9 plane and helicopter hotels: from an Etihad Airbus to an ex-military chopper

From an ex-Etihad jet in Wales to a Boeing 747 in Sweden, these jumbo hotels offer an aviation fix without leaving the ground

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The global pandemic has halted most air travel but not being able to fly should not prevent you from getting on an aircraft. Many hospitality establishments around the world are offering an opportunity to bed down in a converted plane or helicopter, no customs required.

From a former Etihad Airbus in the Welsh countryside to an ex-military chopper in Colombia, here are nine grounded aircraft open for overnight stays.

1. Arabian Nights Airbus, Wales

The former Etihad aircraft is now known as the Arabian Nights Airbus at a campsite in North Wales. Courtesy Apple Camping

If you fancy bedding down in a former Etihad jet in the Welsh countryside, then Apple Camping has exactly what you need. Located in the tiny village of Redberth is the fuselage of an Airbus A319 that was purchased by the national airline of the UAE in 2008. The passenger jet flew with Etihad's livery for nine years, but found its new home in the Welsh hills last year. It's now known as the Arabian Nights Airbus and comfortably sleeps four people, with six people able to fit at a push.

The rear section of the plane retains several of its original features, including overhead luggage compartments, a galley area that's been repurposed as a kitchen and the aircraft doors on either side of the jet. The upright passenger seats have been stripped out and replaced with beds, chairs and a bathroom. Outside, there's a sheltered barbecue area that also used to be a part of the fuselage, and a wooden decking area perfect for enjoying late summer sunshine in this little corner of Wales.

Stays cost from £179 ($231); www.applecamping.co.uk

2. Grumman Jet, France

In Saint-Michel-Chef-Chef, a coastal town outside Nantes in France, travellers can opt to bed down in this Grumman jet. Courtesy Airbnb

In Saint-Michel-Chef-Chef, near Nantes in France, travellers staying at the Haut Village campsite can opt to bed down in a 1963 Grumman American jet that flew for 30 years before retiring at this idyllic campsite. The jet sleeps up to four people with a double bed inside the cabin and two single beds where the cockpit used to be. There is also a kitchen, bathroom and covered terrace outside.

And if you want to stay a bit longer, you could also book a stay in the on-site Sky aircraft. This jet was previously used for wind tunnel testing, but now sleeps three people and comes with its own self-catering facilities and bathroom. Close to the beaches of Tharon-Plage and Saint Brevin, the 3.3 hectare Haut Village is a very family-friendly place to stay.

Book via Airbnb with rates from $116 per night; www.airbnb.ae

3. Cockpit Cottage, Costa Rica

Tucked away in the jungles of Manuel Antonio in the sustainable Hotel Costa Verde in Costa Rica is a McDonnell Douglas MD-80 aircraft that's been transformed into a one-bedroom treehouse. The former Mad Dog fuselage is now perched in a steep jungle hillside overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Accessed via a suspended walkway, the jet retains all its original windows and the interior has been decadently clad in Costa Rican teak panelling. The original cockpit has been turned into a kitchen and there's also an elevated terrace from which to enjoy the sunset.

And if the Cockpit Cottage is booked, don’t worry as there’s also a Boeing 727 on site. Having previously flown for both South Africa Airways and Avianca, the jet is now a two-bedroom hotel pitched 15 metres above ground. The aircraft's nose juts proudly out of the jungle canopy, giving visitors an amazing birds-eye view of the beaches below. And as if that wasn’t enough aviation fodder, the resort’s El Avion restaurant is located inside a C-123 Fairchild Cargo plane.

Rates start from $141; www.costaverde.com

4. The Flying Dutchman, Colombia

Travellers to Colombia can spend the night in a retired UN aircraft known as The Flying Dutchman. Located northeast of Bogota near the Chingaza National Park, the historic aircraft is a Dutch-built turboprop jet that’s been transformed into a jumbo lodge and is listed on Airbnb. Inside, the original seats and control panel in the flight deck have been retained, but there are now also kitchen facilities, including an oven, grill and dishwasher, as well as a television and a fully stocked minibar.

Surrounded by sweeping mountain views, the accompanying outdoor hot tub is the perfect place to watch the sun go down. Guests staying at The Flying Dutchman also get access to safari tours in the national park, making it ideal for both aviation lovers and those keen on spotting some wildlife.

Stays start from $72; www.airbnb.com

5. Sea King Helicopter, Scotland

An aviation-themed stay on a slightly smaller scale awaits at Mains Farm Wigwams in Stirling where holidaymakers can sleep in a Sea King helicopter. The former British Navy search and rescue chopper now stays firmly grounded at its home in the Scottish countryside.

The accommodation sleeps two adults and up to three children in a double bed, a seating area that can be converted into a bed, and a single bed that's been neatly slotted into the tail of the helicopter. It is set up for basic self catering with a mini-kitchen and its own bathroom.

There is a cockpit seating area where travellers can sit and relax and take in the amazing views of the surrounding Forth Valley.

Stays from £170 ($232); www.mainsfarmwigwams.com

6. Jumbo Stay, Sweden

The cafe at Jumbo Stay in Sweden. Courtesy Jumbo Stay

Aviation fans can take plane-spotting to a completely new level at Stockholm Arlanda Airport by booking a night at Jumbo Stay. This hotel comprises a converted Boeing 747 that now has 27 rooms and suites of various categories. The most luxurious is the Black Box suite located in the rear of the jet and the Cockpit suite which is built around the flight deck. Guests can also opt to sleep in what was formerly the jet's engine, and there are dorm rooms with bunk beds for those on a budget.

The former Transjet Airways aircraft first took to the sky in 1976, but has been on the ground since 2002 and operating as a hotel for more than 10 years. Breakfast is served in the Jumbo cafe and the left wing of the jet is now an outdoor observation deck where travellers can walk and get fantastic views of the landing and take-off action happening at the international airport right next door.

Stays start from 450 Swedish krona ($50); www.jumbostay.com

7. Vliegtuigsuite, Netherlands

About an hour from Amsterdam in a small village called Teuge, the Vliegtuigsuite (Aircraft Suite) is a former Soviet Ilyushin Il-18 aircraft that now operates as a hotel. Dating back to the 1960s, in its former life, the aircraft was both an East German government plane  and a passenger aircraft flying between Germany and Cuba, Russia, China and Vietnam. Then, it could accommodate 120 passengers, but if you book an overnight stay now, you'll have the entire jet to yourself.

Inside, it's been transformed into a luxury hotel suite with modern finishings and a sleek minimalist design. As well as a bedroom sleeping two people, there is also a spacious dining area and a fully equipped kitchen, three flat screen televisions, a sauna and a Jacuzzi. Outside, a private balcony offers uninterrupted views of the airfield and there is also the option to add a sightseeing flight around the scenic Dutch countryside.

Stay start from €365 ($429); www.vliegtuighotel.nl

8. Bristol Freighter at Woodlyn Park, New Zealand

Bristol Freighter plane, Woodlyn Park, New Zealand. Courtesy Airbnb

Located in New Zealand’s Waitomo region – a place known for its glow-worm illuminated underground caves – Woodlyn Park offers a host of unique places for travellers to spend the night. Take your pick from a boat, train or this Bristol Freighter jet. Having previously flown in the Vietnam War, it's now a historic motel room that comfortably sleeps two adults and up to two children. Don’t expect luxury but do expect to feel like you’re on an adventure.

One bed is located inside the cockpit, reached via a steep step ladder, while the other is on the ground level. There’s also an ensuite bathroom and fully equipped kitchenette so that stays can be entirely self-sufficient. The surrounding area offers plenty more adventure including rafting, tubing, caving, abseiling and more.

Stays cost from NZ$179 ($119)www.airbnb.ae

9. Helicopter glamping, England

Fans of Fast & Furious might recognise this helicopter from the franchise's 2019 iteration Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw. The ex-Army Lynx Helicopter was used as Idris Elba's chopper in the action film, but has now found a more peaceful home in the Suffolk countryside.

Bookable via Airbnb, the chopper sleeps two adults in a camouflage-themed bedroom that's located in the main cabin. Guests also have access to the seating area in the cockpit. There is a private bathroom and a garden complete with a hot tub. There is no heating in the helicopter, so overnight stays are only bookable seasonally from April to October.

Prices from £60 ($70); www.airbnb.com