Is this the end for Qatar Airways' superb Airbus A380 inflight lounge?

A highlight of any journey on Qatar Airways' superjumbo was a visit to its elegant inflight lounge...

By David Flynn, May 31 2021
Is this the end for Qatar Airways' superb Airbus A380 inflight lounge?

There were many reasons to enjoy a business trip in Qatar Airways' Airbus A380, especially on the long leg between Sydney and Doha, before connecting onto another QR flight – typically to London, elsewhere in the UK or Europe (with several of those routes also served by the superjumbo).

Qatar Airways' Airbus A380 business class.
Qatar Airways' Airbus A380 business class.

There was Qatar's business class seat: not the latest Qsuite, to be sure, but still a very comfortable design with ample room for working, relaxing, and at some point snoozing on the lie-flat bed.

Qatar Airways' Airbus A380 business class.
Qatar Airways' Airbus A380 business class.

There was Qatar's flexible 'dine on demand' à la carte menu, from which you could choose what you wanted to eat at a time that suited you, with an array of quality meals served by friendly, attentive crew.

Qatar Airways' Airbus A380 business class dining.
Qatar Airways' Airbus A380 business class dining.

But most of all, there was the elegant lounge at the rear of the business class cabin: and with Qatar Airways' decision to retire half of its A380 fleet, leaving a superjumbo-sized question mark hanging over the remaining five still-grounded A380s, there's a good chance this social space will never again grace the skies.

Qatar Airways' Airbus A380 Premium Lounge.
Qatar Airways' Airbus A380 Premium Lounge.

Qatar Airways' outspoken CEO Akbar Al Baker last week described the purchase of ten superjumbos as "the biggest mistake" in the airline's 27-year history, adding "I don't think there is a market for that airplane in the foreseeable future."

Looking back at Qatar's A380 lounge

As a regular traveller on Qatar Airways' Sydney flights, usually through to London on another A380, not a flight went by when I didn't spend several hours perched on one of those padded benches.

Qatar Airways' Airbus A380 Premium Lounge.
Qatar Airways' Airbus A380 Premium Lounge.

Prosaically dubbed The Sanctuary during the A380's development stage, but later and more generically described as the Premium Lounge, it provided a 'change of scenery' from the business class seat – a dash of variety which helped every flight pass faster. 

Conceived by London design firm PriestmanGoode and cabin interior specialist AIM Altitude, Qatar's A380 combo bar/lounge added an undeniably private jet vibe to the hulking double-decker colossus.

Qatar Airways' Airbus A380 Premium Lounge.
Qatar Airways' Airbus A380 Premium Lounge.

The sweeping design incorporates sofa-style seating for ten passengers, and it was their interaction – rather than the central presence of the bar itself – which became the focal point.

Shortly after take-off, sometimes even before Qatar Airways' crew could dress the counters with drinks and snacks, business class passengers would gravitate towards the lounge – sometimes solo travellers, sometimes in pairs or groups – but always in a social frame of mind.

It's a wonderfully common trait of any inflight lounge: mixing and mingling, chatting with fellow travellers, learning their story and hearing their first-hand tips on cities around the world.

Qatar Airways' Airbus A380 Premium Lounge.
Qatar Airways' Airbus A380 Premium Lounge.

That said, the provision of AC power sockets at each end of the two window-side lounges meant you could even plug in your laptop or tablet while catching up on work or some reading (I certainly did both from time to time).

Another considered touch: electronic window shades let you block the bright outside light to give the lounge a more, well, 'lounge-like' ambience.

Of course, doubling as a bar, it served some top shelf spirits plus Krug champagne, or more modest espresso-based coffees.

In addition to the selection of appetisers, simpler dishes from the business class menu – such as a cheese platter – could even be delivered to you at the lounge instead of your seat.

If this lounge was among the best places to be on Qatar Airways' Airbus A380, then the counterpoint would be found just beyond the lounge, behind the thick curtain that separated it from a small economy class cabin at the rear of the upper deck.

You can imagine the envy of passengers in that first row of economy at hearing through that curtain the sounds of chatter and merriment, the popping of the odd Champagne cork and clinking of glasses.

But then, perhaps this would provide the enticement they'd need to upgrade to business class on their next journey...

Also read: Qatar Airways plans "exclusive" Boeing 777X first class suites

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Joe
Joe

03 May 2013

Total posts 594

This was the ultimate business class product from Sydney to the world. Other than the arrogant and at times rude Sydney QR ground staff; Qatar's product, mostly in-flight was second to none. From lounges, catering, inflight crew and the strawberry on the cake-the bar. How anyone can laud (other than bean counters) the 777x over the A380 for long and ultra long haul is beyond me. When you're paying the same premium price for F or J the A380, esp on Qatar is the best value for your $ and definately where you want to be.

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 272

Definitely the best A380 inflight bar/lounge, although I do like Emirates' v2 with the nicer design and cafe tables. Etihad's 'Lobby' bar is nice but very small and easily gets too crowded. I know some frequent flyers who prefer QR's A380 business class to the QSuite, although leaving the QSuite door open is always an option. Couple this lounge with QR's fares which have often proven very competitive plus the connections across Europe and it's the best OneWorld option ex-SYD, although until recently I would have rated CX as second-best due to the shorter trip to HKG ahead of the long overnight leg to Europe, the desirability of making a stopover in HKG for business or pleasure plus the excellent CX lounges. Anyway, here's hoping those last five QR A380s don't end up being scrapped before our international borders open up again!

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 455

WOW !!!  What an excellent article, thank-you David.  

I'm going to miss these inflight lounges when the A380s eventually go. I was looking forward to trying the new Qantas one, not nearly as fancy as anything from the Gulf airlines but still it looked a good change from the original QF A380 bench, a much more social design. I suspect we won't see the Etihad or Qatar A380s return, at least Emirates will still have them for another 10+ years. I really wish SQ had been a bit more ambitious when it came to putting some lounge or social space in its A380s, especially with its new A380s as it had plenty of opportunity to see what EK, EY and QR did in this regard.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

01 Mar 2013

Total posts 174

Well said, David. I'm with QFP1 on the commentary above. 

I was, until Covid, often back and forth to Doha and enjoyed the simplicity of the QR Premium package on the A380. Yes, I do prefer the big bird, like many, for passenger comfort. But, it was the QR A380 Lounge that was (is) the pick in the air. Well designed and thought through. I hope we see this design back in some form (although that is high hopes). Cheers.

Thai Airways International - Royal Orchid Plus

12 Mar 2019

Total posts 1

A great article and definitely the best business class lounge in the sky I have experienced, hopefully the remaining craft don't get retired as well as I really enjoy the big bird experience 

Malaysia Airlines - Enrich

21 Mar 2014

Total posts 20

The only thing Qatar could have done better with the A380 lounge was to have it incorporated in a totally business class upper deck ( no economy section peering through the curtains ). A few years back we flew with Korean Air from Seoul to LA on their A380 where the whole upper deck was business class with a great champagne cocktail bar at the rear. It just made you feel quite special and isolated from the rest of the aircraft. 

11 Oct 2017

Total posts 1

Still prefer more Emirates A380s lounge with Big live TV & more space

13 May 2020

Total posts 3

It was certainly a great place for socialising with other passengers, but my favourite memory is probably was a marriage proposal on one flight - the young man had arranged it with the cabin crew to give them temporary access from economy.  His partner's eyes were suspicious as he "sneaked" them in through the curtain from the other side, and then opened wide with delight as he got down on one knee.  She said yes, and the wonderful crew were on hand with champagne for everyone to toast the couple to be.  Some of us will miss this lounge more than most...

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Feb 2018

Total posts 6

Got engaged to my (now) wife in the QR onboard lounge! A7-API. The crew brought out a personalised cake garnished with rose petals and one of the pilots came down from the flight deck to congratulate us. We had a big party in our PJ's. And they arranged VIP treatment for the transit in Doha complete with gate-lounge-gate transfers via chauffeured golf cart. I really, really hope their A380's fly again.

Will be missed as definitely a bonus with flying Qatar


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