Qantas’ 7-hour flight to nowhere sells out in 10 minutes

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SYDNEY/SINGAPORE: Qantas Airways said a seven-hour scenic flight over Australia's Outback and Great Barrier Reef had sold out in 10 minutes, as it joined a growing trend in Asia offering "flights to nowhere" that take off and land at the same airport.

Many frequent fliers miss getting on planes, and airlines, including Taiwan's EVA Airways and Japan's ANA, desperate for revenue and to keep their pilots' licences current, have offered special sightseeing flights.

The Qantas flight, in a Boeing 787 typically used for long-haul international journeys, will fly at low levels over Uluru, the Great Barrier Reef and Sydney Harbour before landing back in Sydney.

Tickets cost between A$787 (S$780) and A$3,787 depending on the seating class, and the 134 available seats were quickly snapped up, a Qantas spokesman said yesterday.

"It is probably the fastest-selling flight in Qantas history," she said. "People clearly miss travel and the experience of flying. If the demand is there, we'll definitely look at doing more of these scenic flights while we all wait for borders to open."

Taiwan's EVA used one of its iconic Hello Kitty livery planes for a special Father's Day flight last month, while ANA used an Airbus SE A380 that usually flies to Honolulu for a 90-minute flight with a Hawaiian experience on board.

Tickets costing NT$6,888 (S$320) for a Tigerair Taiwan flight from Taipei that will circle over South Korea's Jeju Island reportedly sold out in four minutes.

The price includes a one-year voucher for round-trip tickets from Taiwan to Korea, which can be used after Covid-19 travel bans are lifted.

All of the countries where the flights are on offer have relatively low numbers of Covid-19 cases by global standards.

Among other airline offerings, Thai Airways International this month opened a pop-up restaurant on the ground, offering in-flight meals served from airline seats to would-be travellers.

Singapore Airlines is also eyeing scenic flights from next month, an idea that received widespread criticism from environmentalists and online commentators.

"First, it encourages carbon-intensive travel for no good reason and second, it is merely a stop-gap measure that distracts from the policy and value shifts necessary to mitigate the climate crisis," said awareness group SG Climate Rally.

SIA said it is considering several initiatives but no final decision has been made on whether to offer sightseeing flights. - REUTERS