Sure, it’s very nice to fly Business Class – or even First Class. But on long flights, it’s also great to be able to stretch your legs and spend time somewhere other than in your comfortable seat. A handful of airlines realise this, tempting travellers with onboard bars and inflight lounges to help pass the time and for a change of scenery.

Here’s a look at the top inflight bars and lounges still flying today.

1. Qatar Airways’ onboard bar and lounge

It’s hard not to favour the onboard bar and lounge offered by Qatar Airways. The space is sizeable with plenty of room to stretch those legs. Whether for a quiet drink alone or the opportunity to mingle, you’re sorted.

What makes this bar stand out above the sheer grandeur of the design? The long winding bar bench gives a sense that you’re at a proper venue on the ground, not just a makeshift beverage station. Premium light fittings continue that vibe, making the area feel less like an aircraft cabin. Seating on either side of the aisle also creates several distinct spaces for conversation – again, like a real bar.

Onboard bar on the Qatar Airways Airbus A380
This bar could feel right at home on the ground. [Image courtesy of Qatar Airways]

You’ll find Qatar Airways’ onboard bar and lounge exclusively on its Airbus A380 flights. From Australia, these run from Sydney and Perth to Doha – and from there to key destinations such as London. Use of the lounge is for Business Class and First Class passengers only. Teasingly so if you’re in Economy on the upper deck – as every opening of the curtain provides a glimpse into the high life. Perhaps, a reason to upgrade on your next flight.

Also read: Qatar Airways Airbus A380 First Class review (Doha – Sydney)

2. Emirates’ onboard bar and lounge

Another Middle Eastern carrier with an onboard bar and lounge, Emirates isn’t one to shy away from inflight glamour. Like Qatar Airways, Emirates reserves this experience for its Airbus A380 flights. And with a much larger fleet of superjumbos, it’ll be easier for many to experience Emirates’ offering than Qatar.

The lounge has become a staple for Emirates over the years. It’s also changed several times – but all of the iterations are still flying. In other words, one flight might have Emirates’ oldest bar. A connection might then have the airline’s newest. If Emirates were only flying its newest bar, it’d be a stronger contender for the top ranking here.

The onboard bar and lounge on Emirates' Airbus A380s
Stand, sit, mingle or relax. At Emirates’ onboard bar and lounge, you can do it all. [Image courtesy of Emirates]

But whether you get the ‘new’, ‘old’ or anywhere in between, you can count on having bartender service throughout your flight. The location of the bar – in between the Business Class cabin and the restrooms – also means that just about every passenger will discover the bar at some point during their journey. A cocktail menu, various seating and a big screen with live satellite TV channels make this the place to be. It’s available for Business Class and First Class travellers.

Also read: Emirates Airbus A380 Business Class (Dubai – Sydney)

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3. Virgin Atlantic’s onboard bars

Emirates and Qatar Airways may have bars onboard their flagship Airbus A380s. But Virgin Atlantic – which doesn’t fly the superjumbo – charts its own path here. It’s the only airline to offer a bar on every flight. That’s every type of aircraft, travelling to every destination. If you’re in Upper Class (Business Class), it’s a Virgin Atlantic guarantee.

On the Virgin Atlantic Airbus A350
The social area on Virgin Atlantic’s newest Airbus A350s is a great place to pass some time. [Image courtesy of Virgin Atlantic]

However, the experience can differ from aircraft to aircraft. On the Boeing 787, for instance, the bar is essentially a small counter with seating positioned around the plane’s exit doors. It’s a smart use of space that can’t otherwise be used for take-off and landing. And in that sense, it somewhat mirrors the bar of Virgin Australia’s former Boeing 777 fleet.

If your plans are flexible though and there are many flights on your chosen route, see if you can book an Airbus A350. Firstly, these jets feature the airline’s freshest Upper Class suites – which you’ll need to book to access the space. But on the newest A350s, there’s a separate space beyond the main bar known as ‘The Booth’. It’s designed for two passengers to share an experience together, and you can book a time to use The Booth once onboard.

Also read: Your guide to buying Virgin Atlantic Points

4. Korean Air’s Celestial Bar

For Australian travellers, Korean Air is an interesting carrier. The airline doesn’t have a local frequent flyer partner. As a member of SkyTeam, booking Korean Air flights with points isn’t as straightforward as with other airlines. But if you can snag a journey aboard the airline’s Airbus A380 fleet, it’s worth a stroll to the onboard bar.

The Celestial Bar, as it’s known, is down the back of Business Class. It’s a compact space with seating that’s best designed for mingling – less so, intimate conversations. A nearby crew member will happily mix and serve your preferred drink while you relax.

Celestial Bar on the Korean Air Airbus A380
Mix and mingle at the Celestial Bar. [Image courtesy of Korean Air]

Korean Air’s Airbus A380s occasionally appear on flights between Sydney and Seoul. But more often, they’re found on strategic routes like between Seoul (Incheon) and New York (JFK).

Also read: Your guide to Korean Air First Class

5. Qantas’ onboard lounge

Qantas has long featured a lounge space aboard its Airbus A380 jets. But during refurbishments in recent years, the space has taken on a new identity. ‘Lounge V1’ was simply a red sofa tucked away in the corner, facing a TV screen. ‘Lounge V2’ isn’t quite an ‘onboard bar’ – but it does have hints of a speakeasy, with a greater number of distinct spaces.

Rather than one big sofa, the original space occupied by the lounge now has a couple of tables with seating on either side. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a meal or a drink – or even to get some work done. This is right at the front of the A380’s upper deck, next to the staircase between levels. But with the refurbishments also came more space. The old Customer Service Manager’s office on the left was removed to double the lounge space.

Onboard lounge instead of a bar on Qantas' Airbus A380
Qantas’ updated inflight lounge looks like a speakeasy, and you can buzz the crew for drinks and snacks. [Image courtesy of Qantas]

You won’t find an onboard lounge or bar on other Qantas aircraft. It’s a perk exclusive to the airline’s superjumbo fleet. You’ll find this cosy space right at the front of Business Class – an easy stroll forwards. It’s also directly above First Class, as travellers from there can use it too. As a lesser-known perk, it’s accessible to Chairman’s Lounge members flying Premium Economy or Economy. If that’s you, just ask the crew during the customary inflight greeting.

Also read: Qantas Airbus A380 First review (Los Angeles – Sydney)

6. Etihad’s The Lobby

Last but certainly not least is The Lobby. That’s Etihad’s name to its onboard bar and lounge, exclusively on its Airbus A380s. The space is shared between First Class and Business Class. But given there’s room to mingle within each First Class Apartment, it has the greatest appeal with Business Class flyers.

Undoubtedly, it’s a nice change of scenery from your regular seat. But we’ve ranked The Lobby in sixth place because it’s quite cosy. There are six seats, but they’re all in a circle facing each other. That might be perfect for some – but it can also feel like you’re intruding on someone else’s conversation. For meeting and mingling though, it’s still up there.

The Lobby on Etihad's Airbus A380
You could perhaps host a couple of distinct groups here, but it’s a single communal space. [Image courtesy of Etihad]

Etihad’s Airbus A380s aren’t currently flying to Australia. But they do appear on selected flights between Abu Dhabi and both London and New York.

Also read: Up close with Etihad’s Airbus A380 First Class Apartment

Feature image courtesy of Qatar Airways.

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Which airlines have the best onboard bars? was last modified: December 21st, 2023 by Chris Chamberlin