Flights To Nowhere or 'Flycations' Are the Latest Travel Trend
Have you ever considered taking a no-destination flight that departs and lands at the same place?
Neither have we.
Sadly, as a result of COVID19-induced travel restriction, the aviation industry has taken a massive hit, forcing it to reimagine its future in light of the current crisis. At the same time, people are experiencing lockdown-fatigue and itching to start traveling again.
Catering to both issues, Taiwan introduced no-destination flights for travel-starved tourists in early-July. Since then, Australia and Japan have followed suit. Singapore briefly considered it, and India is still exploring the possibility.
Search volume for ‘flights to nowhere’ reflects this growing interest (as seen in the graph below), particularly in Singapore, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Australia. We see the dramatic spike in search interest just around the time where plane carriers announced these plans.
What excites people about going nowhere?
For some, it is the familiarity of being at the airport, boarding a flight, and feeling like they’re going somewhere. For others, it is the joy of being mid-air on an aircraft, watching fluffy clouds and blue sky through their oval windows — everything still and yet everything in motion.
Airlines are doing their bit by innovating the ‘in-flight’ experience to make the journey worthwhile. Here are a few interesting concepts we’ve found:
Thematic Flights in Lieu of Theme Parties
In Before-COVID days, plane flights helped transport tourists to their travel destinations. Now, it seems like the flight has become both mode of transport and destination itself.
Taiwanese airline EVA Air introduced a special Hello Kitty-themed A330 Dream jet for Father’s Day, flying 308 passengers across Taiwan on a 3-hour flight. The experience included a Michelin star meal with chirashi rice sets, Hello Kitty merchandise, and exclusive access to the Hello Kitty Joyful Dream Lounge.
Japan’s ANA Holdings Inc., on the other hand, introduced a Hawaiian resort-themed charter flight. They picked 300 passengers through a lottery for a 90-minute flight where the crew wore masks, Hawaiian shirts, and served cocktails!
A Scenic Ride Over the Gold Coast, Great Barrier Reef, and Antarctica
From tour buses to tour planes…
Australian airline Qantas recently broke all records with its Great Southern Land Scenic Flight, the fastest-selling flight in Qantas history. 149 seats priced between $787 and $3,787 were sold out within 10 minutes. The 7-hour flight departs and lands in Sydney, flying over the Gold Coast, Sydney Harbor, Byron Bay, and the Great Barrier Reef, offering passengers stunning views of the landscape below.
Qantas is also renting out one of its Boeing Co. Dreamliners for sightseeing trips over Antarctica. These flights will operate between November and February and last between 12 and 14 hours.
The adventures don’t end there. Taiwan also introduced 3-hour long moon-gazing flights during the Mid-Autumn Festival when the moon was full and bright. Pre-flight entertainment included a symphony orchestra playing moon-themed classics such as ‘Fly Me to the Moon’ and ‘The Moon Represents My Heart.’
A Taste of Flying On Ground: From Plane Cafes to Fine Dining
Taking the in-flight experience to new levels, we see out-of-the-box ideas such as turning plane cabins into cafes and restaurants- a big win for novel experiences and airsick folk everywhere!
In Thailand, out-of-service aircraft have been turned into cafes, attracting customers craving in-flight experience while sipping coffee and touring the cockpit.
In Singapore, the idea of no-destination flights was thrashed by environmental activists citing unnecessary carbon-emissions. Instead, Singapore Airlines decided to convert its double-decker A380 — the world’s largest passenger aircraft — into a plane restaurant. The Restaurant A380 @Changi offers signature international cuisine, Peranakan dishes, and a limited slots pre-lunch tour of the aircraft.
Taking it a notch higher when it comes to innovation, Japan’s First Airlines offers travel experiences using virtual reality technology. While this is not a new service, there has been a surge in demand lately. The flying experience (complete with mock cabin crew, in-flight meals, and passing clouds) is simulated for grounded passengers, followed by immersive tours of destinations such as Paris, New York, Rome, and Hawaii upon ‘arrival’.
The Way Forward for Travel: Selling Destination Nowhere
The increasing popularity of flycations hints at something deeper: people value the journey as much as the destination. After months of staying home, the mere feeling of going somewhere is privilege alone- even if it’s just a roundtrip of the sky. In a parallel space, cruise ships have launched cruises to nowhere.
Travel has long been a form of escape from everyday reality. As the world is made weary by pandemic fatigue, flights to nowhere offer a momentary escape in the form of the journey itself, a taste of what used to be familiar but now feels distant.
For as long as roaming foreign lands remains ever elusive an option, it seems settling for sky and sea would make for comforting consolation prizes for feeling free. After all, is that not what matters most?
In the words of Henry David Thoreau, “It matters not where or how far you travel — the farther commonly the worse — but how much alive you are.”
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