A growing trend in the aviation industry to counter the effects of the coronavirus pandemic is the flight to nowhere. Passengers will be treated to the full airport experience as though they are going somewhere and return to the same airport later that day having been nowhere. But, is there a demand for these flights?

Qantas Seven-Hour Flight to Nowhere

The Qantas flight QF787, a Boeing Dreamliner aircraft, departed from Sydney on Saturday, October 10, flying over the Australian metropolis. This flight, entitled The Great Southern Land offered picturesque views and low-level flybys over Australian destinations in Queensland, the Northern Territory and New South Wales. It included the Great Barrier Reef and Sydney Harbour among other well-known attractions.

There were just 150 places across business class, premium economy and economy and costing from AUD$787 to $3,787 (US$566 to $2,734). 

When tickets went on sale they sold out in ten minutes which, according to Qantas CEO, Alan Joyce, is probably the fastest selling flight in the history of Qantas. He went on to say that people are clearly missing the experience of flying.  Some airlines have already operated flights to nowhere.

However, sightseeing flights are not unique to the current situation. Qantas has operated them before and is considering re-instating sightseeing flights to Antarctica aboard its Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

ANA Left Narita Airport and Returned 90 Minutes Later

ANA, the Japanese airline selected 334 passengers through a lottery – capacity was reduced to 64 per cent to enable social distancing. The cost of tickets for this flight ranged from $132 (economy) to $470 (first-class). One of their new A380 aircraft, intended for their Hawaiian route was used. Cocktails were served onboard and ground staff Hawaiian-themed shirts. The plane left Narita Airport and returned there 90 minutes later.

Royal Brunei Airlines – Dine and Fly

On August 16 Royal Brunei Airlines started operating ‘Dine and Fly’ sightseeing trips. On the first flight 99 passengers enjoyed spectacular views of the island of Borneo while brunch was being served on board.   

EVA Air and China Airlines Offer Scenic Flights

Eva Air
EVA Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner © EVA

Taiwan’s EVA Air and China Airlines have also started offering scenic flights.  In August an EVA Air  flight took off from Taipei Taoyuan Airport and flew for two hours and 45 minutes before returning to the same airport.  

This initiative began with a “pretend to leave the country” tour of Taipei’s Songshan Airport in Taiwan.  An attempt to show off the airports new facilities including a brand new lounge.  Visitors are offered a full airline experience without leaving the airport. Singapore Airlines was contemplating the operation of three-hour flights from Changi to Changi but is now planning something closer to home, plane dining.

Singapore Airlines to Introduce Plane Dining 

After announcing plans to start operating flights to nowhere Singapore Airlines seems to have changed its mind.  Reportedly due to opposition in relation to their impact on the environment. But it has come up with a new way of getting passengers back on its planes.  By turning its Airbus A380 into a restaurant. 

Open for just two days this unique restaurant will offer a full inflight dining experience on the ground.  Diners will have the choice of cabin class in which to enjoy the airline’s signature dishes served by their flight attendants.  The airline staff with be attired in uniforms from the past and diners are also encouraged to dress up.

This dining experience is part of a project, Discover Your Singapore Airlines, that will be happening over two weekends in late November when visitors can join guided tours of the airline’s training centre. Optional additions to this tour include a run in the flight simulator, a wine tasting experience, or a makeup session and how to achieve the ‘Singapore Girl’ look.  The airline is also offering to deliver a meal for two to the homes of Singaporean residents.

As it struggles to survive the aviation industry is becoming innovative in an attempt to create new sources of revenue during the very difficult circumstances imposed by the coronavirus pandemic.  Branding these experiences as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is encouraging a positive response.  Especially as it is hoped this will prove to be true.  This could be the start of more exciting developments worldwide in this industry.