MILE HIGH BARS

On-board air­line lounges

Business Traveller (India) - - CONTENTS -

F loor space in air­craft is pre­cious. Af­fix­ing any­thing to the ves­sel other than seats, gal­leys and lava­to­ries is a lux­ury. Per­haps this is why air­lines have been tak­ing their time to in­tro­duce mile high bars or lounges, in the real sense. In fact, Air France and Ja­pan Air­lines once boasted of “on-board bars”, but these were noth­ing to write home about, es­pe­cially when com­pared to the ex­ist­ing six open bars we have to­day. They’re manned by a crew mem­ber at all times, are ex­clu­sive to high-pay­ing pas­sen­gers fly­ing up­wards of busi­ness class, and make for in­ter­est­ing spa­ces to net­work or work in soli­tude. Each one has its own charm when com­pared with lay­out, al­co­hol lists, ser­vice, seat­ing and the ca­pa­cious­ness of stand­ing space. Here is a look at what they of­fer.

EMI­RATES

Swanky is the first word that comes to mind when we talk about Emi­rates’ bar aboard its A380. Lo­cated at the back of the up­per deck, it is ac­ces­si­ble to busi­ness and first class pas­sen­gers.

The bar is shaped as a horse­shoe, and the lights above it, ar­ranged in a sim­i­lar pat­tern, re­mind me of nails ham­mered into the horse­shoe. The yel­low back­lit counter is crowded with nuts, cheese and bread sticks, cut fruit and small bites. Op­po­site it is an­other buf­fet with more fin­ger food. Hot snacks can be or­dered from an a la carte menu. Bot­tles packed on two shelves are an in­di­ca­tion of the al­co­hol served here. A 55-inch flat screen dis­plays live up­dates of our flight.

With in­te­ri­ors in glossy dark wood trim, and cream and golden hues, the lounge bar feels more or less like a liv­ing room. Fresh flow­ers are placed in a wall-mounted vase, and tall floor lamps are po­si­tioned be­side both win­dow seat­ing op­tions. It is brightly lit, even when the win­dow shades are pulled down at sun­set. A crew mem­ber is al­ways avail­able to greet us here, even in the mid­dle of the night, should we need a night cap or fancy a cock­tail. The space is large enough to ac­com­mo­date 26 pas­sen­gers at a time, with seat­ing op­tions for eight. A padded bench flanks one side of the bar, and on the other side is a booth-style seat­ing with a table be­tween two seats.

Sound­proof cur­tains par­ti­tion the lounge from the rest of the air­craft, not al­low­ing chatter from the lounge to fill the other cab­ins. The back end of the bar opens into the gal­ley, which means the crew walk through here fre­quently, some­times mak­ing it feel more crowded than it is. There are no power sock­ets, but that’s a prob­lem only if we plan on work­ing out of here for long. emi­rates.com

ETI­HAD AIR­WAYS

This A380 doesn’t have a bar, but has a self-ser­vice lounge in­stead. It is sit­u­ated be­tween the first and busi­ness class cab­ins and is ac­ces­si­ble to pas­sen­gers of Eti­had’s Res­i­dence, first and busi­ness class. Typ­i­cal Emi­rati pat­terns show in the dec­o­ra­tive light shades and pan­els, table­top, cush­ions, framed paint­ings and on the bar. Called The Lobby, the Lounge looks a lot like a liv­ing room dressed in dark wood, mood lighting and a big screen on which one can watch a live sports tele­cast. Win­dows are miss­ing here, which means, for a dose of natural light, we must head back to our seats. De­signed more like a sit-down space, stand­ing by the bar can be awk­ward if the so­fas are oc­cu­pied; un­less min­gling with strangers comes eas­ily.

The Lobby has a cir­cu­lar seat­ing area that fits six peo­ple on two Poltrona Frau leather so­fas placed around a cir­cu­lar cof­fee table. Fold­able arm­rests (two per semi­cir­cu­lar sofa) are placed be­tween the in­di­vid­ual seats, each with power out­lets, in­clud­ing a USB port to charge your de­vice.

Bot­tles are neatly ar­ranged in a cabi­net fit­ted with a cooler and equipped with glasses, bot­tle open­ers, nap­kins and cut­lery. We can help our­selves to the pre­mium col­lec­tion of cham­pagne, wines, whiskies, beers, spir­its and liqueurs. In fact, the Eti­had Air­ways cel­lar is known for its ex­ten­sive choice of fine wines, and a tast­ing can be ar­ranged by the crew. For snacks, just ask the at­ten­tive crew who ap­pear as soon as you en­ter the lounge. There is a de­li­cious as­sort­ment of bak­ery items — sweet and savoury — as well as small plates, tra­di­tional bites, tea and cof­fee. eti­hadair­ways.com

KOREAN AIR

Lo­cated at the back of the A380’s up­per deck, it is called Ce­les­tial Bar and is the re­sult of a part­ner­ship be­tween the air­line and Ab­so­lut vodka. Hence, the only drinks avail­able here are vodka-based cock­tails. This air­line bar doesn’t stock other al­co­hol va­ri­eties, how­ever, we can still re­quest for them, which the crew will bring to us from the ad­join­ing gal­ley: luck­ily no re­stric­tions on what can be con­sumed at Ce­les­tial Bar.

Ce­les­tial Bar that is ex­clu­sive to first and busi­ness class pas­sen­gers, has a space­ship feel to it. In the evenings, it is dressed in blue light. Tiny lights on the grey pat­terned wall­pa­per twin­kle brightly in the dimly lit lounge bar, like stars in the sky. Dur­ing the day, natural light from the three win­dows be­hind the sofa floods the bar. White lighting here gives the al­most all-white in­te­ri­ors a pris­tine ap­pear­ance when the sun is out.

There is a sofa for three peo­ple ac­com­pa­nied by a sin­gle seat with­out back­rest. Di­ag­o­nally op­po­site this is a padded L-shaped di­vider — the two makeshift seats on it aren’t very com­fort­able to sit on, un­less you’re us­ing them for sup­port when stand­ing. Ad­di­tion­ally, there is enough room for pas­sen­gers to stand by the bar (manned through­out the du­ra­tion of the flight) or around the lounge. A flat screen dis­plays live flight de­tails. Be­low it are books on var­i­ous sub­jects to flip through.

The bar counter is crowded with savoury snacks and bite-sized desserts. These in­clude the likes of nuts, beef jerky, tomato moz­zarella, choco­late cake, fresh fruit, cheese sticks and canapés to name a few — the se­lec­tion varies for each flight.

To­wards the air­craft’s nose is a self-help lounge of sorts, smaller in com­par­i­son to Ce­les­tial Bar. The nar­row, win­dow­less space has a sofa for four peo­ple that faces a screen through which you can ac­cess the in-flight en­ter­tain­ment. Cof­fee-table books are placed be­low the tele­vi­sion. There are cup hold­ers be­tween the sec­ond and third seats, with enough counter space be­hind the back­rests with pink­ish red back­light. We can help our­selves to the soft drinks, vodka, cof­fee, tea and nib­bles ar­ranged in a cor­ner here. ko­re­anair.com

QATAR AIR­WAYS

Fol­low the pur­ple mood lighting on the up­per deck of Qatar Air­ways’ A380, to­wards the back. It leads to a cosy, yet spa­cious set-up that is the air­line’s on-board bar. A chan­de­lier­like light fit­ting bright­ens up the other­wise dim cabin dressed in a pal­ette of caramel and bur­gundy. The bar counter is shaped as a ques­tion mark with an open­ing at the hook. Bot­tles — beer, cham­pagne, gin, liqueur, whisky, wine and vodka — are ar­ranged on two back­lit shelves with mir­ror work. This, and the ceil­ing light with match­ing wood­work are what ex­ude an Ara­bic feel here.

Leather lounge so­fas — each large enough for four peo­ple to sprawl on — flank the bar. Lamps are placed on the end ta­bles. Those sit­ting to­wards the mid­dle of the sofa also have ac­cess to a table­top placed be­tween the sec­ond and third seats. There is one more sofa for two peo­ple fit­ted into the bar’s tail end. Though the on-board lounge bar is sit­u­ated be­tween the busi­ness class and the up­per econ­omy class cabin, it is avail­able ex­clu­sively to busi­ness and first class pas­sen­gers.

A fruit bas­ket, cheese plat­ter, amuse bouche, bite-sized desserts, choco­late pods and nuts are placed on the counter, to which we can help our­selves. The bar is usu­ally more quiet in the nights and if we’re fly­ing across time zones, it’s a nice place to buckle up on the sofa and get some work done. Charg­ing sock­ets are avail­able at the ends of both lounge so­fas. Al­ter­na­tively, this is also where we can net­work with other guests when most peo­ple are awake. qatarair­ways.com

VIR­GIN AT­LANTIC

The bars on-board all Vir­gin At­lantic air­craft (B747-400, B787-9, A340-600 and A330-300) are re­stricted to the air­line’s up­per class pas­sen­gers. This is the high­est of the three-class con­fig­u­ra­tion — econ­omy and pre­mium econ­omy are the other two cabin classes of­fered by the air­line. The com­pact bar is sit­u­ated at the back of the up­per class across the air­line’s fleet. En­trances have a clear view of the first few up­per class rows, due to the lack of cur­tains. When the bar is crowded, don’t expect a quiet mo­ment as the sounds of in­tox­i­cated chatter are au­di­ble all the way to the front of the cabin.

Dur­ing the day, it looks like an or­di­nary bar. High stools line one side of the counter that is crowded with bot­tles — top brands of wines, cham­pagne, spir­its, beers, liqueurs and whiskies. Fruits, nuts and prepack­aged snacks — noth­ing fancy — are placed in bowls on the counter.

The over­all vibe of the bar is ca­sual. In the evenings, mood lighting in the car­rier’s sig­na­ture colours, red and pur­ple add some char­ac­ter to the other­wise plain look­ing set-up. The chrome fin­ished in­te­ri­ors sparkle, adding a small el­e­ment of glam. If it isn’t too crowded, we have the op­tion of eat­ing our din­ner here too.

Lux­u­ri­ous is not how one would de­scribe Vir­gin At­lantic’s on-board bars. With roughly four bar stools and lit­tle space to stand, this wouldn’t be a place to re­lax as a change from your seat on long-haul flights. There is a high prob­a­bil­ity of jostling for space when the bar is crowded. Dur­ing the day it can eas­ily reach its full ca­pac­ity, forc­ing the crew to turn peo­ple away. And un­like other air­lines, when the seat belt sign is switched on, our only choice is to buckle up back in our own seats, rather than at the bar. vir­ginat­lantic.com

VIR­GIN AUS­TRALIA

Sim­ply named The Bar aboard its B777-300, the of­fer­ing is ex­clu­sive to and is sit­u­ated within the busi­ness class cabin — be­tween rows seven and eight. It is as wide as the mid­dle row of the cabin, and can ac­com­mo­date up to ten guests. There are four bar stools and a ban­quette for two peo­ple, up­hol­stered in black leather, leav­ing enough room for four more to stand around com­fort­ably. A well sized table is avail­able to those us­ing the ban­quette. Above it is a back­lit Fly­ing Maiden, the air­line’s logo. The ceil­ing has a leaf pat­tern that is typ­i­cal to Vir­gin Aus­tralia’s do­mes­tic lounges.

Charg­ing out­lets are miss­ing here, and should the seat belt signs come on, we’re ex­pected to walk back to our seats un­til it is safe to crowd The Bar again. Vis­i­tors can en­joy wines, spir­its, whiskies, Aus­tralian beers and cock­tails, as well as fin­ger food here dur­ing the flight. The counter has a bright white back­light, and bot­tles ar­ranged across two shelves dis­play brands of what’s avail­able. When it gets dark, the cabin lights are dimmed, mak­ing The Bar look strik­ingly at­trac­tive with only the ba­sics lit up — counter, logo, shelves and out­line of the pat­tern on the ceil­ing. In the morn­ings, The Bar turns into a nice, bright place to en­joy break­fast with freshly brewed Ne­spresso cof­fee. Just in­form the crew to serve you there.

Built right in the mid­dle of the cabin means it can get noisy for the rest of the pas­sen­gers who would much rather en­joy a quiet time in their seats. Fa­cil­i­tat­ing this are thick cur­tains; they don’t al­to­gether oblit­er­ate the sound from The Bar, but they do a good job of dim­ming down most of it. vir­gin­aus­tralia.com ■

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