Here's why people pay hundreds of dollars to eat on a grounded plane

The sell-out story behind Singapore Airlines' decision to convert an Airbus A380 into a pop-up restaurant.

By Bloomberg News, October 19 2020
Here's why people pay hundreds of dollars to eat on a grounded plane

When seats on Singapore Airlines' superjumbo-turned-restaurant sold out in 30 minutes, one common question was: “Who on Earth would want to do that?”

Plenty of people, it turns out. For every person who doesn’t relish flying, let alone schlepping to the airport and onto a parked plane for some reheated airline food, there’s another who can’t get enough of the aviation experience and is willing to shell out (big bucks) for it.

Singapore Airlines is opening up two of its Airbus A380s at Changi Airport as temporary restaurants , offering dishes from its menu, two complimentary alcoholic drinks and free flow of other beverages.

A meal in a suite costs S$642 ($667), while prices are S$321 for a business class seat, S$96.30 for premium economy and S$53.50 for economy.

At the top end, that sort of money would easily buy you an eight-course degustation at Odette, consistently ranked as one of the world’s best restaurants, or a dinner for two, plus wine, at Cut, the Marina Bay Sands steak house that’s part of celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck’s stable.

Mayur Patel, regional sales director for travel data provider OAG Aviation Worldwide, was willing to apply for the sweet suite seat.

Patel said he wanted to experience the suite again after flying in one once from Sydney to Singapore. As a member of Singapore Airlines’ top-tier Solitaire PPS Club for 21 years, Patel also wanted to support the carrier because he feels attached to the brand.

He didn’t get his suite in the end due to the high demand for reservations and because prior commitments meant he couldn’t change to another date offered.

Here are some of Patel's insights into what attracted people to the offer:

What motivates people to spend hundreds of dollars on this when they could go to a 5-star restaurant or hotel in town?

  • The SIA A380 dining experience was something that surprised many. Why anybody would spend S$50 for economy class to S$600 for suites was mind-boggling for some. However, there are many aspects to looking at this.
  • The economy class price point wasn’t too bad at all considering you get to experience the A380, perhaps for the first time, and get a meal, drinks and inflight entertainment.
  • Some would say you can do all this at home with Netflix and a takeaway meal, but there is a sense of national pride and a patriotic aspect to support SIA given the headlines on its financial struggles.
  • For some, it would be like going to the movies with extra legroom (for those opting for premium economy) with value-added thrown in.
  • There are also novelty-seekers wanting to try business class or suites who may otherwise not be able to afford the premium cabin experience in the air. Some are social media influencers or want Instagram moments from the splurge.

What does Singapore Airlines get out of it?

  • In addition to capturing new revenue streams, this is a publicity event to showcase the A380 flagship product to travelers.
  • The A380 economy class and other cabins were overhauled in the past few years, so it’s relatively new.
  • It allows people who may not have traveled on long haul flights to experience the new cabins.
  • The airline can then hook potential travelers with their service and product offerings once travel rebounds.
  • It isn’t expected to generate significant cash as there are food and beverage costs that need to be taken into account. Airlines typically allocate S$20 a meal for economy class, and there are related costs so the contribution isn’t significant. What they achieve is publicity.

In response to the staggering demand for the A380 lunches on Saturday October 24 and Sunday October 25, Singapore Airlines is adding dinners for both those days, along with lunch and dinner on Saturday October 31 and Sunday November 1.

The A380's business class menu for lunch begins with the airline's signature satay, after which diners can choose between an international selection – including the popular Book the Cook grilled beef fillet – or a local Peranakan menu designed by Singaporean chef Shermay Lee.

As previously reported, Singapore Airlines is now also offering home delivery of its inflight meals, with the top-shelf dining packages for two including caviar, Dom Perignon champagne  and Wedgwood bone china dinnerware.

The seven dine-at-home packages are built around ten curated first and business class menus designed for the airline's flights to Sydney, Tokyo, Paris and Delhi.

The selection available off Georges Blanc's Paris-bound first class menu.
The selection available off Georges Blanc's Paris-bound first class menu.

There's also an option to book a chef who will "reheat, plate and serve" your repast .

Singapore Airlines describes this as "the perfect gift for an anniversary or a special occasion, or a way to thank parents or grandparents by gifting a touch of true dining luxury."

Read more: Singapore Airlines first class meals can now be home delivered for $900

Additional reporting by David Flynn

This article is published under license from Bloomberg Media: the original article can be viewed here


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Sep 2012

Total posts 385

What a clever marketing initiative and being very familiar with Singapore, I'm going to say this is "so Singapore". It's also a testament to the excellent catering you get on an SQ flights not the mention an opportunity to experience one of the most market leading F Suite products albeit closer to the ground. I'm not sure this same initiative would work in too many other locations and not for the culture aspect, but probably because most other airline catering would not be worth it, certainly not at SQ standards.

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