When the world’s largest passenger aircraft, the Airbus A380, was being introduced to the world, the marketing hype went into overdrive. Airlines could install a bowling alley, a gym and other unique or luxurious features as the plane was just SO BIG! Travel as we know it was supposed to be transformed. It wasn’t.
Similar hype occurred in the 1960s when the Boeing 747 was coming up. Oodles of space apparently meant airlines could wow their passengers. While many airlines had a lounge on the upper deck, Pan Am used the space for a first class dining room, and other airlines had coach class lounges down the back. All of them went within a few years, replaced with more seats.
Standard Airbus A380s
A number of airlines elected to fit their Airbus A380 fleet with passenger seats and nothing extra. Let’s wave hello to our friends at Japan’s ANA, British Airways, China Southern Airlines, Lufthansa, Malaysia Airlines, and Singapore Airlines.
It is not too surprising though, as a seat where a paying passenger can sit is a little more valuable than creating what is ultimately space that does not earn any money.
Upper Deck Lounges
The design of the Airbus A380 upper deck means there is space either side of the stairs leading downstairs. Several airlines have large toilets in this space, but others have used one or both sides to create a lounge.
Expectation versus reality is something happening at full power on some of these ones. On Thai Airways, the space is for first class passengers and is referred to as a “multipurpose area” on their seating plan. When it came out it was touted as a lounge, with pictures to match.
The reality can be different as seen in the two images below taken on a flight from Osaka to Bangkok. Things aren’t always as they seem, are they?
Perhaps that is why it specifically is not called a lounge on their seating plan. I mean, you could stretch out and read a book here, but since this is for first class passengers, staying in your own seat is probably a far nicer thing to do.
The Other Upper Deck Lounges
Things aren’t too different for the other airlines that have upper deck lounges. Qantas are the only airline to make a change, speculating that the lounge was little used because people were facing out into nothing. They are spending money on reconfiguring their Airbus A380 fleet and part of that was switching the lounge around so people could face each other. Probably a good thing!
Of course, many other airlines are not spending any money on their superjumbo fleet, because it simply costs too much money to make many changes, when the aircraft is not as efficient as others.
All of these lounges are relatively useful though. You could get up and stretch your legs and move there to relax with a colleague, friends or family. Unlike the one coming up.
Air France’s Useless Multimedia Gallery
In the same space up the front of the upper deck, the French decided to get creative as the French do. On the seating plan, it is curiously labelled “mezzanine”. Whatever could it be?
This is a space where three screens play images of museums around the world. Of all things. The intention was that the programme changed every two months.
I can only imagine this provided passengers on long flights with seconds of fun. Perhaps it is not too surprising that Air France are retiring their entire Airbus A380 fleet by 2022.
Now For The Really Luxurious Stuff!
Four airlines feature a luxurious bar or lounge on board their Airbus A380 and from all reports these are quite popular. They do take up some real estate in the cabin though, but passengers really like them. It may not surprise you that three of these airlines are the global Middle East based airlines, Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad.
The airline with the most Airbus A380s in the world is Emirates, and their bar is situated behind business class at the tail. A friend wrote a wonderful review for me and you can see his thoughts on that bar here.
From all reports, the Qatar Airways bar is the most luxurious of the three. Happily, I will be giving it a whirl myself later this year, which I am quite looking forward to!
A Celestial Bar
On the Korean Air seat map, there is a space at the back marked with a cocktail glass and a seat. There is really no other fanfare to announce what is called the Celestial Bar.
Sponsored by Absolut Vodka (which is an interesting tie-in!), this bar, unsurprisingly, serves only vodka. It’s quite pretty looking as well.
I’m a fan of anything blue, so the design really appeals to me. I still think the Qatar Airways bar has the edge though, as it looks more spacious and I’m sure they serve more than vodka!
Of course, I have not mentioned other luxurious touches such as the Emirates first class showers, Qatar’s first class bathrooms or The Residence on Etihad as these are specific to a small sub-group of people. A proper bar can be experienced by many more, as business class is generally less exclusive.
Looking at it, the only reason the small lounges up front feature on some airlines is due to the fact you just can’t put passenger seats there. No windows, for one, and it’s a relatively small space. I’ll bet they would put some paying seats there if they could though!
Have you experienced any of these luxurious lounges or bars before? Which airline was it and what did you think of it? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.
Featured image by Hyeonwoo Noh via Wikimedia Commons. Seat maps via the respective airlines.
Air France multimedia gallery via Club Innovation & Culture France.
Asiana upper deck lounge via One Mile At A Time.
Etihad lounge via Traveller.
Korean Celestial Bar via Salsa World Traveller.
Qantas lounge via Qantas.
Qatar Airways bar with mood lighting via GodSaveThePoints. Other via One Mile At A Time.
Thai multipurpose space via Traveller for the marketing shots and Live and Let’s Fly for the others.