‘Flights to nowhere’ take to sky in Asia, Australia, sells-out in minutesFri 18 Sep 2020
Qantas Airways said a seven-hour scenic flight over Australia’s Outback and Great Barrier
Reef had sold out in 10 minutes, as it joined a growing trend in Asia offering “flights to
nowhere” that take off and land at the same airport.
Tough border restrictions to keep the coronavirus under control have led to a 97.5% plunge in
international travel in the region, according to the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines.
Many frequent flyers miss getting on planes and airlines including Taiwan’s EVA Airways and
Japan’s ANA, desperate for revenue and to keep their pilots’ licences current, have offered
special sightseeing flights.
The Qantas flight, in a Boeing 787 typically used for long-haul international journeys, will fly
at low levels over Uluru, the Great Barrier Reef and Sydney Harbour before landing back in
Tickets cost between A$787 and A$3,787, depending on the seating class and the 134
available seats were quickly snapped up, a Qantas spokeswoman said on Thursday.
“It’s probably the fastest selling flight in Qantas history,” she said. “People clearly miss travel
and the experience of flying. If the demand is there, we’ll definitely look at doing more of
these scenic flights while we all wait for borders to open.”
Taiwan’s EVA used one of its iconic Hello Kitty livery planes for a special father’s day flight
last month, while ANA used an Airbus A380 that usually flies to Honolulu for a 90-minute
flight with a Hawaiian experience on board.
All of the countries where the flights are on offer have relatively low numbers of COVID-19
cases by global standards.
Among other airline stunts, Thai Airways this month, opened a pop-up restaurant on the
ground, offering in-flight meals served from airline seats to would-be travellers.
Singapore Airlines is also lining up to offer scenic flights from next month, an idea that
received widespread criticism from environmentalists and online commenters.
“First, it encourages carbon-intensive travel for no good reason and second, it is merely a stop-
gap measure that distracts from the policy and value shifts necessary to mitigate the climate
crisis,” said awareness group SG Climate Rally.
Singapore Airlines said it is considering several initiatives but no final decision has been made
on whether to offer sightseeing flights.
Qantas, meanwhile, said it would pay to offset the carbon emissions on its scenic flight from
Sydney, though online critics noted that would not actually reduce emissions.
The concept of scenic flights is nowhere near new. Antarctica Flights has chartered Qantas jets
for scenic flights over Antarctica for 26 years. An Air New Zealand sightseeing flight over
Antarctica in 1979 crashed into Mount Erebus, killing all 257 people on board.
[Sourced by Reuters]