Photos: Boeing's groovy Tiger Lounge in the belly of the 747

Photos: Boeing's groovy Tiger Lounge in the belly of the 747

Over the Christmas / New Year break, Australian Business Traveller will be revisiting some of our most popular articles of 2017. We’re still around to report on any breaking news during this time, otherwise our regular publishing schedule will resume on Monday January 8, 2018.

This might look like Austin Powers' shagadelic private jet but it's the real deal, baby – all the way from the circular staircase and animal-print furniture to the lurid orange carpet.

You're looking at the aptly-named Tiger Lounge, which Boeing actually built back in the late 1960s for its first generation of the 747 jumbo jet.

The Boeing 747-100 was the world's largest passenger plane, with dozens of airlines – from launch customer Pan Am to Qantas, British Airways, Lufthansa, United, Air France, JAL and ANA – eager to be part of this new era of flight.

Boeing had already encouraged many of those airlines to turn the upper deck into exclusive lounges, bars and restaurant-style dining rooms.

Read more: The fabulous bars, lounges and restaurants of the Boeing 747

But the 747 also had a capacious lower deck – beneath the main passenger deck – which Boeing believed would be wasted on cargo alone.

Enter industrial designer Walter Teague, who had already crafted a successful downstairs passenger lounge for the Boeing Stratocruiser...

Teague adapted his ideas to the Boeing 747, carving out a section of the cargo hold to create a downstairs lounge straight out of the swinging sixties.

Divided into two halves, with a staircase between, it could comfortably seat some 30-odd high flyers in wildly-patterned swivel seats and plush divans.

Boeing constructed a mock-up of what became known as the Tiger Lounge in an attempt to sell the concept to airlines.

Although the groovy below-decks lounge had no windows, the glass-topped bar allowed passengers to look down into a viewing port mounted on the underside of the plane.

All of the 747 airlines passed on Boeing's suggestion, preferring to load the belly of the jumbo jet with profitable cargo, so the Tiger Lounge never took wing – although if you're visiting Seattle's Museum of Flight you can snap a cool selfie against a backdrop of the lounge.

As for lounge designer Walter Teague, his name lives on in Seattle's Teague design consultancy which has shaped everything from the Pringles can to the original XBox, the interior of the Boeing 787 and the Waterfront business class suite

 

David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.
 

10 comments

  • Phil Young

    Phil Young

    26 Jul, 2016 01:16 pm

    I'd be curious to know what proportion of a 747 or A380's hold is filled with luggage and freight on most of their flights.

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  • Patricka340

    Patricka340

    26 Jul, 2016 02:19 pm

    Generally most a380's go out with there bellies full, due to the high amount of passengers.

    Have no idea ho heavy 747's go out.

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  • Patricka340

    Patricka340

    14 Jan, 2017 06:03 pm

    *Their bellies not, "there bellies". Love finding a typo ~7 months later. :P
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  • Dean

    deanr

    26 Jul, 2016 01:41 pm

    I saw the headline and thought for a moment that Virgin was taking Tiger in an entirely new direction!

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  • Serg

    Serg

    26 Jul, 2016 01:49 pm

    …… and instead we will see even higher-dencity in A380…..

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  • Jay

    ausJCP

    26 Jul, 2016 02:50 pm

    Oh my! Very groovy.

    Does anyone else remember the yesteryear media's wild conceptual drawings for the A380, prior to it's release? Which featured a casino, restaurant, duty-free shop, etc. in the underbelly? I even recall some drawings featuring a gym and jogging track! There were certainly some graphic design artists out there with very vivid imaginations...

    (P.S. this eye-burning orange 1960's Tiger Lounge reminds me of Marc Newson's horrifying 2016 private jet concept!)

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  • sgb

    sgb

    26 Jul, 2016 03:59 pm

    Prefer the Tiger Lounges burnt orange carpet to the Newson Bee Hive carpet, yuck.

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  • Ryan Stephen

    RaptorNation158

    26 Jul, 2016 06:47 pm

    If only today's planes had these.

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  • kimshep

    kimshep

    30 Jul, 2017 11:10 am

    Apart from the question of airlines providing cargo space in this area, I can see why this fundamentally flawed design didn't work for Boeing.

    Given that the design pre-dates Business Class, the primary and only market was for First Class passengers. Surely, with no windows in the lower lobe, it would have been FAR smarter to place the 'restaurant' styled lounge downstairs, where the focus would have been on food and mixing with family or other passengers. Missing windows would have been less noticeable.

    In turn, that would have allowed the 'bar' / Tiger lounge to be located in the dome (or upper) level. This would have provided a more convivial area for people to socialise, drink or pensively stare at the vista outside the cabin. No 'dungeon-style' ambience in this area.

    The lower-lobe restaurant option would have allowed for easier and possibly more efficient scheduling of crew. After all, there is a small psychological element here: First passengers would happily descend to a 'private' restaurant style experience .. but those First 'high-flyers' always love to ascend to the deck on the  upper level for a few - or many - cocktails.

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  • ZT

    ZT

    13 Aug, 2017 10:40 am

    The PSA L1011's were fitted with 16 seats in the "basement" which could be purchased. This was in the 70's and 80's.
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20 May, 2019 07:03 pm

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