My New Favorite Bar Is on an Emirates Plane 36,000 Feet in the Air

Emirates Onboard Bar
Photo: Matthew Zach

I don’t like to sit still, which, for a travel editor, is a problem, as I frequently find myself on long international flights with nowhere to go — temporarily at least. Last year, for example, I made the 16-hour direct journey from New York City to Hong Kong twice — a grueling trip that left my legs numb and my mind spinning. But if you happen to find yourself flying on Emirates — specifically on the company’s Airbus A380 planes — you’ll be happy to know there is somewhere to go during your flight: the airplane’s bar.

Yes, you read that right, I said bar.

Emirates passengers flying in business class on the A380 have the luxury of escaping their seat and hanging out in the onboard lounge. And on a recent flight from NYC to Dubai, I did just that — and had the time of my life.

Emirates Onboard Bar
Matthew Zach

From economy to coach, Emirates treats its passengers to a luxe experience that will change the way you fly. From world-class dining options to some of the kindest flight attendants on the planet, the airline knows how to make you feel special — and from the moment I boarded, I certainly did. But after enjoying a delicious meal and a movie, I decided to head to the lounge for a self-appointed happy hour.

What initially drew me to the bar was the notion that having a cocktail would help me adjust to the nine-hour time difference between New York and Dubai. If I had a drink a few hours into my morning flight, according to my own logic, I could trick myself into thinking it was a reward for a long day of work before sinking into my lie-flat seat for a serious night’s sleep.

And on that front, I was right — but I found much more in the back of that plane than a quick drink.

Emirates Onboard Bar
Matthew Zach

Knowing I was on an airplane, I assumed the lounge would offer a small menu of drinks: wine, Champagne, and maybe one or two pre-mixed cocktails. Oh was I wrong. Instead, I found an actual bar, physically and in the offerings. Behind the half-circle bar was a double-tier shelf with premium bottles of rum, gin, cognac, scotch, and bourbon, while bar snacks like cantaloupe and pineapple, olives, and nuts lined the counter. Like the rest of the plane, freshly cut flowers couldn’t escape the eye.

After ordering an expertly made Old Fashioned, I decided to chat with the flight attendant who was currently serving as the bartender since the “fasten seatbelt” sign was off. Emirates’ flight attendants all live in Dubai, but come from every corner of the globe, giving us plenty of talking points. Both being frequent travelers, we exchanged stories about our favorite places to visit while I sipped on my cocktail. Even better, this was an opportunity to pick the brain of someone who calls Dubai home and receive affirmations of my to-see list and new recommendations from a local.

Later, we were joined by other travelers from around the world, who each added to our conversation. And like any bar or lounge, as we discussed our travel plans and current hot news topics, we danced around the space: a flip-down mirrored bartop emerged from one of the plane’s doors, we buckled into one of the two luxurious couches for some temporary turbulence, and snuck behind the counter for a quick photo.

Though there are several versions of Emirates’ A380 planes with different lounge setups — one features an entire table suitable for a card game or business meeting — you can’t go wrong sneaking away from the luxury of your business-class seat (and its 4,500 entertainment channels) for some worldly conversation around a world-class cocktail. And hey, even if you don’t drink, there’s orange and lemon Bundt cake calling your name.

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