an 1, 2009
Ex-SIA plane now a hostel
It's a plane. It's a hostel. No, it's Jumbo Hostel
[Photo: Straits Times
- You might think the giant aircraft got lost on the way to the runway and was abandoned here, were it not for the inscription on the side: 'Jumbo Hostel'. (ASSOCIATED PRESS
WHEN you exit Arlanda Airport on the highway toward Stockholm, you'll see a Boeing 747 on your left that looks curiously out of place.]
The plane sits idle and lonely on a grass-covered mound just outside the airport perimeter, without any recognisable airline colours.
You might think the giant aircraft got lost on the way to the runway and was abandoned here, were it not for the inscription on the side: 'Jumbo Hostel'.
Turns out this former Pan Am jumbo jet is no longer taking passengers to the skies, but will soon be accommodating them on the ground. Left inactive at Arlanda, Stockholm's main airport, after its last owner went bankrupt, the plane was rescued by a Swedish entrepreneur looking to expand his hostel business.
'I got information about this airplane standing abandoned at Arlanda,' says Mr Oscar Dios, who runs a hostel in Uppsala, about 32 kilometres north of Arlanda. 'I thought why not try to convert it into a hostel? Since you've been converting boats and light houses and trains before into hostels.'
Construction crews are working through the holidays to get the 25 rooms ready for the scheduled opening on Jan 15. Jumbo Hostel is already taking bookings.
The 65-square-foot (6-square metre) rooms are Spartanly furnished, with a bunk bed, an overhead luggage compartment and a flat screen TV with entertainment as well as flight information.
Every inch of the 3,800-square-foot (353-square-metre) floor space is being used. There will be a reception and small cafeteria just inside the front entrance, two rows of rooms on each side of the aisle, and showers and toilets in the rear. The bubble on top is being remodeled into a conference room with first-class flight seats.
Mr Dios is hoping for a diverse clientele, including airport taxi drivers stopping for a coffee break in the cafeteria, business travellers needing accommodation close to Arlanda and even wedding parties looking for an unusual ceremony.
As soon as the guard rails come up, couples will be able to exchange vows on the left wing, receive a small party in the conference room and spend the night in the cockpit, converted into a bridal suite with a private bathroom.
Rates range from 300 kronor (S$55) for a bed in a shared four-bed dormitory to 1,350 kronor for a private room with a twin bed and a single bed. The bridal suite costs 3,300 kronor per night.
Mr Dios says his idea of aircraft lodging is unprecedented: 'That's what we've heard so far. Smaller planes have been turned into restaurants, but never a 747 into a hostel.'
While emphasising comfort, he's added details in the interior decor to remind guests 'that they're actually inside an aircraft'. When you wake up, you'll see the soft curvature of the ceiling, and, through the row of windows, the tail fins of operational aircraft parked at their gates at Arlanda.
Hostel staff will wear cabin crew uniforms - what else - and the furniture in the cafeteria will evoke the glory days of air travel.
'We're going for the Pan-Am era. A lot of '70s,' says project leader Gisela Olsson, holding up an orange seat for the cafeteria chairs.
Built in 1976, the plane - now named Liv after Mr Dios' daughter - first took to the skies with Singapore Airlines before shifting to Pan Am for about 10 years.
After that airline went belly up in the 1990s, it flew under a variety of colours until being bought by Swedish leasing company Transjet. When that, too, went bankrupt, the aircraft was left decaying at Arlanda Airport until Mr Dios came along with a bundle of cash.
It remains to be seen whether his idea will take off among Arlanda air travellers.
'If I've been flying all day, I wouldn't want to sleep on a plane,' says Ms Lynn Sundelius, a 19-year-old student at Stockholm University.
Still, MR Dios is confident Jumbo Hostel will be profitable, and even spread to airports around the world. 'It's no kamikaze project,' he says. -- AP