Which Airlines Have The Best Onboard Bars?

With space on planes at more of a premium than ever before (just look at how many economy seats some airlines are adding to planes), there’s something amazing about still having an onboard space for passengers to mingle and hang out. In a way, having an onboard bar is like the “good old days” of aviation, when the upper deck of a 747 was a lounge for passengers.

But despite airlines cramming in more economy seats, it’s not stopping them from adding more amenities for premium passengers, in an attempt to win them over. For example, I’ve written in the past about five of the best A380 amenities out there, ranging from showers to double beds.

With that in mind, I thought it would be fun to look at five airlines with the coolest onboard bars, ranked starting with my favorite:

Qatar Airways A380 onboard bar

Qatar Airways has perfected the onboard bar on their A380. The bar is available to first & business class passengers, and is located behind the business class cabin (in front of the small upper deck economy cabin). The bar is gorgeous, spacious, and has plenty of seating.

Furthermore, there’s virtually no foot traffic, given that the flight attendants don’t have to walk past the bar to provide their service.

Qatar-Airways-A380-First-Class-077

But the best part of the bar? They serve Krug, even to business class passengers. Krug is typically reserved for first class passengers, but since the bar is shared between the two cabins, everyone at the bar can drink Krug. So when you’re flying Qatar Airways A380 business class, be sure to go to the bar for your champagne, regardless of whether or not you want to mingle!

Qatar-Airways-A380-First-Class-081

Emirates A380 onboard bar

While Qatar Airways’ bar might not be especially well known, I’m sure most of you have seen pictures of Emirates’ onboard bar. It’s located at the very back of the upper deck, and is available to first & business class passengers. Heck, Emirates even used this as a selling point in their recent ad campaign featuring Jennifer Aniston:

The lounge isn’t quite as spacious as the one on Qatar Airways, and there’s also a lot more foot traffic, given that the business class flight attendants are constantly walking through the bar to get between the galley and cabin. That being said, it’s also one of the liveliest onboard bars, and if you have a fun/sassy flight attendant, you’re sure to have a good time.

Emirates-Bar

Korean Air A380 onboard lounge

Korean Air has a business class lounge at the back of the upper deck, which is called the Celestial Bar. It’s extremely inviting, with a good amount of seating. It’s operated in conjunction with Absolute vodka, and they’ve created some signature aviation-themed cocktails.

What’s a bit odd is that they just serve the signature cocktails at the bar, and not other drinks. So if you want something else to drink you explicitly have to ask the crew to fetch it from the galley.

Still, the space itself is gorgeous, and who doesn’t love a vodka-based aviation-themed libation?

Korean-Air-A380-Bar-1

This bar is in addition to the lounge at the front of the upper deck on the Korean Air A380.

Korean-Air-Lounge

Etihad Airways A380 onboard lounge

Etihad Airways has a lounge on their A380, located between the first and business class cabins. The lounge is known as “The Lobby,” and features a circular seating area with six seats.

Etihad-A380-Apartment - 51

This isn’t a traditional onboard bar, in the sense that there’s not a bartender. But a good crew should be attentive and serve you whatever you want to have in The Lobby… even afternoon tea!

Etihad-A380-Apartment - 54

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class bar

No doubt the airline most well known for their onboard bar is Virgin Atlantic, which has a bar for Upper Class (business class) passengers on all their aircraft. I suppose it should come as no surprise that a British airline has one of the largest fleets of onboard bars.

While bars are of varying popularity on Emirates, Qatar, etc., I find the Virgin Atlantic onboard bars to consistently be packed on daytime flights, to the point that they have to turn people away. And passengers can get so loud that it can disturb other passengers, especially since there’s not much separation between the bar and the cabin. I’ve written a post asking if Virgin Atlantic should get rid of their onboard bars, given how disruptive they can be.

But hey, I guess that means people are just having fun!

Virgin-Atlantic-Upper-Class - 19

Bottom line

What’s not to love about having a place to stretch your legs on a longhaul flight? I commend the airlines which use up “real estate” on planes for amenities like onboard bars.

Which airline has your favorite onboard bar?

About lucky

Ben Schlappig (aka Lucky) is a travel consultant, blogger, and avid points collector. He travels about 400,000 miles a year, primarily using miles and points to fund his first class experiences. He chronicles his adventures, along with industry news, here at One Mile At A Time.

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Comments

  1. “I suppose it should come as no surprise that a British airline has one of the largest fleets of onboard bars.”

    To be fair, Ben, we Brits only drink as much as we do to make our food seem more bearable 😉

    That said, according to the WHO, we actually drink less per capita than the Germans, French, Canadians, South Koreans, Finns and Australians, among others. I guess we just do it more noisily!

  2. Having flown both Emirates and Qatar. Well, my vote will go to Emirates onboard bar. There are a huge offering of finger food, snacks, nuts, sweets and fruits on Emirates bar. While on Qatar, I noticed some cost cutting happening where on my recent trip they displayed Comtes champagne instead of Krug. There were also very poor snacks offering at the bar compare to Emirates. I also like the fact that Emirates are not ‘stingy’ as QR because they do installed a huge screen showcasing the moving map on their bulkhead/wall at the bar. While on Qatar, the bulkhead/wall facing the bar area was just plain empty. Service at the bar on Emirates was really fun, funky, a lot of character and lively. While on Qatar, the service tend to be a bit reserved and less character due to the fact of their company policy I believe. I never left hungry at the bar on Emirates while on Qatar I have to keep looking at the menu again not long after I seated. I’m not a big eater btw. 😛

  3. Having been on a few, EK is without a doubt the best. Actually the tiny bar in Front of FC has the real top of the line selection the back of biz is great on those 16 hour flights, with hot and cold food and drinks. Like the old “flying pubs and piano bars”

  4. EK hands down. Many 380 routes so chances are good to actually have one, plus atmosphere. I’m not a fan of QR on the whole a bit ‘all fur coat’ etc and well Etihad is just MEH.

  5. I’ve found it easiest to mingle/socialize/network with other fellow business/first class passengers in the Emirates, Virgin Atlantic, and Korean Airlines onboard bars.

  6. The new Virgin Australia bar looks great. Just flew them LAX/SYD two weeks ago, and even the old bar looked nice (I only had two seconds to glance on my way back to cattle class).

  7. Given how small the pool of candidates is for this topic (honestly, how many other airlines besides Virgin Australia have bars?), this really would have been better had you ranked them from your least favorite to most favorite.

    Are there any other airlines that have bars? I know Kingfisher Airlines did before they shut down.

  8. I’ve done the EY A380, EK A380, VS and the old QR lounge. Without a doubt, my vote would go with EK. The others are there as a novelty, EK staff always make it a enjoyable experience without the awkwardness.

  9. Virgin Australia is the best I’ve been on. The flight is long enough to hang at the bar for a while and then get a decent sleep.

  10. Also, does the Etihad lounge area get crowded? I assume those six seats are for all of F and J. Has anyone ever wanted to use that space and found that it is full?

  11. On board bar of QATAR A380 has been a complete embarrassing mess. Not long ago I had a flight from Doha to Bangkok, the bar tender was fun, he knew how to make cocktails and there were some not so fancy but OK snacks offered. The bar menu, which includes bar only snacks and cocktails, however was nowhere to be found. No worries though he made it fun and KRUG was flowing so we spent about 3-4 hours at the bar. Returning from Bangkok to Doha however was an embarrassment. I felt so bad for the company even though knowing the CEO I shouldn’t be caring that much. There was no bar menu but neither were any of the ingredients for the cocktails were loaded. The bar tender/crew member she was lovely but had no clue, she kept looking at her ipad to see how to do the coktails but hello the bar only had wine, liquor and orange juice. The snacks were potato chips and nuts. No olives, no cakes, not even cheese. I don’t even remember the champagne they offered I was completely in shock how messy the service was. I mean the flight from Bangkok to Doha is a longer flight, takes off at 9pm shouldn’t it be all loaded up ready to go with an extensive dinner, bar, lounge menu? On this flight there was no KRUG, no KOPKE, the bar was completely EMPTY only wine and vodka and cheap champagne. And chips. And the service in the cabin was worse, amenity kit became a joke, it’s on pqr with premium economy, mini parfume, mini shaving creme, socks, no slippers. Shouldn’t there be mattress pads as promised? No. I asked for a mattress pad twice, they gave me one from First Class at the end to shut me up. 🙂 I just feel like Qatar is a big bubble of lies. They have to start delivering what they promise…those promos they keep on doing won’t be helping soon and they will just keep losing customers to EMIRATES, which is a very consistent airline.

  12. @Tom
    I have only been on the AUH-SYD RT and JFK-AUH sectors, but found there to be seats every time I was there. Presumably on the shorter daytime flights the bar will be more full throughout.

  13. Can someone please explain me the following:
    The bar in QR A380 is in Front of Thema Upper Deck Econmy, right?
    I suppose IT ins divided by a curtain? What is stopping The Y-Pax to come into the bar-area?

  14. @tony there is a thick curtain and a velvet rope, if anyone tries to cross the crew jump on em like wild cats :p

  15. @MattC

    Totally the same page with you. Qatar has a very serious problem with inconsistent product. No more mattress pad provided even they do promised them and showcasing all those amenities during their promotion. Very poor snacks offering at the bar and the onboard bar drinks almost non existent due to limited product. I wouldn’t be surprise anymore why media called the CEO is “the boy who cried wolf”. People still flying with them because Qatar is always cheaper than Emirates on may routes tho.

  16. I am going with my husband from Dallas to Sydney on Quantas. Do they have an onboard bar? Never flown them but I needed a direct flight.

  17. The lounge at Emirates 380 is a reason to book them again and to avoid airlines not featuring it. Never before, it was so easy, to get a cheerful conversation to fellow pax. I prefer it to any IFE. The Airline gives up three windows of Business Class seats and gets a strong reason to choose them again.

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