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Beyond Luxury – and Beyond Class?

Have you ever quaffed Dom Pérignon in a double-suite bedroom at 36,000 feet over Europe? If not, you haven’t lived – or at least that’s what Singapore Airlines would like us to believe. For the princely sum of $18,400 (or an unthinkable number of air miles), anyone can purchase a ticket to luxuriate in these cabins designed by French yacht designer Jean-Jacques Coste, sit in hand-stitched leather furniture from Italian master craftsmen Poltrona Frau, and spread out like a starfish in a double bed in the sky.

There’s luxury, and then there’s another realm where the ostentatious nature of what’s on offer is borderline uncomfortable. It was hard not to feel a similar twinge when seeing the spectacle of George Clooney’s long weekend wedding in Venice, reported to cost $13 million. Between the ring, the dress(es), the venues, transportation, champagne, and lunch for everyone at the Hotel Cipriani after the service, $13 million doesn’t go very far. (Don’t worry, traditionalists: It’s reported that Clooney’s bride’s family picked up the bill for everything.)

People should definitely be free to indulge as they wish and treat themselves to every pleasure and privilege they can afford, no matter how decadent. But to mere observers – and to be sure, making an impression on us is a key component of this sort of uber-luxury – it’s hard not to wonder: What are you trying to prove? This is especially true in the case of those who claim to want privacy from prying eyes. (Nothing contradicts that like leading a flotilla of paparazzi boats through the canals of Venice for days on end.)

Perhaps the answer is: I’m trying to prove I can do this, and I just did. In which case, congratulations. Money can’t buy class, but it can buy some exquisite experiences. Here’s hoping regular first class flying isn’t a letdown to those who can’t always nab the double-suite treatment, and that the leading man and his bride don’t have trouble readjusting to standard Hollywood glamour in the absence of Italy’s old world charm.

Ann Keeling is traveling. Her commentary will return next week.

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