Frustrated travellers snap up flights to nowhere

Other airlines, including Taiwan’s EVA Air and China Airlines, have already experimented with the simulacrum model.

Last month EVA Air found plenty of takers for its first such trip, an almost three-hour sweep that circled Japan’s Ryukyu Islands before returning home to the Taoyuan International Airport. Passengers paid 5288 Taiwan dollars ($247) for economy and 6288 Taiwan dollars for a business class seat. China Air offered a similar route. Both airlines plan more such flights after the initial efforts sold out.

Three weeks ago, All Nippon Airways offered holiday-starved Japanese a chance to go to Hawaii – or at least view the holiday island – on a 90-minute sightseeing tour. About 300 passengers were on the flight that took off and landed at Tokyo’s Narita airport. A second trip is scheduled for Sunday.

Australian travellers with a taste for for colder climes might be tempted by a 12-hour sightseeing trip to Antarctica. Qantas has scheduled seven such flights between November and February, two from Sydney and Melbourne and one each from Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth.

Each round-trip will involve about four hours flying over the Antarctic continent before returning home. Billed as “the world’s most unique day tour”, the flights are classed as domestic, so are not subject to international travel restrictions. Tickets start at $1199 for economy seats and climb to $7999 for deluxe business class.

Some business travellers are beginning to test heavily regulated routes between Asian capitals, but for those who simply crave an international holiday, these trips to nowhere are likely to be the only alternative for some time. They also provide a glimmer of hope for cash-starved airlines.

While European airports are again processing thousands of passengers each day following the relaxation of travel restrictions in the Schengen visa-free area, the near-total collapse in demand continues to weigh on Asia-Pacific carriers. July traffic for these airlines was down 96.5 per cent, with the region continuing to trail not only Europe but also the Middle East, North America, Latin America and Africa, according to the International Air Transport Association.

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