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Jakarta Post

From ‘aqiqah’ to airplane dining: Southeast Asian airlines go out of box to survive pandemic

  • News Desk

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, October 7, 2020   /   08:20 am
From ‘aqiqah’ to airplane dining: Southeast Asian airlines go out of box to survive pandemic Customers eat at the Thai Airways pop-up airplane-themed restaurant at the airlines headquarters with onboard meals prepared by their chefs on Sept. 3. (REUTERS/Chalinee Thirasupa)

As a result of travel bans and restrictions, as well as decreased travel over coronavirus fears, civil aviation is among the industries hit hardest by the global COVID-19 pandemic.

In Indonesia, the airline industry experienced a loss of US$1.56 billion between February and April this year, which was driven by a decrease in domestic and international passengers following the outbreak, according to data released by the Indonesian National Air Carriers Association (INACA) on April 24.

Throughout this time of crisis, several Southeast Asian airlines have launched new business ventures in the hopes of surviving the pandemic. 

Malaysian budget airline AirAsia introduced digital platform IKLHAS for Muslim travelers in April. 

Offering services for religious traditions such as umrah (minor haj), qurban (animal sacrifice) and now aqiqah (Islamic sacrificial ritual following the birth of a child), IKHLAS is available in 35 countries, including Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam and India. 

In addition to the services, IKHLAS also allows customers to collect points for AirAsia’s loyalty program Big Points when conducting transactions on the platform.

Read also: Garuda paints masks on aircraft to support health campaign

Meanwhile, Thai flag-carrier Thai Airways has brought its in-cabin experience to the ground. Starting Sept. 2, those who are itching to travel can enjoy meals at an airline-themed restaurant located in the cafeteria of the airline’s Bangkok headquarters from Wednesday to Sunday. 

The venue is decorated with airplane parts and seats, providing an authentic aircraft feel for the customers. 

The airline’s catering managing director, Varangkana Luerojvong, told Reuters that the pop-up restaurant, which serves around 2,000 meals per day, was a way to recoup some lost revenue during the pandemic.

Following the success, the company also plans to turn other Thai Airways offices into similar establishments that offer a unique dining experience. 

Like Thai Airways, Singapore Airlines is another company that has entered the restaurant business.

After ditching its previous plan of providing so-called “flights to nowhere”, a service that is currently trending in some Asian countries, the airline is set to offer an airline-themed restaurant in the coming weeks. 

Read also: Travelers snap up Asian airlines' scenic 'flights to nowhere'

Using an Airbus A-380 superjumbo jet, guests can enjoy a three-hour lunch in economy class by forking out S$50 ($36.62). A similar experience is also available for ultra-first-class suites worth $600 per person.

In addition to the restaurant, Singapore Airlines will also offer a behind-the-scenes tour to its training facility at the cost of $15 per child (3 to 12 years old) and $30 per adult. 

As quoted by The Straits Times, Aaron Wong, founder of Singapore-based travel hacking site MileLion website, said, “The tour is a rare chance for the public to get a first-hand look behind the scenes at SIA’s training facilities, which would be impossible for non-media during regular times." (jes)

Editor’s note: This article is part of a public campaign by the COVID-19 task force (Satgas COVID-19) to raise people’s awareness about the pandemic.