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Welcome to BusinessClass.com

Shaken or stirred?

Bars in the skies

10. March 2020

by Henrik Hanevold

A handful of airlines offer passengers in First and Business Class exclusive access to onboard bars or lounge areas. We take a look at these social areas that provide a welcome opportunity to mingle with other passengers, or annoy others…

The introduction of the A380 back in 2007 brought with it an almost endless list of creative ideas of how to utilize the extra space provided by the behemoth aircraft. Designers pitched concepts for flying casinos, shops, restaurants, fitness centres and spas, but most initiatives never materialized as airlines prioritized revenue making seats over creative ideas. Some airlines did however introduce suites, showers, and social areas, which have become popular with passengers.

While the last A380 is currently under production, the aircraft will continue flying for many years to come and passenger will keep enjoying the extra comfort and amenities enabled by the sheer size of the aircraft. The good news is however that while the A380 may be the most common aircraft for flying bars and social areas, some airlines have also been inspired to get creative onboard other aircraft types.

Onboard bars are today offered by Emirates, Qatar Airways, Korean Air, Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia. Other airlines such as Etihad, Qantas, Asiana and Thai Airways offer a lounge area onboard their A380s.

By far the most famous bars in the sky are offered by Emirates, located at the back of the upper deck of their A380s just behind Business Class. There is a special curtain separating the bar from the cabin which has been specially commissioned to minimize sound, but we have heard passengers complaining of noise from the bar. The issue of noise is in all fairness not unique to Emirates, as this is always a risk linked to offering an area for socializing.

Emirates A380 bar

Qatar Airways offers a stylish bar on their small fleet of A380s, strategically located between Business Class and Economy class on the upper deck. A pair of lavatories separate the bar from the back of Business Class, effectively reducing the risk of noise somewhat. Passengers in the small Economy Class section behind the bar are perhaps not quite so happy, as they are seated close to the bar but not invited to the party.

Qatar Airways A380 bar

The most contemporary, minimalistic and stunning bar in the air is offered by Korean Air on their A380s. The Celestial Bar is located at the back of the upper deck right behind Business Class. Korean Air has a sponsorship agreement with Absolut, with the bar serving up a variety of aviation themed cocktails based on Absolut Vodka. As if the Celestial Bar was not enough to impress passengers, Korean Air also offers a small lounge area in the front of the Business Class cabin next to the stairs leading down to First Class.

Celestial Bar on the Korean Air A380 

Virgin Atlantic and it´s cousin Virgin Australia both offer stylish bars on their longhaul fleets, although for the carrier down under it´s limited to their B777-300ER. The bar on Virgin Atlantic is unfortunately not separated from the Upper Class cabin by any curtain, resulting in complaints from some passengers who feel their are riding a flying pub. 

Virgin Atlantic lounge area

Premium passengers flying on Etihad A380s can enjoy cocktails and other refreshments in a small but elegant area called The Lobby, located between the First Class Apartments and the Business Class cabin. Perhaps somewhat ironically, a prayer room is offered on the other side of the adjacent galley. 

The Lobby on Etihad A380

Although technically not bars, we feel some credit should also be given to Thai Airways, Asiana, Qantas and China Southern for offering a small lounge area in the front part of the upper deck of their A380s. As Qantas refurbished their A380s, they took the opportunity to redesign the area as a New York inspired “speakeasy” bar with sleek dark wooden finishes and booths for 10 passengers.

Lounge area on the Qantas A380

Love them or hate them, bars in the air have become important tools in the marketing and PR campaigns of several airlines, and a way to differentiate their products from the competition. Some credit also goes out to the airlines for getting creative and offering something interesting for their passengers to enjoy. Cheers!