Hundreds of travel-starved ‘passengers’ dine on parked planes of Singapore Airlines

Hundreds of travel-starved ‘passengers’ dine on parked planes of Singapore Airlines
Food for thought: Singapore Airlines stewardesses serve passengers at Restaurant A380 on board a parked superjumbo at Changi International Airport. (AFP)
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Updated 24 October 2020

Hundreds of travel-starved ‘passengers’ dine on parked planes of Singapore Airlines

Hundreds of travel-starved ‘passengers’ dine on parked planes of Singapore Airlines
  • Superjumbos become pop-up restaurants as part of ‘flight to nowhere’ tour

SINGAPORE: Hundreds of travel-starved diners ate lunch and watched seat-back films aboard two parked Singapore Airlines jets turned into pop-up restaurants on Saturday.

With the aviation industry in deep crisis due to the coronavirus pandemic, airlines have turned to alternative ways to raise cash, from offering “flights to nowhere” to tours of aircraft.

Singapore’s flag carrier, which has cut thousands of jobs and grounded nearly all its planes this year, offered passengers the chance to dine on board two A380 superjumbos — the world’s biggest passenger jet.

On Saturday more than 400 diners checked in at Changi Airport and went through the usual security checks before arriving at the aircraft for lunch.

“The food is pretty amazing, it’s better than the one they serve during the flight,” Zhou Tai Di, a 17-year-old student in economy class, told AFP as he tucked into his soy sauce-glazed chicken with spicy fried eggplant and rice.

Some settled in for a nap while waiting for their meals to be served, while others watched movies on the seat-back entertainment systems.

About half the seats were left empty, in keeping with social-distancing guidelines.

Calvin Teo, a 29-year-old civil servant and aviation buff, paid Sg$321 ($236) to be served a six-course meal in business class, saying he missed flying and hoped to recreate the experience.

“Of course the feeling of actually flying will be better, because there’s the excitement of going to a new destination, to explore a new destination, and even though we can’t do it now due to Covid, this is a good substitute for now, to recreate the feels of taking a long-haul flight,” he told AFP.

The most expensive option is a Sg$642 eight-course meal in a first-class suite, while the cheapest costs Sg$53 and consists of a three-course meal in economy class.

A limited number of diners were also able to tour the double-decker aircraft and take selfies with pilots in the cockpit.

The tarmac meals proved surprisingly popular — the airline announced six additional sessions after more than 900 lunch tickets sold out within 30 minutes of bookings opening earlier this month.

The airline is also offering home deliveries of plane meals, but it has ditched plans for “flights to nowhere” — short journeys starting and ending at the same airport — following an outcry over the potential environmental impact.


Swiss authorities ask Lebanon to cooperate on central bank probe

Swiss authorities ask Lebanon to cooperate on central bank probe
Updated 27 min 9 sec ago

Swiss authorities ask Lebanon to cooperate on central bank probe

Swiss authorities ask Lebanon to cooperate on central bank probe
  • The Swiss attorney general's office said it had requested legal assistance from Lebanon in the context of a probe into "aggravated money laundering"

BEIRUT: Swiss authorities have opened an investigation into money transfers by Lebanon's Central Bank Governor Riad Salame, a Lebanese government official told Reuters on Tuesday.
Salame denied any wrongdoing.
"Both the prime minister and the president are in the loop" on the inquiry which is also looking into Salameh's brother and assistant, said the government official, who asked to remain anonymous.
The Swiss attorney general's office said it had requested legal assistance from Lebanon in the context of a probe into "aggravated money laundering" and possible embezzlement tied to the Lebanese central bank.
But in responding to questions from Reuters, it did not say whether Salameh was a suspect and declined further comment.
Lebanon's crippled banking system is at the heart of a financial crisis that erupted in late 2019. Banks have since blocked most transfers abroad and cut access to dollar deposits.
The meltdown has crashed the currency, prompted a sovereign default and doomed at least half the population to poverty.
In response to Reuters questions about local media reports of a European inquiry, Lebanese Justice Minister Marie Claude Najm said she had received a request for cooperation from Swiss judicial authorities and submitted it to the public prosecutor. She did not elaborate.
A statement by Salameh dismissed any allegations about transfers by him, his brother or assistant as "fabrications". He threatened to sue anyone who spreads them with harmful intent.
A former Merrill Lynch banker, Salameh has led Lebanon's central bank, Banque du Liban, since 1993. The collapse of Lebanon's financial system shook his reputation as a pillar of stability, as foreign donors demanded a central bank audit and Salameh turned into a focus of anger for protesters last year.