Everything but the turbulence at Taipei airline diner

Fri Jan 23, 2009 1:06am EST
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By Ralph Jennings

TAIPEI (Reuters Life!) - Imagine boarding a plane without security checks or even tickets and more importantly, there's more than just fish or chicken for dinner.

Set in a dull commercial building in central Taipei, the A380 In-Flight Kitchen looks and functions like an airline in many ways, expect that it serves a regular restaurant menu of Western food, sometimes in plastic trays.

Since November, the restaurant has been packing in wannabe passengers, who sit in soft speckled blue seats with headrests covered in white napkins and under oval-shaped windows. Locked white baggage compartments hang overhead.

Waitresses dressed as flight attendants take meal orders for filet mignon or waffles, as well as the customary fish and chicken. Staff say "welcome aboard" to customers and issue boarding passes to those who must wait for a table.

Of the 84 seats, 20 are "first class" or set aside for groups with advanced bookings, and the place is often overbooked, said business operations manager Emily Lu.

"There are customers who come in and say 'is this real airline food? Airline food doesn't taste good,'" Lu said, adding that they had turned a profit.

The restaurant, in Taipei's university quarter, opened after owner Yang Mao-hui figured that he could ride some of the Airbus A380's recent fame in the aviation industry by offering a simulated experience, Lu said.

The diner decor cost about T$7 million ($209,000), she added.   Continued...