A few aircraft are having their own second lives - as bars, restaurants, hotels, and even a tree-top villa...

Jumbo Hostel, Stockholm 

At Stockholm's Arlanda airport there's a Boeing 747 equipped with flatbeds; and whether you're in first, business or economy class, you get a bed and it'll cost you from $70. The catch is that you don't go anywhere - or even leave the ground.

It's called the Jumbo Hostel and the old jet is parked up just outside the perimeter fence of the airport's taxiways. As a stopover, it's a lot of fun, and it's even practical if you arrive late or depart early on a flight to or from Stockholm.

The Jumbo Hostel Lounge is in the former first class nose section of the old 747

The experience is delightfully tongue-in-cheek. I climbed the steps and entered the fuselage to be greeted with a "Welcome aboard" from a smiling girl in cabin crew uniform. After check-in I was told - 'complete with hand gestures' - that there were "Two toilets at the front of the cabin, and six at the rear..."

There are 29 rooms - some dorms and some private doubles/triples, the latter with a double bed and a single bunk above. All are small and span about five windows - original oval aircraft style ones of course - plus there are eight full-sized shower cubicles at the back of the plane.

Sleeping in a grounded plane fuselage is surreal, and after years of flying my brain was tricked into some strange double takes.

Looking out of my windows at the snowy airport and passing planes, I kept thinking we were about to taxi for example. And while the noises of nearby take-offs and landings were well muffled, sounds from inside seemed amplified. A hair dryer firing up at 5am next door had me fumbling for the brace position.

Several of the staff are ex-cabin crew, among them Rod, who took me on a little tour of the plane. "This Jumbo was delivered to Singapore Airlines in 1976 and flew with Cathay and Pan Am, amongst others," he said enthusiastically.

In the nose section of the plane he showed me the reception/lounge area, now with a fitting 70's style logo, bright orange seats and small candle lit tables. We climbed the spiral staircase into the upper deck bubble of the plane where a lounge uses old business class seats.

Forward of that is the cockpit suite, with some of the old instrument panels intact and great views of the airport.

Next morning in the lounge, my breakfast was brought on a plastic tray just as though I was on a flight - a witty touch with cellophane covering small plastic bowls of fruit and yoghurt.

“We get the food from the same catering company that the airlines use,” said the hostess/ hotel receptionist/comedienne. Of course these days you can lie flat in business class on many airlines, but they'll cost you a heck of a lot more. And they're not nearly as much fun.

Taking the sleeping in an old plane idea to extremes, even the engines are converted into cabins

Get to the Jumbo Hostel on the free transfer bus 'ALFA' that connects the terminals (5am till midnight, every 15 minutes and a journey time of five minutes). See Jumbo Hotel

A few more plane crazy venues...

Hotel Costa Verde, Costa Rica

On the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, the tiny Miguel Antonio National Park is famous for its beaches, sloths and monkeys. But near the park entrance is a fuselage that juts from the forest on a 50ft pedestal - a 1965 vintage Boeing 727 that once flew for Columbian flag carrier, Avianca. It's now a two-bedroom suite, with bizarre teak fittings, kitchenette and an over-wing terrace with ocean views. See Costa Verde

The Costa Verde Treehouse, where one Avianca Boeing 727 went to die. Photo Costa Verde 

Wings & Waves, USA

Not your average waterpark, Oregon's Wings & Waves just happens to have an Evergreen Airways Boeing 747 planted on its roof. And not only that, but the aircraft has been incorporated into the experience with the addition of a couple of waterslides twisting into the pool below from its fuselage. See Wings & Waves

Two waterslide tubes swirl down from the jumbo jet and into the pool below. Photo Wings& Waves

Next door are the two giant hangars that make up the Evergreen Museum, the star attraction of which is the original Howard Hughes Flying Boat H-4, or Spruce Goose as it is usually known - a gigantic eight-engined wooden flying machine that flew just the once, 70 years ago. Other aircraft on display include the B-17 Flying Fortress, SR-71 Blackbird, and a Titan II Missile.

Hotel Suites, Netherlands

Drive by the aerodrome at Teuge in eastern Netherlands and you'll spot a gleaming old propeller plane. The cockpit is much as it was when built in 1960, but everything else inside this smartly restored Ilyushin-18 is unrecognisable from the days when Erich Honecker, former leader of the German Democratic Republic, and his cronies, used it as state transport. The single Airplane Suite has luxurious white decor, three flat-screen TV's, kitchenette, Jacuzzi and sauna. See Hotel Suites

The spruced up exec-jet style interior of Honecker's old Ilyushin. Photo Hotel Suites

Keramas Aero Park, Indonesia

Twenty kilometres east of Bali's capital, Denpasar, is the Keramas Aero Park, centred around a plane on a plinth. It's a 33-ton ex Lion Air aircraft that's been converted into the 'Inflight restaurant and bar', serving Indonesian favourites, plus Chicken Chasseur and BBQ spare ribs, for 125,000 Indonesian Rupees (£7). The Ground Bar splays out over the lawn and is popular with locals. See Keramas Aero Park

The Ground Bar and Restaurant, with a repainted ex Lion Air 737 looming aobove it. Photos Keramas Aero Park 

Aircraft Cafe, Ethiopia

Ten miles northwest of the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, in the small settlement of Buraya, is an old 737-200 that has been turned into a cafe. It's a pretty relaxed affair and does a good turn serving the fiery local honey-wine called Tej. Some of the honey comes from a bee colony that has spontaneously chosen to set up a hive in part of the rear galley.

Oddly, this particular plane never actually flew for Ethiopian Airways. It was in fact delivered to Saudi Arabian Airlines in 1972, before being bought by Djibouti based Silver Air in 2005.

Lily Airways, China

Two hours flying time west of Shanghai is the the capital of Hubei Province, Wuhan - a city of 10 miilion people. Inspired by Stockholm's Jumbo Hostel, the new owner spent 5.2 million US Dollars on a bancrupt Batavia Air Boeing 737 that was unservicable and parked up at Jakarta Airport. He chopped into several large sections and transported it by ship and road to Wuhan.

Diners 'board' the restaurant by means of a real airport glass jetty, and are then served by waiting staff who have been selected along similar criteris to real cabin crew - in the sense of looks, height and deportment. 


The Lily Airways restaurant, complete with boarding jetty 

Runway34, Glattbrugg, Switzerland

You can't dine on board, but instead in a hangar with a 1957 Ilyushin Il-14 inside. It was flown from Moscow Zhukovsky Airport to Zurich in 2005. Runway 34

DC-6 Diner, Coventry, UK

This DC-6 was built in 1958 and was used by the Civil Air Transport of Taiwan, and after passing through several airlines over its working life, was retired in 2006, and made its last flight from Deenethorpe Airfield to Coventry, sporting Air Atlantique colours. See DC-6 Diner

Ristoaereo, Rome, Italy

Ristroaero is a Convair Metropolitan 440 built in San Diego in 1957. The aircraft was first acquired by Alitalia and was subsequently used by Italian presidents Giovanni Gronchi and Giuseppe Saragat. The restaurant serves a Mediterranean menu of al carte and 4-5 course set menus. Ristoaereo

Air Restaurant, Czech Republic 

The Air Restaurant is an old TU-104 aircraft, which was made in 1950 in the former Soviet Union. Ústí nad Labem is 90 kilometres north of Prague. Air Restaurant

The Air Restaurant Tu-104 exterior and interior. Photos Air Restaurant

Woodlyn Park, New Zealand 

A couple of miles from New Zealand's Waitomo Caves is Woodlyn Park. Hosting cultural shows and quirky (but basic) accommodation, you can choose between a 1918 railway carriage, 'Hobbit Underground Motel', WWII patrol boat and a 1950s Bristol Freighter. The plane served in the Vietnam War, but now has a cockpit and a tail section self-catering unit, each sleeping a family of four. See Woodlyn Park


Woodlyn Park's Bristol Freighter cum caravanette. Photo Woodlyn Park 

Rumba Nautica, Ecuador

I stumbled across this forgottten fuselage in Coca, Ecuador. It sits at the confluence of the Coca and Napo Rivers in the far west of the Amazon rainforest. I was heading down to a river transfer to the lovely Sacha Lodge for a dose of rainforest and wildlife, when I spotted this abandoned plane near to the town's main river jetty. The aircraft is a F28 Fokker Fellowship - it flew with local carrier Icaro Airlines until overshoting the runway in 2008. It ran as the 'Nautical Party' nightlub for a time, but these days it has closed and sits stranded on a pontoon.   

The Rumba Nautica F-28 beached in Coca. Photo My Bathroom Wall