AirAsia opens fast-food restaurant offering in-flight meals following alleged 'demand' for airline food

Looking to satisfy your desire for airline-quality food, but don’t have any travel plans on the calendar? Well, hang tight, because AirAsia is bringing its in-flight meals to the masses on terra firma.

The airline, which announced its intentions to open a fast-food chain offering items from its in-flight menu back in February, has launched what’s said to be the first of those eateries at a mall in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

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Called the Santan Restaurant and T&CO Café, the eatery's menu will offer in-flight meals including nasi lemak — a dish of coconut-flavored rice, egg, anchovy, peanuts, spicy chili sauce, and often considered Malaysia’s national dish — as well as other favorites such as chicken rice or chicken pho, among other meals, snacks and beverages.

“The opening of this flagship restaurant is the beginning of something great for the Santan and T&CO brands,” said Catherine Goh, the restaurant’s general manager. “We have seen a significant appetite for our in-flight menu offerings beyond our flights across the region and this is our answer to that demand.”

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And aside from the food, Santan Restaurants will also employ “a smart menu equipped with Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning,” which is intended to help suggest dishes to customers based on their previous preferences or demographics.

AirAsia is banking on its first location to be a success, too: Santan — which means “coconut milk” in Indonesian, and is also the name of the airline’s in-flight menu — plans to expand to five locations by the end of 2020, and 100 within the next five years in “global markets,” according to a press release.

"Today, many of our meals have become household names in Malaysia and beyond, including our signature Pak Nasser's Nasi Lemak and Uncle Chin Chicken Rice," the cafe's website claims.

"Today, many of our meals have become household names in Malaysia and beyond, including our signature Pak Nasser's Nasi Lemak and Uncle Chin Chicken Rice," the cafe's website claims. (Santan.com.my)

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“We are very proud to extend what started out as an in-flight menu into new markets and reiterate our support for local and Asean producers, suppliers; apart from creating new job opportunities with affordable franchising,” Goh said.

AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes first confirmed the AirAsia Group’s intentions of opening its Santan Restaurants in February.

“Our food is fantastic. We believe in it so much, we’re going to start a fast-food restaurant out of it,” Fernandes remarked during an interview on “Larry King Now.”

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Fernandes, too, has high hopes that global residents will embrace the idea of eating airline food on the ground.

"Our dream is to have one in Times Square," he told Reuters.