The reason is very simple: while you can still buy a car and drive it across the country, you can’t fly out of the same country. Safety precautions, travel restrictions, lockdowns and general common sense says you can’t. And, while you may have resigned yourself to the idea that it might be at least another year until you can safely board a flight to head out to your favorite vacation spot, airlines can’t afford to wait this much.
A new concept is starting to pick up pace: flights to nowhere. The idea behind it is to offer a substitute to the air travel experience in the absence of the final destination, thus turning flying into an experience in and of itself. If you can’t fly out to Greece or the Bahamas or what-not, you might as well fly, right?
This week, following the lead of several major airlines in Asia, Qantas announced one such offer for a flight to nowhere. It takes the cream in terms of flights to nowhere planned or carried out so far, in that it’s a seven-hour experience that sells at a considerable price (AUD$787 to $3,787 / US$574 to $2,762) and that is a vacation in itself. A staycation, as they’re called.
In short, you book a ticket for the flight, which will take place on a Qantas Boeing 787 Dreamliner, you board it and it will fly you above the continent, making the most of the fact that it’s the aircraft with the biggest windows in the world.
You get two meals, one at the airport and one on the flight, a celebrity guest and MC (but no in-flight entertainment), a tour of some of Australia’s biggest landmarks as viewed from above, and the full airport experience. You also get a gift bag, and something to remember the experience by, like a commemorative certificate and some custom PJs, as well as the chance to buy your own Qantas memorabilia at a stand.
The idea sounds cool, until you look at the price. You’re basically paying a pocketful of money just so you can pretend everything’s normal again and for aerial views of local landmarks – and these too are uncertain because the route could change depending on weather.
The experience is definitely not meant to make everything right for Qantas again (or any other airliner), or even fill some of the gaps in its profit. But it will offer temporary (financial) relief and a sense of normalcy, as well as the opportunity for the airline to take some staff and one aircraft back up in the air.
In the end, that’s what it all boils down to. Airlines are struggling to survive (a cliché phrase, but a very accurate description of what is happening) and they’re trying to prolong the fight with these flights to nowhere.
Sure, we could argue that flying planes in circles isn’t going to help with growing concerns on climate change, but then again, these flights aren’t as frequent as normal, pre-2020 flights. If there are people willing to pay good money (and there are, because the Qantas tickets sold out in 10 minutes) to pretend like everything is back to normal and it keeps the airline industry afloat, who are we to hate?