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Passengers on the upper deck of Etihad Airways' Airbus A380 don't need to feel confined to their business class seat or first class suite, thanks to a unique social space called The Lobby.
Located between the first and business class cabins, the concept and design of The Lobby was inspired by the Arabian concept of the Majlis, which is a room where guests to a home are met and entertained.
As a result, it's markedly different in character to the superjumbo bars of middle-eastern neighbours Emirates...
... and Qatar Airways.
For starters, the focal point of The Lobby is the passengers themselves rather than a bar.
There's seating for six passengers – three on either side of the semi-circular leather sofa, with a marquetry table in the middle.
This works well if the only people in The Lobby are yourself and a partner, colleague or friend; or if The Lobby is fully occupied and everyone's enjoying some chit-chat back and forth.
The layout of The Lobby actually encourages this. As a result, The Lobby offers the social qualities of a bar without looking like a bar.
And when it comes to looks, Etihad's designers were careful to include the dappled lighting pattern seen in first class for an added touch of elegance.
Wide armrests between each seat double as a place to stow your drink and snacks, with AC (and USB) power sockets built into a recess directly above.
One wall of The Lobby sports a 32 inch TV screen with live TV channels, which we're sure would make this the place to be during many UK and European football matches.
In addition to drinks you can enjoy a selection of light snacks and sweet treats and even order selected dishes from the standard business class inflight menu.
But The Lobby isn't just for mixing and mingling during your flight.
I noticed that upon boarding the plane, some business class passengers (obviously regulars on Etihad's A380 ) would drop their carry-on bag onto or above their seat and then make a beeline for The Lobby and settle in for a preflight drink or two, chatting with fellow travellers for the next 20 minutes until the economy passengers downstairs had completed boarding, the doors were closed and the flight was ready for departure.
It's a wonderfully civilised way to begin any journey.
David Flynn travelled as a guest of Etihad Airways
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