Any hour is cocktail hour at Emirates’ elegant A380 bar

It’s one of the signature experiences of a business or first class flight on the Emirates superjumbo.

By Chris Ashton, November 17 2022
Any hour is cocktail hour at Emirates’ elegant A380 bar

When you think of the Emirates A380, it’s almost certainly the onboard cocktail bar and lounge that immediately springs to mind.

And rightly so: upon its debut in 2008, the high-flying bar was like nothing else at the time – and it still ranks as the best in the air.

Tucked away at the rear of the superjumbo’s upper deck, the horseshoe-shaped bar is an exclusive sanctuary where business and first class passengers can mingle, chat over a cocktail or glass of Champagne, and enjoy a snack at one of the leather-clad benches.

The iconic Emirates A380 bar features on every one of the Gulf airline's superjumbos.
The iconic Emirates A380 bar features on every one of the Gulf airline's superjumbos.

What to expect from Emirates’ A380 bar and lounge

Every single Emirates’ Airbus A380 sports this iconic feature – it’s one of several ways the airline sought to reinvent the premium flying experience (along with private first class suites and in-flight showers for those first class passengers).

Shortly after the superjumbo soars into the sky and the seatbelt sign is switched off, Emirates crew get busy dressing’ the bar so it can become the star of the show. On goes the mood lighting, out come the canapés, and a selection of top-shelf spirits stands ready.

The Emirates’ A380 cocktail menu covers familiar favourites including the Cosmopolitan, Kir Royale, Manhattan and the popular Breakfast Martini – a mix of gin infused with bittersweet orange marmalade, Cointreau, a dash of lemon and a splash of fresh orange juice.

Every hour is cocktail hour at the Emirates A380 bar.
Every hour is cocktail hour at the Emirates A380 bar.

Also on the list, and highly recommend as a tipple above the clouds, is the ubiquitous Bloody Mary: the savoury, brothy umami-packed flavour of the tomato juice and Worcestershire sauce are actually enhanced by altitude, so it will always taste as good or even better in the air than the ground.

(If you'd rather avoid alcohol, ask for a Virgin Mary – you’ll get a spicy tomato juice sans vodka.)

Of course, the experienced bartenders can whip up plenty of other creations with the spirits and ingredients at hand.

The Emirates A380 bar echoes the glamour days of the jet-set age.
The Emirates A380 bar echoes the glamour days of the jet-set age.

If you’d rather toast the journey with Champagne, the Emirates A380 bar generally stocks a free-flow of Moet Chandon NV with the occasional guest appearance by Veuve Cliquot NV.

However, that’s for business class passengers: if you’re in first class, where vintage Dom Perignon  is served, let a First cabin attendant know you’re headed back to the bar and they’ll arrange for a bottle of Dom to make its way there as your exclusive pour.

You’re welcome to stand at the bar while sipping and socialising, although the leather-clad bench seating is a great place to settle in.

The original Emirates A380 bars are flanked by two curved benches; the 2017 redesign adapted these into communal cafe-style tables.

The second-get Emirates A380 bar enjoys more seating in a cafe-style layout.
The second-get Emirates A380 bar enjoys more seating in a cafe-style layout.

Emirates’ A380 bar and lounge menu

But the Emirates A380 bar isn’t just about drinks: you can find everything from simple bar snacks (such as olives, nuts, chips and cheese sticks) to bite-sized finger sandwiches, mini-wraps and sweet treats such as macarons and pastries arranged on the counter.

You won't go thirsty – or hungry – during your visit to Emirates' A380 bar.
You won't go thirsty – or hungry – during your visit to Emirates' A380 bar.

There’s also a special ‘Bistro bites’ bar menu with slightly more substantial offerings which can be enjoyed at the bar.

A typical Emirates A380 bar menu can list sandwiches of tandoori chicken with mint; grilled vegetables; roast beef with onion marmalade, and beef tenderloin with wholegrain mustard.

Hot dishes often range from vegetable harra pie to frittatas and lamb kofta sliders. 

Emirates’ A380 onboard bar and lounge access

While the Emirates A380 bar welcomes all business class and first class flyers, it’s not available to premium economy or economy passengers.

Even if you’ve a friend in one of the premium cabins, they can’t ‘guest’ you into the bar.

That’s another good reason to look for the best Emirates business class deal you can find, or consider using your firer points to put in for an upgrade.

Premium passengers only: the Emirates A380 bar is an exclusive haven for first and business class.
Premium passengers only: the Emirates A380 bar is an exclusive haven for first and business class.

The origins of Emirates’ A380 bar 

So how did this signature feature of the Emirates A380 come about?

As the Gulf carrier set about designing its first superjumbo ahead of its launch in 2008, airline president Sir Tim Clark was in search of something to elevate the Emirates A380 experience, differentiate it from other airlines’ superjumbos and create an attention-grabbing buzz.

The answer was to channel those glorious golden days of the jet age in the form of a cocktail bar and lounge.

Emirates president Sir Tim Clark knew his A380s had to have something special.
Emirates president Sir Tim Clark knew his A380s had to have something special.

Clark, who had spent a decade working for Bahrain-based Gulf Air before moving to Dubai when Emirates was founded in 1985, drew on his Gulf Air years when mapping out the floorplan for the A380s.

“A bar had been seen on the Gulf Air TriStars in the years before (Emirates) was formed… so you can see where some of the ideas came from,” he told Executive Traveller in a 2019 interview.

The inflight bar on board Gulf Air's Lockheed TriStar.
The inflight bar on board Gulf Air's Lockheed TriStar.

To the look and feel of the space, “it had to be a statement, it had to be part of the launch of this aircraft, which was going to include grand staircases, the showers et cetera, and the new business class seats that were coming: so, this was all part of it.”

However, in 2008 the bar was something of a gamble, so the canny airline veteran hedged his bets: in the event the superjumbo bar didn’t capture the imagination of passengers, Emirates had a Plan B.

“I designed the bar at the back of the aircraft on the upper deck, on the understanding that if it didn’t work, we could remove it in 96 hours and put eight more business class seats in," Clark revealed to Executive Traveller.

That’s why the earliest Emirates A380s still had overhead luggage lockers in the space above the bar – to facilitate that quick conversion back to being a business class cabin.

The very earliest Emirates A380 bars retained the overhead luggage bins, visible at the very rear.
The very earliest Emirates A380 bars retained the overhead luggage bins, visible at the very rear.

But Clark’s gamble paid off: the bar “was popular from day one, and so we never looked back on that” – and indeed, the next wave of factory-fresh A380s arrived without overhead lockers in the bar area, lending the space a more open and integrated look.

To Emirates' delight, the A380 bar proved an immediate hit with passengers.
To Emirates' delight, the A380 bar proved an immediate hit with passengers.

Emirates' next move was to increase the number of drop-down oxygen masks at the bar, in case of emergency.

“As soon as the aircraft was launched on routes like London and places like Sydney, it was clear that we had to increase the number of drop-down oxygen masks to a minimum of 16, because at times, we had even (more passengers there than that),” Clark says.

So is the bar worth the loss of the eight business class seats which would otherwise occupy that space?

Clark maintains that on a typical flight, at least eight passengers chose to travel with Emirates over a competing airline just for the bar, “(and) probably more than that.”

“It’s hugely attractive… incredibly popular, and people go from miles around to get on board the aeroplane. It’s more than paid for itself.” 

Evolving the Emirates A380 bar experience

Emirates refreshed its A380 bar in 2017 in a lighter and brighter style which the airline claimed as “inspired by private yacht cabins.”

The dark heavy tones of the first-gen designer swapped for a cleaner, sleeker and more refined look which drew on a lighter colour palette of ivory and (appropriately) Champagne, with bronze and woodgrain accents.

The lush new look of Emirates' A380 bar.
The lush new look of Emirates' A380 bar.

In addition to the communal cafe-style tables, Emirates even added subwoofers so the bar's patrons can enjoy surround sound – handy when paired with the 55 inch TV for live sports – while soundproof curtains keep the din of the bar from disturbing passengers seated in the rear of the business class cabin.

“We have to move with the times, and the bar was proving extremely popular,” Clark recollects. “So we took the opportunity to modernise it… and give it a more 21st century look and feel, which I think we've done fairly successfully.”

“We can (certainly) seat more people and there seems to be a highly convivial atmosphere down there, every time I go through it anyway.”

And while Airbus has ended production of the mighty A380, Emirates won't retire its superjumbos until the mid-2030s – so if you haven’t yet had a chance, there’s still plenty of time to find a seat at the bar.

24 Jun 2020

Total posts 40

I love the bar and it is one of the reasons I fly Emirates A380.

I am happy to know that I can continue to enjoy the experience for another 10+ years.

cow
cow

25 Aug 2017

Total posts 17

The bar  is great to be able to stretch your legs and talk to other 'guests', but the clinch is the shower, with a glass of champagne and strawberries provided after seated.  You feel so refreshed after landing (and clean).  The difference is amazing.  This would make Emirates my pick.

Disclaimer: travelled on FF points.

Jetstar Airways - Qantas Frequent Flyer

13 Jun 2020

Total posts 6

This is a once or for some of us more time experience , you must try this in your lifetime , it’s the most amazing experience well done Emirates for taking the initiative in bringing  the fun and luxury to travel.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Jan 2017

Total posts 23

Yes, that bar really adds to the Emirates experience.  But on one flight, when I asked for a neat bourbon on the rocks, the "barman" said "I'm sorry Sir, we don't have bourbon."  I pointed to the bottle of Jack Daniels on the shelf behind him.  "Oh," he said, "That's Jack Daniels."  "Yes," I said.  "That's bourbon!"

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

12 Feb 2021

Total posts 23

Interesting observations. When flying KE regularly 388's, they have a vodka bar at the back and never have I seen anyone in that section and rarely a staff member unless you call them up from downstairs.  On short hops like HKG/SEL it is not opened at all. Downstairs is a duty free section and always   packed with buyers so their use of space in regard to seating pax is the interesting part but believe the duty free section is very profitable and have staff on call the whole flight.

I do not drink alcohol but if others do when flying , good luck to them and is definitely a good ide for some and the airline concurs  but would rather  rest on long flights and if  a choice in Prem classes wuld go any ailrine regarding price. CZ 380s no bar and limited bar service and wine selection in J and F as rarely do their customers demand it. Safe travel everyone.

ps CZ upgrade automatically Elites from J at time of booking.no points from  SYD  on 388swhen booking on their website.

MF offer resonable F upgrade at checkin and still usually the only pax on their 788s

CFG
CFG

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Dec 2017

Total posts 3

From Australia to Europe the appeal of the wonderful A380 on the first long leg to Dubai is paramount, and with the time available the bar more than adds to the business class experience.

Very glad to hear that Emirates will continue with the A380- and the bar!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Jun 2017

Total posts 25

Soundproof curtains? Do a reasonable job however with people in and out of the bar at all hours it can be quite disturbing if you are after some sleep in the rear section of J. 


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