Asia’s ‘Plane Cafes’ Allow Nostalgic Travelers to Sit on a Jet… and Go Nowhere

With millions stuck at home, nostalgic fliers say this is the next best thing.
September 14, 2020, 8:47am
planes, cafe, asia
This photograph taken on September 1, 2020 shows visitors enjoying business class seats in a retired Airbus 330 air-plane turned into a coffee shop at an attraction site, outside Pattaya in Chonburi province. - With millions around the world stuck at home due to the pandemic, "plane cafes" in Thailand are offering customers the chance to pretend they are in the sky -- and the idea seems to have taken off. Photo by Mladen ANTONOV / AFP

The coronavirus pandemic has grounded thousands of flights across the globe, hammered the aviation industry, and thrown travel plans into disarray. But plane cafes are cropping up across Asia to satisfy the travel-hungry soul until normal life resumes.

In Pattaya, a city on the coast two hours from Bangkok, would-be passengers can board an out of service commercial plane and sip coffee while lounging in the best seats or snapping photos of the cockpit.

Chalisa Chuensranoi, 25, told AFP her experience in the cafe felt like “actually being on a plane, cruising through the air.”

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Visitors take pictures outside a retired Airbus 330 air-plane turned into a coffee shop at an attraction site, outside Pattaya in Chonburi province. With millions around the world stuck at home due to the pandemic, "plane cafes" in Thailand are offering customers the chance to pretend they are in the sky -- and the idea seems to have taken off. Mladen ANTONOV / AFP

Other customers enjoyed heading to the front for the pilot perspective.

"With this cafe I can sit in first class and also mess around in the cockpit pretending to be the captain," 26-year-old Thipsuda Faksaithong said.

Some travelers may not be mourning the lack of plane food in their lives, but in Bangkok, national carrier Thai Airways has opened up a cafe serving its 30,000-foot fare on the ground.

Meals are served by cabin crew wearing Thai Airways uniforms, face masks and face shields.

Though Thailand reportedly logged its first domestic coronavirus transmission in 100 days last week, it has won praise for managing the pandemic better than its Southeast Asian counterparts.

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A visitor sits in the cockpit of a retired Airbus 330 air-plane turned into a coffee shop at an attraction site, outside Pattaya in Chonburi province. - With millions around the world stuck at home due to the pandemic, "plane cafes" in Thailand are offering customers the chance to pretend they are in the sky -- and the idea seems to have taken off. Mladen ANTONOV / AFP

But travel restrictions are still battering an economy that last year received around 40 million tourists

In other parts of Asia, faux-airplane travel is also a hit.

Taipei’s Songshan Airport offers Taiwanese customers the questionable thrill of checking in at the airport, passing through security checkpoints and boarding the plane. Everything but the actual flying part.

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Visitors are enjoying business class seats in a retired Airbus 330 air-plane turned into a coffee shop at an attraction site, outside Pattaya in Chonburi province. - With millions around the world stuck at home due to the pandemic, "plane cafes" in Thailand are offering customers the chance to pretend they are in the sky -- and the idea seems to have taken off. Mladen ANTONOV / AFP

Singapore Airlines is planning to launch flights to nowhere -- a trip that will start and end at the Asian financial hub’s Changi Airport.

In May, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) predicted that air travel will not go back to normal until 2024.