Coronavirus: Covid-19 environment

With travel curbed, 'plane cafes' take off in Thailand

Above: A Thai Airways flight attendant serving customers at a pop-up cafe at the airline's headquarters in Bangkok. Below: Diners at a cafe built in a retired Airbus A-330 airplane, outside the coastal city of Pattaya in Chonburi province.
Above: Diners at a cafe built in a retired Airbus A-330 airplane, outside the coastal city of Pattaya in Chonburi province.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Above: A Thai Airways flight attendant serving customers at a pop-up cafe at the airline's headquarters in Bangkok. Below: Diners at a cafe built in a retired Airbus A-330 airplane, outside the coastal city of Pattaya in Chonburi province.
Above: A Thai Airways flight attendant serving customers at a pop-up cafe at the airline's headquarters in Bangkok. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BANGKOK • With millions around the world stuck at home due to the coronavirus 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.

On board a retired commercial airplane in the coastal city of Pattaya, coffee drinkers make themselves comfortable on first-class-style seats and pose for photos by the overhead lockers.

Boarding passes in hand, some "passengers" even opt for a tour of the cockpit.

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

"It's a lot of fun."

Ms Chalisa Chuensranoi, 25, said her visit was as good as any trip she had taken before the pandemic, which shuttered Thailand's borders in March.

"Sitting here in the first-class section... really gives me the feeling of actually being on a plane, cruising through the air," she said.

At another cafe at the headquarters of national carrier Thai Airways in Bangkok, hungry diners appear even to have missed plane food as they gobbled up spaghetti carbonara and Thai-style beef served on plastic trays by cabin crew.

For Mr Intrawut Simapichet, 38, who came to the cafe with his wife and baby, the experience was about more than just a meal.

"I'm a person who travels very often and when we are forced to stay at home... it's kind of depressing," he said as fellow diners posed with luggage by a fake airplane door. "(The cafe) relives what's missing."

Thailand was the first country outside China to detect a coronavirus case, but it has since registered a low toll, with about 3,400 infections and 58 deaths. Travel restrictions have nevertheless eviscerated the tourism-reliant economy.

The government is currently mulling over travel bubbles with select countries that also have low case tolls.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2020, with the headline 'With travel curbed, 'plane cafes' take off in Thailand'. Print Edition | Subscribe