Which airlines have the best inflight bars?

By David Flynn, March 10 2017
Which airlines have the best inflight bars?

Inflight bars bring a dash of old-world style into the modern era in which anybody can be a jet-setter.

Let's consider the bar on Emirates Airbus A380 – the first of the superjumbos to swap rows of seats for a social space which was more about creating a better travel experience than earning more bums-on-seats revenue.

Compare it to the fondly-remembered Captain Cook Lounge in the upstairs 'hump' of the first Qantas Boeing 747s.

Read more: The fabulous bars, lounges and restaurants of the Boeing 747

Apart from the fashions and furnishings, it doesn't seem like much has changed!

Done right, it even gives the massive Airbus A380 an undeniably private jet vibe.

Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways all flying their flagship superjumbos out of Australia, and each takes a very different approach to its bars.

The nook at the tail-end of Emirates’ A380 upper deck has become a favourite haunt for many business travellers and frequent flyers.

That nook is getting a mod new look from later this year on all new A380s to join Emirates' fleet, with more sociable seating including cafe-style tables with a window view.

UAE neighbour Etihad Airways sees its A380 lobby, nestled between the business class and first class cabins, as offering the social qualities of a bar without looking like a bar.

Qatar Airways' curvaceous combo bar/lounge sits at the rear of the business class cabin on the A380's top deck, where passengers gravitate towards the long snaking sofas.

A more recent member of the club is Virgin Australia, with the bar on its revamped Boeing 777 jets from Sydney, Brisbane and soon Melbourne to Los Angeles.

There are other airlines, too, among them Korean Air's Airbus A380 and Boeing 747-8, with a lounge and cocktail bar at the rear of the upper deck...

... and Virgin Atlantic's Upper Class bar, sadly no longer seen in Aussie skies...

... although you can sample the Brit airline's updated Boeing 787-9 bar between Hong Kong and London.

We know some readers love the idea of an inflight bar – a place to get away from your seat, a change of scenery during very long flights, chat with fellow high flyers.

In my own experience these make long flights seem much shorter, and provide a nice buffer between dinner, a movie and a snooze.

But as we've noted above, every airline's inflight bar is a markedly different affair: different in design, layout, space and the social interaction it provides.

So this week we're asking Australian Business Traveller readers: which airlines with inflight bars have you flown on, which is your favourite and why?


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.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Feb 2017

Total posts 12

The Emirates bar certainly helps in-flight socialising and makes a mundane long-haul flight interesting. Better than the seat companion droning on with little chance of escaping the drone.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Oct 2016

Total posts 37

My favourite inflight lounge is the Qantas one, I love the red lounge the big entertainment screen and... um.. I love it!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Mar 2017

Total posts 19

I have to say the bar at the back of the Qatar plane is really roomy.  We took an early flight out of Doha to LHR and due to the time of day it was empty of passengers, which meant that my 2 year old son had a great area to run around, climb and jump without annoying our fellow passengers.  It made travelling with a little one in business a great deal more pleasant for all involved.  The Qatar cabin staff was also exceptional.

Bless the extroverts! 

Why do you need a bar when the FA can bring a drink to your seat, where you can consume it without having to make eye contact and small talk with anyone else, while you enjoy the inflight entertainment, catch up on a podcast or read a good book? 

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1245

I don't get it either. I might grab some food from the bar but then it's a beeline back to my seat to do my own thing.

23 Feb 2015

Total posts 262

I've never flown business on a plane with it, but I don't feel hard done by. Even when travelling with colleagues I have to admit I love the solitude of the flight and would feel a level of obligation to mingle if the facility was there.


13 Mar 2017

Total posts 1

QR have my vote. Bar, seats around 12 in 3 x couch layout, standard of drink is based upon F. Very high standard for champers in both F & J. EK for number 2. Nice venue, canapes and creates a nice environment. Sorry EK but Moet NV is incredibly rough on the throat, there are so many good Australian sparkling wines that you could replace the Moet with. Also new config is likely to stop people taking seats particularly as shown in your advertising material. If 2 people are already seated across from each other, this is likely to stop others joining them compared to the current couch layout. VA would have my vote for 3. Great staff, but the stool seating is not as comfortable as the couch. EY unfortunately no staff, no pax visited the bar on the AUH-MEL sector. Do not remember whether VS had the upper class bar on the SYD-HKG A340-600, but the massage was great. Travelling on leisure allows the opportunity to other like minded, so really enjoy this great opportunity to get away from the seat.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

23 Mar 2015

Total posts 52

VA bar MEL-LAX is quite nice, but a very poor selection of cheap booze lets it right down. Very false economy!

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