By Oindrila Mukherjee
THERE’S NO flashy sign, but it’s hard to miss the Airbus A320 parked just off the National Highway-1 on Ambala-Kurukshetra stretch. Parked on a vacant one-and-a-half acre plot owned by a Shahbad-based business family, this grounded aircraft has now been converted into a multicuisine restaurant.
Once you collect your boarding pass from the reception on the ground, you will be led into the cabin of a 15-year-old aircraft. A father-son duo from Shahabad, around 50 km from here, have turned the aeroplane into a multicuisine restaurant called Runway 1 A 70-year-old man, Kuldeep Kakkar, claimed, “This is the second such restaurant in the country. We opened on November 27 and are proud that we have achieved something unique. The other airplane restaurant, Hawai Adda, is in Ludhiana’s Verka milk plant on land leased out by state-run corporation Milkfed.
Kuldeep’s son Kshitij Kakkar says, “My wife Shruti, who was an air hostess with Jet Airways, and I came up with the idea. It took us almost a year to set this up as the aircraft came disassembled from Delhi. It was junked by Air India. We were able to procure it through an agent.” Kakkars refused to reveal the price for which they bought it A Karnal-based businessman, Jitender Rajpal, and an official of the Palam Airport, Wing Commander Ravinder Singh, helped the Kakkars set up the restaurant. Reluctant to talk about the financing of his pet project, Kshitij calls it “a creative enterprise rather than a money-driven one”.
The family also has another restaurant-banquet property, Hot Sizzler, at Pipli “We wanted to do this for those who don’t get a chance to fly to other destinations. The response has been overwhelming despite the fact that we did not advertise the launch of the restaurant. We got a lot of traction through social media and word of mouth. It gets so crowded during the evenings that guests have to wait for two hours sometimes,” says Kshitij The staff, around 50 in all, is diverse.
With a manager from Srinagar, Mohammad Ashim, and waitresses from as far away as Darjeeling, the owners pay for all of their food and lodging. They are dressed in attire resembling ground staff and crew members Kshitij claims that they have the first virtual 3D flight simulation gaming set up in India inside the aircraft. The other one is in Switzerland.
He adds, “The software is under maintenance right now, but it’s our biggest attraction. We only want people to return with good memories and not a hole in their pocket. Rajni Mehta, a homemaker from Shimla, is here to visit relatives in Ambala. “My sister told me about this place and we decided to come and take a look. I’ve flown before to Mumbai and Goa, but I’ve not come across such a restaurant. The kids are excited, so am I.”