I have never flown first class. I’d like to, but honestly? I’d be happy with just a little extra legroom and a free sandwich on my next short-haul economy flight. Let alone be able to grab a seat in a designer lounge, stretch my legs right out, and order a freshly made cocktail from a waiter in a white jacket (see above!). Man flying has seriously gone downhill.
Flying in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s looks a seriously luxurious affair. The Boeing 747 jumbo jet was released in 1968, entering service with Pan Am on January 22, 1970. These affluent passengers flying first-class aboard the world’s largest plane needed elaborate spaces for relaxation, socialising and even partying – as it turns out. The upper decks of Boeing 747s were turned into full-scale cocktail lounges and restaurants for first class flyers. Even on the lower decks, there were also coach or economy lounges and way more space.
jumbo jet lounges of the 1970s
Different airlines chose different designs and themes for their cabins, each going above and beyond, kitting the spaces out with the latest 70s interior styles. Qantas developed the nautical-themed Captain Cook First Class Lounge, and Japan Airlines installed the Tea House in the Sky, while Continental Airlines had a pub while American Airlines had a piano bar. Let’s take a look.
Qantas Captain Cook First Class Lounge located behind the cockpit, had seating for 15 passengers, a stand-up bar and décor that should have come with a volume control. Images of James Cook, replica lanterns and even rope was used to give the impression passengers were seated inside a replica sailing ship rather than a brand new widebody jet. The nautical theme blended (or clashed, depending on your taste) with the bright and lurid colours which were popular in the seventies. You can see a replica of the lounge at the Qantas Founders Outback Museum, which the company created to celebrate its centenary in 2020.
Even lower deck Lounges of the 1970s were spacious!
While most of the lounges of the era were confined to the upper decks of 747s, several airlines added bars in the lower deck economy sections – usually located on the lower deck, behind first class seating. For example, Continental Airlines installed what were called “Polynesian Pubs” in the economy class section of their DC-10s and 747s.
If you few economy with American Airlines you could grab a drink and hang out with your friends at the piano bar – although the piano was technically an electric Wurlitzer organ, but let’s not be pedantic!
Here’s the piano bar in action:
During my research, I also across some pictures of a first-class lounge decorated in tiger print. Boeing’s exclusive ‘Tiger Lounge’ was to be a communal area situated below the main passenger deck. The lounge includes a glass-topped bar, upholstered in mock-tiger and black leather, which allows you to look down into a viewing port through the underside of the plane. It would have seated 30 passengers. No prospective buyers went for it though so it didn’t make it past the prototype stage…
Sadly, the era of onboard cocktail lounge, pub and piano bar didn’t last long. In the 1980s, as fuel prices and competition increased, airlines were forced to convert the upper deck lounges to seating areas to maximise the airframe’s 535-seat capacity.
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