The Flight Goes Nowhere. And It’s Sold Out.

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In August, Nadzri Harif, a D.J. at Kristal FM radio station in Brunei, set foot in an airport for the primary time in six months. The expertise, he mentioned, was exhilarating. Certain, shifting via Brunei Worldwide Airport was totally different, with masks, glass dividers and social-distancing protocols in place, however nothing may beat the anticipation of getting on a aircraft once more.

His vacation spot: nowhere.

Mr. Harif is one in all hundreds of individuals in Brunei, Taiwan, Japan and Australia who’ve began reserving flights that begin and finish in the identical place. Some airways name these “scenic flights”; others are extra direct, calling them “flights to nowhere.”

Credit score…Nadzri Harif

“I didn’t realize how much I’d missed traveling — missed flying — until the moment the captain’s voice came on the speaker with the welcome and safety announcement,” mentioned Mr. Harif of his 85-minute expertise on Royal Brunei Airways. On its flight to nowhere, which the airline calls the “dine and fly” program, Royal Brunei serves native delicacies to passengers whereas flying over the nation.

At a time when most individuals are caught at house and unable to journey, and the worldwide airline business has been decimated by the pandemic, flights that take off and return to the airport a number of hours later permit airways to maintain workers working. The follow additionally satisfies that itch to journey — even when it’s simply being on a aircraft once more. Though most individuals could consider flying as a way to an finish, present solely to get them from one place to the subsequent, some say that it’s an thrilling a part of the journey expertise. For these folks, flights to nowhere are the salve for a 12 months during which nearly all journey has been canceled and folks have been terrified of airways not imposing social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines.

Royal Brunei has run 5 of those flights since mid-August, and since Brunei has had only a few circumstances of the coronavirus, the airline shouldn’t be requiring passengers to put on masks, however workers members are. Earlier within the month, the Taiwanese airline EVA Air stuffed all 309 seats on its Whats up Kitty-themed A330 Dream jet for Father’s Day in Taiwan, and Japan’s All Nippon Airways had a Hawaiian-resort-themed, 90-minute-flight with 300 folks on board.

On Thursday, Qantas introduced a flight to nowhere over Australia. That flight bought out in 10 minutes.

“So many of our frequent fliers are used to being on a plane every other week and have been telling us they miss the experience of flying as much as the destinations themselves,” Alan Joyce, the chief govt of Qantas Airways, mentioned in a press release this week, when that airline introduced its seven-hour flight in October that might depart and land in Sydney.

Tickets for that flight ranged in value from 787 to three,787 Australian {dollars}, or about $575 to $2,765. It can take vacationers round Australia, flying over the Northern Territory, Queensland and New South Wales. The airline additionally lately introduced again its well-liked sightseeing flights to Antarctica that don’t really land in Antarctica, however permit passengers to stroll round and have totally different views of the continent. The tour firm Antarctica Flights charters Qantas to function the flights. Dozens of Australians took to the airline’s Instagram to specific a need for extra of those sorts of journeys to be added.

A handful of journey brokers in India, Australia and america mentioned that their purchasers have been asking about flights to nowhere up to now two months as the truth that journey is not going to return to regular for a while has sunk in.

Loveleen Arun, a Bangalore-based journey agent who designs luxury trips principally for Indian vacationers, mentioned that she’s been listening to from antsy purchasers who want there have been such flights in India.

“One of my clients said just a few days ago, ‘all I want is to be in a window seat and see clouds go by. I miss that sight. I just want white fluffy clouds!’” Ms. Arun mentioned. “Some people just want to drag their bags through the airport and go check them in.”

Most of Ms. Arun’s purchasers are well-to-do people and households who would discover a journey to nowhere interesting if it was luxurious — one thing different vacationers echoed.

Earlier than the pandemic, Christopher Malby-Tynan, a advertising supervisor who lives in London, traveled by aircraft often, each for private {and professional} causes. The considered getting on a flight to nowhere would solely be interesting, he mentioned, if it had been upscale and didn’t embrace the standard trouble of aircraft journey.

“The concept of going on a flight to nowhere isn’t appetizing if it’s the same rushed cattle-being-thrown-in experience it is when you’re going on a trip,” Mr. Malby-Tynan mentioned. “If it changed and felt like you were going on a spa date or checking into a luxurious hotel, and you were allowed to stretch out, then it would make sense.”

When Nadiah Hamid’s dad and mom compelled her to hitch them on Royal Brunei’s flight to nowhere, she thought the thought of flying above her house was “ridiculous,” she mentioned, however she had a change of coronary heart just some minutes into the journey as a result of it allowed her to see her house in a brand new means.

“Normally when you’re flying you don’t really know where you are, so it was nice to have someone contextualize things in our country and in Malaysia, and the views were really beautiful,” Ms. Hamid, 22, mentioned.

Katie Chao, a spokeswoman for the Taiwanese airline Starlux, mentioned that the airline has been working to make the flight-to-nowhere expertise an opulent one by permitting folks to purchase packages for the flight and a lodge keep.

Since August, the airline has run six flights to nowhere and has a couple of dozen extra scheduled via October. Many of the flights have bought out inside 10 minutes of being introduced, Ms. Chao mentioned, including that sporting a masks and social distancing are obligatory on all these flights.

“We try to provide a different and fun event at the boarding gate,” Ms. Chao mentioned. “We also arrange some special decorations in-flight. And, of course, a special-made giveaway to go with the theme each time is a must.”

Criticism of those flights has been intense, with environmental teams and vacationers taking to social media to specific their frustrations. They argue that an business that had already negatively affected the surroundings earlier than the pandemic is constant to take action with these pointless journeys.

In 2018, international civil aviation accounted for 918 million tons of carbon dioxide — equal to the mixed annual emissions from Germany and the Netherlands. Rob Jackson, an earth scientist at Stanford College, estimated that global emissions may fall seven p.c if lockdowns persist in components of the world for the remainder of the 12 months.

A spokeswoman for Qantas mentioned in an electronic mail that it bought carbon offsets to alleviate the impression of the seven-hour flight, and Royal Brunei Airways mentioned it’s utilizing an Airbus A320neo, which has fewer emissions than many different planes.


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