At the back of the upper-deck cabin, directly behind business class, is the pièce de résistance: a fully operative stand-up bar that has been the social hub on every Emirates A380 flight I have taken. To make space for this in-flight lounge, Emirates president Tim Clark says, he has had to sacrifice six premium seats, but declares, “It’s the most popular thing we’ve ever done. They have a real party down there.” On this flight a group of Italian contractors join two British couples around the bar soon after takeoff. And they’re all still there six hours later as the plane starts its descent. It is, indeed, some party.
Even the humble masses in coach are able to partake of the A380’s in-flight video-and-audio system, which offers more than 1,500 channels featuring movies, television shows, news, games, and music from around the world, all delivered through high-end, 13-inch seatback monitors.
For anyone who has endured the post-deregulation austerity of U.S. airlines over the past few decades—uncomfortable, overcrowded, bare-bones bus journeys in the sky—the experience of flying on Emirates, Etihad, or Qatar comes close to recapturing the joy of jet travel from Pan Am’s heyday. There is a sense of fun on board, and that has come down from the top. Tim Clark says he wants to bring a bit of glamour back into flying.
Such a stark contrast to the state of flying with the U.S. airlines. Nice job on that deregulation, America.