The fastest flight to sell out in Qantas's 100 year history was a flight from Sydney to ... Sydney?
Regular business travelers have seen their lives changed by the COVID-19 pandemic. While some consider constant travel a negative, many travelers have felt a desire fly again. Of course, in many cases even domestic travel is not possible due to health restrictions. What is the solution? Flights to nowhere.
A term coined by Qantas to describe its latest sightseeing flights, the flight to nowhere is scheduled to be a seven-hour scenic journey over Australia on October 10. Passengers will be treated to views of Sydney Harbor, the Great Barrier Reef, and Uluru from the comforts of a Dreamliner. The opportunity is clearly popular: the flight sold out in ten minutes with ticket prices ranging up to $3000*. Qantas also offered passengers a complimentary lunch, flight certificates, and a gift bag. In addition, Qantas has been commissioned by the tour company Antarctica Flights to run similar "flightseeing" routes over Antarctica.
Similar stories have played out in Taiwan, Brunei, and Japan. Since September and late August, EVA flew Hello Kitty-themed flights around Taipei, ANA offered a "Hawaiian resort"-style 90 minute run over Tokyo Bay, and Royal Brunei Airlines even served cake to a passenger whose birthday fell on the day of the flight. Obviously, strict mask and social distancing protocol is enforced by all four airlines, though scientific consensus remains that the risk of contracting COVID-19 or any communicable disease is significantly higher aboard an aircraft.
Given the sole leisurely nature of these flights, airlines have also strived to present a different gate experience for passengers. Air travel is normally characterized by lines, stress, and hurrying, so airlines have added refreshments in the terminal or theming (like ANA's Hawaiian resort flight) to encourage a more relaxed atmosphere.
Of course, the sightseeing flights are not without its critics. Flying normally accounts for about 918 million tons of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a number that has decreased since the start of the pandemic. Reduced flying for the rest of 2020 would result in a 7% decrease in global emissions, according to The New York Times. It's also difficult to justify flights with zero practical purpose other than entertainment. Despite this, Qantas and Royal Brunei Airlines defended the flights; Qantas said it used carbon offsets (reducing emissions in other industries/areas) while Brunei said it used the Airbus A320neo, which has the fewest emissions out of many different planes.
Amid the pandemic and flying deprivation, would you take a "flight to nowhere?" Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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