If you want to fly nonstop first class from Tokyo to London and want the privacy afforded by a suite, be prepared to pay as much as US$27,000 on All Nippon Airways or Japan Air Lines. Or just slum it in ANA business class for $9,000 and change.
If you don't mind less privacy, for a mere $4,900, you can fly the same route nonstop business class on Virgin Atlantic and still be plenty pampered.
If you still insist on first class but don't mind one stop, you can fly China Southern Airlines for $11,465.
Price differences between first- and business-class fares can be dramatic, but what do passengers in first class get for the additional money?
More importantly, for those in a position to make the call, is first class worth all the extra cha-ching?
Differences you don't see
Tokyo-London has by far the highest first-class fares found on three major routes recently spot-checked by CNN.
But fluctuating pricing for flying first class with "open suites" or business class with lie-flat beds varies widely depending on whether you're flying nonstop or one-stop and the amount of pampering you want both in the air and on the ground.
The highly traveled New York-Frankfurt route is typical.
If you're flying first class from Frankfurt on your way to the Big Apple, there are many perks beyond what you get on the airplane.
Lufthansa offers first-class passengers a dedicated lounge at Frankfurt, along with a full dinner before boarding a late-night flight, if customers prefer sleep to onboard meals.
The lounge also offers beds, showers, office space, special security screening and chauffeured limousines directly to the aircraft, allowing passengers to avoid bumping elbows with mere mortals who buy business-class or coach tickets.
You're out of luck if you're boarding in any other Lufthansa city, however. Only in Frankfurt do first-class travelers enjoy such ground perks.
Once onboard, it might be tough to discern the differences between first and business, beyond the obvious: a suite and more space versus a lie-flat seat. The food is plentiful and the booze is free.
Don Buckenburg, Lufthansa's managing director for sales, North America, says that many airlines offer a suite of enclosed space with a door, creating a passenger's "own little cabin."
"When we developed first class, we asked customers, and our customers like open space, but they also like privacy," says Buckenburg. "You have a seat, but a wall that separates you. You press a button, and a wall comes up."
The retractable wall allows couples or fellow travelers to decide whether to be connected or separated.
Buckenburg says the first-class value differential over business class is space, privacy, a larger, longer and wider seat and additional crew per passenger in first class.
In addition, according to Buckenburg, flight attendants are specially trained to serve first class, knowing how to "read" the passenger differently and knowing the wine and menus with precision.
For good measure, "We're one of the last airlines to serve caviar," Buckenburg says.
First class may become obsolete
Buckenburg acknowledges not all markets can support first class, and in those, Lufthansa offers only business and coach service.
Mary Kirby, editor of the Airline Passenger Experience (APEX) magazine and blog, believes the first-class value proposition not only is diminishing, but also that the class will disappear in five years.
The trend toward lie-flat seats in business class, along with amenities that are similar to first, diminish the value of first, she says.
Lufthansa's Buckenburg disagrees. There remains a passenger segment that wants the privacy of suites.