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.
Step back in time to the early 1970s when the Boeing 747 first took to the skies, heralding a short-lived era of luxury air travel on board the Queen of the Skies.
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 travelling 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.
45 years later, only a handful of airlines still boast a proper inflight cocktail bar, foremost among them being Emirates' Airbus A380...
... while Qatar Airways' superjumbo also does a classy number.
Virgin Atlantic no longer flies to Australia, but the cosy cocktail bars on its Boeing 747s and Airbus A340s sport an undeniably 'cool Britannia' vibe.
Closer to home, Virgin Australia has a popular bar on its Boeing 777s flying between Sydney, Melbouirne and Brisbane to Los Angeles.
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