With a large proportion of countries around the world not allowing any international flights except repatriation, airlines have been forced to come up with new ways to generate revenue. Although some travelers remain too scared to fly and people face travel shaming if they do, there are a growing number of people desperate to take to the skies again.
This has generated a new trend for flights to “nowhere.” It originally started with Taiwan’s Civil Aviation Administration organizing a flight that never actually left the ground. The idea was to recreate the feeling of travel and lift people’s spirits. The trip started like any normal one with passengers required to check-in, get their boarding passes, and go through the usual security and immigration checks. Onboard food and drinks were served alongside a quiz and a water salute outside the airport fire engines.
Taiwan loved the concept so much they have now extended the idea to actual flights. The flights depart and land at the same airport meaning that there is no quarantine needed for participants. Taiwan’s borders are currently closed to most travelers. Eva Air, one of the largest Taiwanese airlines, recently held a Hello Kitty-themed flight. The flight made a sightseeing loop over Taiwan’s northeast coast before viewing Japan’s Ryukyu Islands. The return leg gave passengers a view of the beautiful south-east coast.
During the three hour flight, customers had a more sophisticated culinary experience than they would normally! The onboard food was a meal created by three-Michelin-starred chef Motokazu Nakamura with a choice of chirashi don (sashimi on top of sushi rice) or braised beef with noodles.
The price of the tickets was reasonable at around $183 per person. For those that have always wanted to “turn left,” you could upgrade to business class for the incredibly low price of an additional $32.
China Airlines, EVA air’s main competitor, has jumped on the bandwagon and aimed their flight experience at children. The flight allows children to pretend to be cabin crew on a two-hour trip that takes off and lands at Taoyuan. In the morning, they take a course on how to be cabin crew and are given uniforms to wear for the sightseeing flight in the afternoon. The flight path tours the island of Taiwan before landing back at the same airport 2 hours later.
The idea of flights to nowhere is not a new one. Qantas, the Australian airline, has offered sightseeing trips over Antarctica for many years. With almost all international travel for Australians banned, Qantas recently announced they would resume these flights later this year. The Antarctica flights on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft are more of a long haul proposition as they take up to 13 hours. While there is an inevitable clamor for the window seats, Qantas has a well thought out system to ensure everyone gets a chance to see the stunning views of the Antarctic’s wilderness. The aircraft flies at 10,000 feet so as not to disturb the wildlife. Pilots have multiple flight plans to search for the best viewing areas if there is bad visibility.
With European COVID cases rising again countries being removed from no quarantine exemptions, there may be a market for these flights in Europe. So far, no European airlines have made noises about this type of venture. In its BA 2119: Flight of the Future Report, British Airways seemed open to the idea of “air cruises” in the future. The report envisioned that “Air cruises will see travelers fly slowly over areas of special interest, such as the Pyramids, while interactive VR guides give passengers an immersive running commentary. Other options available to passengers travelling on air cruises include onboard yoga, meditation or art classes.”