Onboard bars and lounges have been around for decades and were once the epicenter of air travel for those in first class. However, with the changing times, airlines are moving away (some already have) from the onboard bars to onboard lounges where travelers can relax and work while still having a snack or drink brought to you by a flight attendant.
Airplane designers are rethinking these spaces and how they will change in the future, becoming more flexible and interchangeable depending on the needs of travelers. In today’s time, airlines such as Qantas, Virgin Atlantic, Emirates and Etihad have taken the leap in changing the onboard bars into onboard lounges.
Etihad was one of the earlier airlines that introduced its onboard lounge 6 years ago on the A380, offering premium passengers a place to unwind away from their seat in a social space with two couches facing each other, a small table in the middle and a large entertainment screen.
Qantas recently revamped its A380s, with the biggest change being the onboard lounge. The airline reconfigured the entire space on the top level into a three-part lounge with tables, couches, large television and a self-serve mini-bar with refreshments. All seats have a safety belt, so regardless of where travelers sit they can relax or work without having to worry about safety.
Virgin Atlantic introduced “The Loft” on their A350s, where Upper Class passengers can interact with each other in an area where there are two couches facing each other, and a large entertainment screen measuring 32-inches connecting to Bluetooth headphones as to not disturb others in the cabin.
Emirates announced an upgrade to its onboard bars for the A380 in 2017, which have a yacht-like feel. Travelers in business and first class can enjoy their flight in a booth or sofa while viewing the latest on the television screen measuring 55-inches. The previous space was designed as a bar with very few seats, forcing passengers to stand as if they were at a bar on the ground.
Many airlines nowadays offer completely enclosed suites in business and/or first class, allowing for a lot of privacy while flying long distances. However, with more airlines like Qantas and Singapore Airlines rethinking the onboard experience for ultra-long-haul flights, communal spaces are becoming even more important to help passengers move, stretch and socialize in order withstand such distances in an airplane. It will be interesting to see what other airlines will do and if they will add on onboard lounges for their passengers who want to step away from their seat/suite and relish a change of scenery, especially since many carriers are slowly discontinuing jumbo jets such as the A380 and moving towards smaller yet more efficient aircraft.