In Style + Design

In-Flight Bars Worth Travelling For

Not all in-flight bars are created equal. Just as venues on the ground are always looking for ways to stand out from the crowd, so too are their cousins cruising at 30,000 feet.

Whether you want to unwind over a few cocktails, indulge with a decadent Mile High tea, or maybe catch with colleagues for a meeting, these are the in-flight bars you’ll want to visit.


Part of its ongoing A380 refurbishment, Qantas has given its First and Business Class in-flight lounge a significant upgrade. For starters, there’s not just one lounge now – there are two.

The new David Caon-designed space continues the winning vintage aesthetic the airline has embraced over the last decade or so, swapping out the old row of red leather seats in favour of green leather lounges, wood panelling and ambient lighting.

Arranged to spark conversation, the main booth-style lounge area now feels a lot more inviting, with small tables to rest drinks or perhaps do a little work. A second lounge space on the opposite side of the cabin features deep lounge seating for quiet chats.

Guests can order from a menu of snacks and light meals created by Qantas chef Neil Perry and his Rockpool team, grab a drink from a new self-service bar, or order a signature cocktail such as an Australian Negroni with mountain pepper and river mint.


Image: Emirates / supplied

Though already one of the best bars in the sky, Emirates took its own offering to the next level with a revamp of its A380 Onboard Lounge in 2017. Inspired by private yacht cabins, the revitalised space is light and bright, with subtle lighting and glossy wood trims.

The trademark horseshoe bar remains, with a dedicated bartender on hand to help you stay hydrated during the flight with handpicked wines and premium spirits, as well as signature cocktails. Gourmet canapés, fruit and pastries are available to round off the experience.

New table seating arranged either side of the bar sits up to eight guests, though a total of 26 guests can enjoy the space with standing room. There’s also a 55-inch screen so you can stay up to date with flight information or watch live television.

Virgin Australia

Image: Virgin Australia / supplied

Available on Boeing 777-300ER flights between Australia and Los Angeles, Virgin Australia’s serviced in-flight bar is tailor-made for socialising. Don’t be surprised to find it in full swing shortly after the seatbelt sign has been switched off – and continuing well into the flight.

Guests can nab a high stool by the bar to enjoy a range of wines, spirits and cocktails, or maybe kick back on one of two low lounges. Despite its popularity, the space thankfully doesn’t interfere with fellow passengers thanks to noise-deadening curtains.

Virgin Atlantic

Image: Virgin Atlantic / supplied

Pioneers of the modern in-flight lounge, Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class offering oozes with glamour and sophistication. Available across their A350 fleet, The Loft is Virgin Atlantic’s revamped bar concept – now a social space with lounge seating, desks and television.

Bringing Virgin Atlantic’s Clubhouse (the on-ground lounge) experience to the skies, guests can order a range of cocktails, enjoy Mile High afternoon tea, or settle in to watch a movie on the 32” screen equipped with Bluetooth functionality for up to eight people.

Etihad Airways

in-flight bars

Image: Etihad Airways / supplied

Etihad Airways has looked to traditional Arabian architecture for design cues in its A380 lounge concept ‘The Lobby’, a cosy space on the Upper Deck between the First and Business Class cabins. Like Qantas, it’s more of a dedicated lounge space than a stand-up bar.

Inspired by Arabian Majlis, which are rooms in the home where guests are welcomed and entertained, The Lobby features seating for six guests arranged around a central marquetry table. Dappled lighting and symmetrical design features complete the look.

Passengers can order a drink from the serviced bar, tuck into light snacks, or even enjoy a pre-flight drink in the lounge, mingling while the rest of the plane finishes boarding.

Korean Air

The only Asian airline with an in-flight bar, Korean Air’s Celestial Bar concept has been a fixture across its A380 fleet since 2011. It remains fresh thanks to its futuristic styling.

The white and navy space features bench-style seating for Prestige (Business) Class guests to mingle mid-flight, as well as enjoy finger food and signature vodka cocktails from the serviced bar. There’s also a smaller self-service bar at the very front of the cabin.

Qatar Airways

in-flight bars

Image: Qatar Airways / supplied

Bringing a little over-the-top opulence to the sky, the Qatar Airways A380 in-flight bar area is stunning. The warm colour scheme, comfortable lounge seats and curved central bar make it a perfect spot for First and Business Class passengers to kick back mid-flight.

A large range of spirits, wines, cocktails and mocktails are available from the serviced bar, along with fresh fruit and light snacks. It’s also large enough it never feels crowded.

(Lead images: Emirates / supplied)

Published 28 January, 2020