Flashback: McDonald’s Once Launched McPlanes, McTrains, and McBoats

by Anthony Losanno
McDonald's Travel

Advertiser Disclosure: The Bulkhead Seat earns an affiliate commission for anyone approved through the links below. This compensation may impact how and where links appear on this site. We work to provide the best publicly available offers to our readers. We frequently update them, but this site does not include all available offers.

You’ll find the golden arches just about everywhere you go in the world. McDonald’s is the world’s largest fast food chain with $23.18 billion in revenue last year. But, had a few failed partnerships succeeded, you might have had been flying on a McPlane, riding through the German countryside on a McTrain, or cruising down the Mississippi River on a McBoat.


In 1980, McDonald’s took to the water with its first floating restaurant on the Mississippi River. Known as the McBoat, it could accommodate 134 passengers inside and another 200 on its open-air decks. It was joined by the McBarge in Canada in 1986. That boat only lasted six months, but the original McBoat kept sailing until the year 2000.

McDonald's Train

McDonald’s jumped into train travel in 1993 through a collaboration with Germany’s rail service, Deutsche Bundesbahn (or DB). The dining cars sported the trademark golden arches and could seat 27 people. First Class passengers were served a four-course meal. A test train also ran with Schweizerische Bundesbahnen (SBB) in Switzerland.

McTrain 2

The trains were outfitted with deep fryers, soda dispensers, and ice cream machines. They had breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus that offered everything you’d find at a stationary McDonald’s, plus more regional dishes like Viennese sausage. Logistical issues, lack of demand, and German passengers being used to finer cuisine led to the demise of the McTrain.

McPlane 1

Three years later in 1996, McDonald’s took to the skies with planes flown by Swiss air carrier, Crossair, on a Mcdonell Douglas MD-83.

The first flight was between EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg (BSL) and Heraklion Airport N. Kazantzakis (HER) in Crete.

Passengers could order burgers, Chicken McNuggets, and other menu items, but no fries. Deep fryers were not installed over fears of grease fires in the air.

McPlane 2

The plane was thoroughly branded including 161 ketchup-red seats sporting a golden “M” on each one. Leisure routes across Europe were planned routes, but the concept didn’t last too long.

UA McDonald's

The McPlane wasn’t the only time McDonald’s took to the sky. In 1991, it partnered with United Airlines to offer passengers the ability to order Happy Meals onboard its flights to Orlando International Airport (MCO). To order a meal, you had to reserve one at least six hours in advance by calling United to place your order.

Anthony’s Take: Who knows if we’d be flying on McPlanes today if the concept worked out? It’s cool to see these retro brand extensions, but if you want McDonald’s in flight today, it’s best to grab it before walking to your gate.

(Image Credits: McDonald’s, Crossair.)

User Generated Content Disclosure: The Bulkhead Seat encourages constructive discussions, comments, and questions. Responses are not provided by or commissioned by any bank advertisers. These responses have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the responsibility of the bank advertiser to respond to comments.


DaninMCI July 24, 2023 - 5:37 am

I went on the McDonald’s riverboat in St. Louis years ago. It was moored there for 20+ years but I don’t remember it actually ever sailing the river. I think it just stayed in one place as a floating barge with no engines. Originally they tried to get space for that McDonald’s at the museum under the Arch but the parks service wouldn’t lease them space and the city gave them grief over the boat as well.

Pierre July 24, 2023 - 6:21 am

The restaurant car you show is the SBB, Swiss one, not the DB one.
But the interior picture might be the DB one.
So two countries had McDonalds restaurant wagons

Emcampbe July 27, 2023 - 4:30 am

I remember that train car in Switzerland (I was there for a couple of years in the mid 90s). I never rode on the train, though thought it was an ‘interesting’ (not in a good way) concept.


Leave a Comment

Related Articles