Beyond the inflight bar: how about an inflight beauty spa?

When it comes to imaginative thinking, the sky's the limit...

By David Flynn, January 30 2020
Beyond the inflight bar: how about an inflight beauty spa?

The world of inflight cocktail bars, lounges and three-room Residence suites is as rarefied as the atmosphere itself at 40,000 feet, but they all began as literal flights of fancy – ideas freed from the gravity of conventional thinking. That's probably the best way to frame this concept for a beauty spa above the clouds.

It's certainly one way to pass the time. Just try to blot out all thoughts of those passengers suffering 'down the back' as you relax with a facial or a massage, a manicure or pedicure.

But these square metres of space don't have to be set aside for indulgent pampering – because the spa is just one configuration of what's called the Retractable Aircraft Cabin project, which adopts a modular approach to using floorspace on board a commercial Airbus or Boeing jet.

It's a bit of blue sky from Dubai Aviation Engineering Projects, an arm of the UAE government which is more usually concerned with large-scale enterprises such as Dubai's airport terminals and the airports themselves.

The aim is to enable airlines "to re-distribute their capacity on demand for each flight in record time while the aircraft is on the ground," according to the DAEP. "The project will provide passengers with a number of options for customised airplane cabins-on-demand for entertainment and business."

The same space could be reconfigured as a chic wine bar above the clouds, with bar and table seating for a dozen passengers.

There's also an alternative treatment for younger flyers, or perhaps those who are simply younger at heart. That said, a few sessions of an arcade-style dance game would be just the thing to deter DVT.

It's worth noting, of course, that it was Dubai's Emirates which popularised the business class cocktail bar on its first Airbus A380s – and even Emirates President Sir Tim Clark wasn't convinced it would (pardon the expression) take off.

“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 tells Executive Traveller.

In planning for such a contingency, Emirates’ first batch of A380s came fitted with overhead lockers in the bar area to help with a speedy transition.

“All those (lockers) were left in deliberately, even though we spent an awful lot of time and money designing the bar and gilding the lily a little bit," Clark reflects. "There was a degree of concern as to how it would work... we didn't actually think that many people were going to use it, but how wrong we were!”

Read more: Behind the design and evolution of Emirates' Airbus A380 bar


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.