Emirates is currently laying the groundwork for a “third generation” of its popular Airbus A380 inflight bar and lounge area, set to debut on the airline’s newest superjumbos from late 2020 or early 2021.
That inflight space was initially launched in 2008 when Emirates took the reins of its first A380 – complete with other brand new features such as the shower spas in first class – and was later redesigned in 2017 to provide more communal seating in a lighter, brighter and more modern environment.
Speaking exclusively with Executive Traveller, Emirates President Sir Tim Clark teases that “I won't reveal exactly what is going to happen, because you know, it’s still a work in progress: but it'll be a step change in what we're doing. It'll be very, very, very attractive, I can assure you.”
Clark does confirm, however, that Emirates will be “enlarging the seating area again” with the debut of the third-generation bar, with clusters of AC and USB power points also added around the tables.
This would create somewhat of an alternative working environment for business travellers taking a break from their regular seat, but could just as easily be used to top-up a smartphone while enjoying both a bartender-mixed beverage and the company of others.
But “what we tend to find is that people (usually) leave their PDAs, laptops, mobiles etc. at their seat, and just go back and get stuck into what we always used to do, which was talk to each other,” Clark recalls.
It’s an experience that drives many passengers to “go out of their way to travel on us, because they have this superb product,” which has “more than paid for itself” over the years, he assures, even though the floor space occupied by the lounge could otherwise have accommodated eight extra business class seats on every flight.
Once a gamble, now a staple
Interestingly, when the bar – and A380 – were first introduced into the Emirates fleet, the airline hedged its bets by planning ahead for the bar's removal, in case the space didn’t prove popular enough with passengers.
“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 continues.
This is why Emirates’ oldest A380s have overhead lockers in the bar area – fitted to make that transition quick and easy if the bar were to be ripped out.
Of course, once Emirates saw of the bar’s success, future A380s were delivered without those lockers, creating a more open environment and with more room for standing passengers.
“If the truth be known, I would have liked the A380-900, which is the stretch version (of the A380-800), right from the start. So, I would've got my 84 business class seats in, plus the bar, but that wasn't to be.”
(The three-class A380-800s that Emirates flies today have 76 business class seats: the ‘84’ figure being this plus the eight extra seats lost to make way for the bar, whereas the longer upper deck of an A380-900 would have provided room for both, but which Airbus never built.)
Still, “every time I try and travel on it – which is regularly – the bar is pretty full: and since we've expanded it, chased out the design of it and put in better seating, it's only increased its popularity.”
“I'm hoping that we will get the first of the new look bars at the back end of next year or the beginning of 2021,” Clark confirms.