How to Behave at an Airplane Bar

Apr 27, 2019

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Whether you show up in sweatpants or a suit for your long-haul flight in first class (and especially if you’re experiencing first class for the first time), the rules for how to behave are the same in the air as on the ground: Be courteous to the people around you, and don’t be a jerk.

But, alcohol can blur appreciation for the rules. Take, for example, some Emirates first-class passengers, who have been taking pricey alcohol from the high-end display bar at the front of the first-class cabin on the carrier’s flagship A380 aircraft. One Mile At A Time is reporting that as a result of this behavior, Emirates will be removing some bottles from its display bar “to avoid high value items being removed.” Specifically, Emirates will no longer display Dom Perignon, Hennessy Paradis, Tessero, and the Emirates Vintage Collection. The good news is these drinks will still be available for first-class passengers to order.

How to Behave at an Onboard Bar

Most people spend a flight eating, sleeping and watching movies, but an open bar raises its own etiquette issues. Here are a few tips to avoid becoming a problem passenger.

Remember That Alcohol Works Differently at Altitude

It’s important to remember that the effects of alcohol are magnified once the plane takes off. The dry, pressurized atmosphere exacerbates both the physical and mental effects of alcohol, leading many people to get drunk much more quickly in the air than they would on the ground.

Another big difference when you’re drinking in the air is how quickly you get dehydrated. If you normally match your alcoholic drinks with a glass of water when you’re out with friends, consider upping the ratio at an onboard bar to stay ahead of the dehydration that accompanies any long flight. Even if it doesn’t affect your behavior in the air, you’ll be much happier when you land and are trying to navigate customs in a foreign country.

Be Aware of Your Surroundings

It’s best to think of an aircraft bar as a social space where alcohol happens to be served. When I flew Emirates first class, I was surprised to see families and kids congregating there. Children are welcome to get up, stretch their legs, snack and chat with the flight attendants.

While you might be wide awake and ready to party, on long flights there will always be people looking for peace and quiet. The bar feels like a detached area but it’s only separated from the back of the business class by a thin curtain. The A380 has surprisingly quiet engines, so remember to use your indoor voices and be respectful of passengers who might be trying to sleep just a few feet away.

You should also remember that as well stocked as the bar is, your intricate craft cocktail order might not be appreciated or even possible. The flight attendants working the bar are always looking to serve, but they might not have every obscure garnish or liqueur you’re used to. You can, however, ask for your favorite brand. Airlines generally only keep the business-class champagne and whiskey at the bar, but if you ask a flight attendant to fetch the good stuff (assuming you’re actually traveling in first class), they’ll be happy to get it. You’re welcome to try to tip your bar attendant, though many airlines forbid their employees from accepting tips.

Manage Your Consumption

Indulging in the luxuries of first class is a rare treat for most people. If you’ve never tasted Dom Perignon, you might be tempted to finish off the bottle and wash it down with a few glasses of Hennessy Paradis cognac. That is the fastest way to recoup the taxes on an Emirates first class award ticket but not a good strategy to enjoy your flight. The attendants on Emirates are almost too good — if you don’t tell them when you’ve had enough to drink, they’ll keep topping off your glass when you aren’t looking. You don’t want to be that guy who trips and falls in the first-class lounge because a shower and three cappuccinos weren’t enough to undo an overindulgent time in the air.

Bottom Line

An onboard bar is a great way to stretch your legs and break up the monotony of a 10-hour flight. While it’s OK to relax and have a few drinks, remember that the alcohol will likely affect you much more than on the ground, and the crew (and your fellow passengers) will have a much lower tolerance for erratic intoxicated behavior. Be polite to the crew serving you, be considerate to those around you and pace yourself for the long flight.

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