flight without personal injury I'm happy.

Separately, it bears mentioning that on Saturday, the Plaza Hotel here in New York reopened. If you recall, this hotel, which is now managed by Fairmont, was going to be turned into an all-condo property, until protesters convinced its new owners that New York couldn't exist with out at least a few rooms dedicated to luxury transient guests. So now, after two years and $400 million later, we've got 282 guest rooms that start at $1,000 a night, with 24-karat gold-plated bathroom fixtures and crystal chandeliers. We hear that the top Royal Suites commands $20,000 a night. I would imagine one could get a good night's sleep in such a suite, but that remains to be seen! Watch this space for a report on our Plaza Hotel inspection soon, and watch for the formal reopening of the hotel to occur on May 10.

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