Review: Emirates’ elegant A380 bar

Any hour is cocktail hour at Emirates’ amazing A380 bar.

By Staff Writers, February 29 2024
Review: Emirates’ elegant A380 bar

One of the unique experiences of a business class or first class flight on the Emirates superjumbo is the onboard cocktail bar and lounge.

With echoes of the ‘golden age’ of flying, it’s a jaw-dropping delight for first timers and a welcome sight for returning passengers.

Tucked away at the rear of the superjumbo’s upper deck, the horseshoe 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.

Of course, it’s not the only airline to implement a social space on the A380: Qantas has its own upper deck lounge, while Qatar Airways delights in a luxe lounge of its own.

However, Emirates’ bar is arguably held as the gold standard – and with the Gulf carrier’s A380s set to fly for many years to come, there’s still ample time to enjoy it.

And it’s a wonderful place to while away the inflight hours and have a break from your seat. Enjoy a drink and a snack from the bar menu, get some work done thanks to Emirates’ free WiFi, read a book, chat with fellow travellers or just relax and let your mind wander.

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 to visit yet, there’s still plenty of time.

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 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 older A380s retain the bar in its original 2008 design, flanked by two curved benches and with a decidedly dark and dated aesthetic.

A 2017 redesign, which is now being more broadly rolled out across the A380 fleet alongside the addition of premium economy, shifted this space to a lighter and brighter style which the airline claimed as “inspired by private yacht cabins” while swapping out the benches for communal cafe-style tables.

The cleaner, sleeker and more refined look draws on a lighter colour palette of ivory and (appropriately) Champagne, with bronze and woodgrain accents.

(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.)

The second-gen bar has two seating areas: to the left is this pair of two-seater benches...

... while this L-shaped bench is off to the right.

And yes, there are seatbelts in the event of a few bumps along the way.

If you visit the Emirates’ A380 bar only to find all seats are taken, you can of course stand at the bar, or if that’s too shoulder-to-shoulder at peak times, hover next to a bench temporarily mounted in front of one of the exit doors.

But if you’re planning to sit at one of the tables and tackle some work on your laptop, note there are no AC or USB power outlets at any of the seats.

Emirates’ A380 bar and lounge menu

The Emirates’ A380 cocktail menu covers familiar favourites including the Cosmopolitan, Kir Royale, Manhattan, Espresso Martini 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 top-shelf 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 prefer to 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.

But the Emirates A380 bar isn’t just about drinks.

You can find everything from simple 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...

... or on the shelf opposite the bar, beneath the large video screen.

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 or roast beef with horseradish cream and sundried tomatoes, and grilled vegetables wraps; while the hot dishes can include beef rendang with coconut rice, casarecce pasta, frittatas and lamb kofta sliders.

However, you can’t take your main meal (be it breakfast, lunch or dinner) down here: that has to be served back in your seat.

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 Emirates Skywards miles to put in for an upgrade.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.”

24 Jun 2020

Total posts 47

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 20

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 10

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 27

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!"

Jetstar Airways - Qantas Frequent Flyer

16 Jan 2020

Total posts 3

Reminded me of my flight in business when I requested a martini with an olive. The bartender replied "What is a martini? I dont think we have those". Obviously occasionally the bartenders are newbies.

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 5

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 48

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. 

I bet the cock tails are expemsive

QFF

19 Sep 2013

Total posts 202

Last flights it seemed to be quite busy on the Australian legs. Loved the choccys put out on a tray.

Jetstar Airways - Qantas Frequent Flyer

13 Jun 2020

Total posts 10

This is life’s must do , I have experienced this many times and last time shared with my partner, thank you emirates and the ceo for bring the luxury romance experience back to travel , ps they do the best espresso martini , so can’t wait to fly again on the big bird 


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