In August, Nadzri Harif, a D.J. at Kristal FM radio station in Brunei, set foot in an airport for the first time in six months. The experience, he said, was exciting. Sure, moving through Brunei International Airport was different, with masks, glass dividers and social distancing protocols in place, but nothing could beat the expectation of getting on a plane again.
His destination: nowhere.
Mr. Harif is one of thousands of people in Brunei, Taiwan, Japan and Australia who have started booking flights starting and ending at the same place. Some airlines call these "scenic flights"; others are more direct and call them "flights to nowhere."
"I did not realize how much I missed traveling – missed flying – until the moment the captain's voice came on the speaker with the welcome and safety message," Mr. Harif said of his 85-minute experience with Royal Brunei Airlines On its flight to nowhere, which the airline calls the "eat and fly" program, Royal Brunei serves local food to passengers as they fly over the country.
At a time when most people are stuck at home and not in able to travel, and the global aviation industry has been decimated by the pandemic, flights that take off and return to the airport a few hours later, allow airlines to keep their employees busy.The practice also satisfies that itching to travel – even whether it's just being on a plane again. Although most people may think of flying as a means to an end, and that only exists to get them from place to place, some say that it is an exciting part of the travel experience. For these people, flights to nowhere are an ointment in a year where almost all travel has been canceled and people have been afraid that the airlines do not enforce rules for social distancing and masking.
Royal Brunei has operated five of these flights since mid-August, and since Brunei has had very few cases of coronavirus, the airline does not require passengers to wear masks, but employees do. Earlier this month, Taiwanese airline EVA Air filled all 309 seats on its Hello Kitty-themed A330 Dream jet for Father's Day in Taiwan, and Japan's All Nippon Airways had a 90-minute flight with 300 people on the Hawaii resort theme. on board.
On Thursday, Qantas announced a flight to nowhere over Australia. The plane was sold out in ten minutes.
"So many of our frequent flyers are used to being on a plane every two weeks and have told us that they miss the experience of flying as much as the destinations themselves," Alan Joyce, CEO of Qantas Airlines, said in a statement this week, when that airline announced its seven-hour flight in October that was to travel and land in Sydney.
Tickets for that flight ranged in price from 787 to 3787 Australian dollars, or about $ 575 to $ 2765. It will take travelers around Australia, flights over the Northern Territory, Queensland and New South Wales. The airline also recently took back its popular sightseeing flights to Antarctica, which do not actually land in Antarctica, but which allow passengers to walk around and have different views of the continent. The tour company Antarctica Flights leases Qantas to operate the flights. Dozens of Australians took to the airline's Instagram to express a wish that more of these types of trips be added.
A handful of travel agencies in India, Australia and the United States said their clients have asked for flights to nowhere. over the last two months, since the reality that travel will not be normal again for a while has sunk in.
Loveleen Arun, a Bangalore travel agency who designs luxury tours mostly for Indian travelers, said she has been hearing from antsy clients wishing there were such flights in India.
“One of my clients said just a few days ago: & # 39; All I want is to be in a window seat and watch the clouds pass by. I miss that sight. I just want white, airy clouds! ’, Sa fru Arun. "Some people just want to drag their luggage through the airport and check them in."
Most of Mrs Arun's clients are wealthy individuals and families who would find a trip to nowhere appealing if it were luxurious – something other travelers echo.
Before the pandemic, Christopher Malby-Tynan, a marketing manager living in London, traveled regularly by plane, for both personal and professional reasons. The thought of getting on a plane to nowhere would only be appealing, he said, if it was exclusive and did not include the usual hassle of flights.
"The concept of going nowhere is not appetizing if it is the same hurried cattle-thrown-in experience it is when you go on a trip," said Malby-Tynan. "If that changed and it felt like you were going on a spa appointment or checking into a luxury hotel and you were allowed to stretch out, it would make sense."
When Nadiah Hamid's parents forced her to join them on Royal Brunei's flight to nowhere, she thought the idea of flying over her home was "ridiculous," she said, but she only changed a few minutes into the trip because it allowed her to see the home in a new way.  "Normally when you fly, you do not know exactly where you are, so it was nice to have someone who contextualizes things in our country and in Malaysia, and the view was very beautiful," said Hamid, 22,
Katie Chao, a spokeswoman for the Taiwanese airline Starlux, said the airline has worked to make the plane nowhere a luxurious one by allowing people to buy packages for the flight and a hotel stay. [19659002SidenaugustharflyselskapetkjørtseksflyreisertilingenstedsogharomlagetdusinflereplanlagtegjennomoktoberDeflesteavflyvningeneerutsolgtinnentiminutteretteratdeblekunngjortsaChaooglatilatbrukavmaskeogsosialdistanseringerobligatoriskpåalledisseflyvningene
"We try to offer a different and fun event when boarding. Street," said Mrs. Chao. "We also arrange some special decorations along the way. And of course a specially crafted gift to go with the theme every time a must. "
Criticism of these flights has been intense, with environmental groups and travelers resorting to social media to express their frustrations. They claim that an industry that had already negatively impacted the environment before the pandemic continues to
In 2018, global civil aviation accounted for 918 million tonnes of carbon dioxide – equivalent to the total annual emissions from Germany and the Netherlands. Rob Jackson, a soil researcher at Stanford Un iversity, estimates that global emissions could fall seven percent if shutdowns persist in parts of the world for the rest of the year.
A spokeswoman for Qantas said in an email that it purchased carbon offsets to alleviate the impact of the seven-hour flight, and Royal Brunei Airlines said it uses an Airbus A320neo, which has fewer emissions than many other aircraft.