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80 years of Mc Donald's

Back when Big Macs were served on board

The fast food giant celebrates its 80th birthday. Mc Donald's has made it almost anywhere - just never really got up in the air. With one exception in the 90s.

Dick and Mac McDonald grew up as children of Irish immigrants in modest circumstances on the East Coast of the USA. But they had a clear goal: To become millionaires. The brothers tried their luck in California. And they found it on May 15, 1940, when they opened a restaurant in San Bernardino, out of which later grew a global corporation.

Though the McDonald brothers sold their company long before it became a billion dollar business. They still became millionaires. Today Mc Donald’s is represented in more than 100 countries and owns more than 38,000 restaurants. But there’s one place the company has never really made it to: into the sky.

Restaurant in a Douglas DC-3

After all, Westjet has been serving Mc Donald’s coffee on board their jets since 2006. Mc Café Premium Roast is served on the flights of the Canadian airline. Not in the air, but at least in a plane, Big Macs, Filet-o-Fishs and Co. are served in Taupo. A local branch of the group in the city in New Zealand is partly housed in an old Douglas DC-3.

24 years ago there was even a real McDo in the air. Swiss tour operator Hotelplan chartered a McDonnell Douglas MD-83 from Crossair to cater to families. It worked together with Mc Donald’s. This opened up «previously unknown ways for the company to market holiday trips with a clearly profiled offer,» says Hotelplan in retrospect.

Burgers, but no fries

Everything on the plane was reminiscent of the fast food giant, which is now celebrating its 80th birthday. The MD-83 was painted red, the body was emblazoned with the Mc Donald’s logo and the tail unit with the golden arches. Inside everything was red as well – even the seats.

Passengers on flights to holiday destinations around the Mediterranean and to Paris and Vienna were served hamburgers, chicken McNuggets and Big Macs. Only fries were not served in the Mc Plane, as Hotelplan called the aircraft. They could not be prepared «in the cramped galley according to the quality standards of the restaurant chain», the tour operator explained at the time.

Campaign cost millions

For this purpose there were «toys and reading material for the kids, painting competitions and games of chance» on board. Quite unthinkable today: Children’s visits to the cockpit are «welcome, the pilot issues a flight certificate to every little guest», was the motto at the time of the presentation. The project has cost Hotelplan quite a bit. The advertising campaign cost four million francs.

We’re on a break. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic we have decided to halt our English publication for a while and concentrate on our other ventures. But we’ll be back. Meanwhile you can find all our news, insights and more on our German site.


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