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

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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.

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.

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