The Airline That Started Its Own Restaurant Chain
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The Airline That Started Its Own Restaurant Chain

DALLAS — Airplane food is a hotly debated topic among passengers. While some fail to get your taste buds excited, others very well do. Airlines spend a good amount of money on getting better at the food on board, specific to the airline brand, class of service, and region of operation.

For one such airline, its inflight food was more than just something to be consumed by its passengers; it was a valuable asset that had more potential. AirAsia (AK) is notoriously famous for its lip-smacking in-flight meals (I speak from personal experience as well), so much so that it was about time to get to sell their food out to the public in the form of a restaurant food chain.

“AirAsia’s Santan’s Pak Nasser’s Nasi Lemak is famed throughout ASEAN, particularly onboard AirAsia flights. This classic dish revered all over Malaysia is made with fragrant coconut-steamed rice, mildly spicy sambal, crunchy anchovies and peanuts, and topped with a perfectly boiled egg” an Airasia statement said in July 2022.

“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,” said Catherine Goh, General Manager of AirAsia’s Santan as stated on

From In-flight to Out-flight

Having flown on nearly all Air Asia group airlines, the signature dishes of course come from the flagship Malaysian brand, namely Pak Nasser’s Nasi Lemak and Uncle Chin’s Chicken Rice. Served in the same old aluminum foil, the food is a surprise, but it’s not long before you wonder if another meal should be brought to you.

Until 2015, a rather basic in-flight food offering existed onboard AK, but thereafter, gears shifted and Santan came aboard with the vision to create an unforgettable dining experience for passengers who flew with the airline.

Santan translates to coconut mile in Malay, a core and beloved ingredient in Malaysian cooking. Sanatan also wanted to go beyond and bring a variety of flavors from across the ASEAN countries onto the menu and did so.

“AirAsia’s Santan, the world’s first restaurant brand by an airline to offer inflight food on the ground and home to ‘the best nasi lemak in town’, today unveiled its new on-the-go packaging dubbed “Nasi Lemak On-The-Go” for its signature dish for a steal at just RM4.90.” 

Launch event of the very first Santan outlet in 2019 | Photo: AirAsia

Comments from AirAsia’s Santan Management

Catherine Goh, General Manager of AirAsia’s Santan, said, “Our Pak Nasser’s Nasi Lemak is not only the most popular meal in our Santan range but also easily the most-sold Nasi Lemak in Malaysia, both in-flight and on the ground. On average, our stores sell about 1,000 Nasi Lemak in a day, and we project this to increase fourfold to 4,000 Nasi Lemak daily per store by 2026.”

“With a new and improved version of our fan-favorite ‘Ayam Goreng Berempah’, or spiced chicken, that goes so well with our Nasi Lemak, we look forward to heightening our competitive edge and strengthening our position in the market as a quick-service-restaurant for the Best Nasi Lemak In Town.”

The very first AirAsia Santan flagship store was opened in 2019; it now has several outlets across the country and aims to go international. During the initial store opening back in 2019, AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes pointed out the big picture of the then-newly launched food chain, including the ultimate dream of opening an outlet in Times Square, New York.

Featured Image: Santan

Europe and Asia Correspondent
Commercial pilot | Flight Instructor | Aviation Journalist & writer.

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