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March 25, 2017

The Fabulous Bars & Restaurants of the Boeing 747: Amazing Vintage Photos Show the Glamorous Airline Lounges in the Sky From the 1970s

Today domestic first class means free drinks, free (perhaps edible) food, and a seat that might not leave you with a chronic back condition. While deregulation played a large role in driving down quality and prices, this ‘golden age’ of luxe airborne lounging was largely brought to an end by the Arab embargo induced oil crises of the 1970s. In an ironic twist, if you’re looking to have a drink in a 1970s style airborne lounge today, the Middle Eastern carriers Etihad and Emirates are your best options.

Back in the early 1970s it wasn’t just absolutely over-the-top Middle Eastern carriers who offered this sort of lounge experience (with all the smoke in the air, showers no doubt would have been appreciated). When the first Boeing 747 took to the skies in 1970, its iconic upper deck presented airlines with an interesting conundrum: initially the space wasn’t certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to carry passengers during takeoff and landing. While certification came quickly enough, in this era, competing for passengers meant providing unique amenities. Therefore many airlines decided to convert the space into lounges, typically, but not always for premium fare passengers. Here are some of the most glamorous flying lounges of the 1970s:

Pan American (Pan Am): the first Boeing 747

The world's first Boeing 747 set the trend for what was to come, with Pan Am turning the jumbo's entire upper deck into a 'restaurant in the sky' for its first class passengers:

Travellers could share the experience with up to three companions...

... or could make new acquaintances and discuss the issues of the day.

Surveys at the time indicated that around 30% of Pan Am's passengers chose to fly with the airline for this feature alone, and it's one that you can still experience on the ground – just not in the air.

Qantas: the Boeing 747 Captain Cook Lounge

Forget that pre-flight visit to the Qantas First Lounge – after take-off, you could instead enjoy an exclusive atmosphere in what was the Captain Cook Lounge on the Boeing 747's upper deck:

Guests could simply grab a newspaper or magazine and make themselves comfortable...

... or ditch the reading material in favour of fine wines and a little conversation:

While Qantas again provides a small inflight lounge and meeting area on today's Airbus A380s, it's not quite the upper deck of the '70s.

American Airlines' Luxury Liners: the piano bar

American's Boeing 747s came with a fully-fledged piano bar on the lower deck. Not merely a recording of somebody playing an instrument on the ground, but a live piano bar in the air.

However, presented by the difficulties involved with tuning pianos and how easily a little turbulence or a bumpy landing could make a traditional piano change key in an instant, AA opted for electric Wurlitzer organs:

Appreciated by passengers and cabin crew alike, the organs provided live inflight entertainment that was always in tune.

Air France, Continental, United: cocktail lounge bar

Taking an approach more akin to what we'd see today, Air France, Continental Airlines (now merged with United Airlines) and United itself provided guests with spacious seating and cocktail bartender service:

On Air France, guests mingled at the bar or while being served snacks in the surrounding seats...

... and on Continental, the bar was the focus of the room and most seats came in pairs, easily accommodating couples and traveling companions...

... yet leaving an opening at the bar for extra guests or to chat with the crew.

United's cocktail lounge sported a large communal bench and both bright yellow and cool blue chairs in a colour scheme that's a little more on the 'modern' side...

... with flight attendants bringing Champagne to your seat.

Air India, Japan Airlines, Singapore Airlines

The choice was as varied in Asia with Japan Airlines opting for something simple yet social...

... Air India for something eye-catching and with uniforms to match...

... and Singapore Airlines with a lounge and dining area where the seats could also be converted into 'sleeperettes' once airborne:

But whichever airline you chose to travel with, your ticket would buy more than just a seat between one city and another: it bought a truly memorable journey, which today's generation of travellers are beginning to slowly and once again catch a glimpse of.

(via Australian Business Traveller)



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