In the wake of Dubai-based airline Emirates’ relaunching its acclaimed Onboard Lounge, we check out which carriers offer the best cocktail bars in the skies.
There’s nothing quite like having a martini shaken and poured for you by an experienced bartender. There are pedigree and ritual to this simple but alluring act and as consumers become increasingly savvy when it comes to their favourite libation, bars and bartenders work hard to keep up with expectations. However, having that little slice of luxury offered eleven kilometers up in the air while you’re racing to some exotic location at 900km/hr? Now that’s living.
Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class
The distinction of putting the first modern-day cocktail bar on a commercial aircraft (they were, after all, commonplace during the early heyday of jet travel) goes to Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic, which introduced an elegant if not neon-clad sit-up cocktail bar to its Upper Class (the airline’s business class) passengers in 2004. Virgin revamped the bar concept when it introduced a new Upper Class product in 2012 (just in time to take its cameo in James Bond flick Quantum of Solace).
Now passengers on Virgin Atlantic long-haul flights can sit at the world’s longest onboard bar, at almost nine feet, one that’s adorned with 1,000 Swarovski crystals and club-like LED lighting.
Unfortunately the airline is moving away from cocktail bars; it replaced the concept with a lounge that caters to eight people called The Loft on its new A350 aircraft but you’ll still find the iconic cocktail bar on many of its other long-haul planes.
Emirates Onboard Lounge
While Emirates may have not been the first to offer a cocktail bar in the skies, the Dubai-based airline, presently Skytrax’s world’s best, has certainly maintained the benchmark for good mixology at altitude and its newly enhanced lounge concept for its massive fleet of A380 superjumbos will ensure it’s always Happy Hour at 39,000ft.
Taking inspiration from the cabins of private yachts, the re-envisioned Onboard Lounge, part of a multi-million dollar interiors upgrade, features new seating and table arrangements along the windows on both sides of the now-iconic horseshoe-shaped cocktail bar; soundproofed curtains to partition the bar from the rest of the upper deck Business Class cabin; integrated LED lighting; subwoofers for surround sound; and a 55-inch LCD screen, which will display the latest flight information as well as live sports and news updates.
With space to accommodate 26 passengers – including eight seated – the new-look Lounge will be dressed in lighter, champagne colours, with accents in dark wood. Exclusive to First and Business Class passengers, the Lounge offers gourmet canapés, handpicked wines from around the world, and limited-edition fine spirits, as well as signature cocktails prepared by a resident bartender. The new Onboard Lounge will debut in July 2017.
Another carrier always ready to up the luxury ante for its business class and first class passengers – which includes its new Q Suite business class seat – Qatar Airways also offers well-heeled travellers an elegant lounge and cocktail bar on its giant A380 Superjumbos.
This refined Premium Lounge has room for 10 passengers in a space dressed in soft lighting and a restrained colour palate of caramel, burgundy and wood. There are dedicated attendants on hand and snaking leather banquettes at which to hold court. In addition to classic and signature cocktails, the lounge also serves Krug champagne to both business and first passengers.
One of the first airlines in Asia to operate the A380, Korean Air decided to partner up with a spirits company for its intimate lounge, located at the rear of the upper deck of its Superjumbos.
The airline offers its Business and First Class passengers access to its A380’s Celestial Lounge, an Absolut vodka-sponsored cocktail corner dressed in the airline’s cream and turquoise colour scheme, where a selection of Absolut vodka concoctions is served. If the bar’s full there’s another smaller lounge at the front of the upper deck, but there’s no bar there.
If you’re flying in First or Business Class on Etihad Airways’ A380s, you can visit The Lobby, a chic space catering to just six passengers, located on the Superjumbo’s upper deck. Inspired by the Arabian concept of Majlis, meeting rooms where guests are entertained, The Lobby lacks a cocktail bar or bartender, but the attentive crew will have you well looked after as you lounge in a convivial space dressed in the cafe latte hues the airline loves. There are even in-seat power points and USB ports if you need to charge your drinks while you recharge.
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