Sometimes a business idea comes along which makes you bang your head on the nearest table and wish that you’d thought of it first.
After all …. everyone loves Santa’s grotto. Everyone loves going around decommissioned passenger aircraft. Why had no-one combined the two before?!
And so it came to pass …. tickets for the world’s first grotto experience onboard a jumbo jet are now on sale.
Let’s take a step back.
In October 2020, it was decided that one of the two final British Airways Boeing 747 aircraft to depart Heathrow would be preserved at Cotswold Airport near Kemble, Gloucestershire.
G-CIVB, which is painted in the Negus retrolivery from the 70s and 80s, was to be converted into a business, conferencing and private hire venue. This is the aircraft following the ‘BA100’ retro repaint:
Until Christmas Eve, the 747 has been “transformed into a winter wonderland, allowing families to meet and greet Father Christmas and his elves on board the preserved aircraft.”
This will be a fully immersive theatrical production, with each group being guided by their very own appointed elf.
The magical experience will begin at our ‘Elf Control Check In’, as guests, armed with their very own boarding passes and customised ‘North Pole Passports’ (issued upon arrival) will pass through the naughty or nice security check-in, and are then seated in Premium Economy for an in-flight elf-and-safety briefing hosted by Peppermint, the mischievous Head Elf and his cabin crew. Prepare yourself for a completely wacky aircraft safety briefing with lots of theatrics, sing alongs and fun.
Upon completion of the safety briefing, your elves will guide you through the on board elf wrapping station. Here you will see elves hard at work, frantically wrapping last minute presents in preparation for Christmas Eve. Meet Fidget and Hazelnut the elves who will love to tell you how important they are within this Christmas Catastrophe (be careful, they can be quite mischievous and love a good prank!).
After chatting with the naughty elves, you will be transported by the magic of Christmas through our very own onboard North Pole, dressed with real trees, snow and the magical Northern Lights dancing above your head as you make your way for a special meeting with Father Christmas himself.Rat-A-Tat-Tat, enter through the big red door into Father Christmas’ office, where he will be hard at work making preparations for Christmas Eve, performing pre-flight checks.
Grab a cushion and gather around the fire as Father Christmas tells a group story of how Negus and Cotswold Airport is set to save Christmas why he has invited you along for the ride.
As guests disembark the aircraft, they’ll step into a full-size gingerbread house where they can decorate their own magical gingerbread to take home, led by non other than Mrs Claus herself. The journey doesn’t end there, each child will be led into the Toy Factory where Crumpet and his team have been hard at work assembling toys ready to be wrapped. This will be an opportunity for each child to choose a teddy and help with the assembly process, making a special Christmas wish in the process.
Once completed, each child will get the opportunity to take their very own teddy home as a gift from Father Christmas and the Elves for their hard work and help. This will be in addition to a book from Father Christmas and a magical packet of reindeer food which will help the reindeer fly on Christmas Eve. Adults will also receive a mince pie and hot mulled wine as part of the experience.
I was, obviously, tempted to send Rhys down there to check it out. However, Jo Bailey who edits the Simple Flying website has already rushed down there herself so I recommend you read her report instead.
It actually looks better than you might expect and the website for the event doesn’t sell it as well as Jo’s pictures.
You can buy tickets here.
PS. More seriously, the organisers are hosting a number of ‘Northern Lights’ dedicated SEN sessions, where the experience can be adapted to meet individual needs. There are two dates remaining, on the 11th and 16th. The sessions will have reduced noise and light and are extended to allow extra time to complete the journey throughout the aircraft. That said, there is no wheelchair access to the aircraft as boarding is via stairs.