Flights to Nowhere

“Necessity is the mother of invention”.

We have all heard this saying time and again. And yet it is in the most crucial times that we begin to see the real meaning behind it.

At a time when most people are stuck at home and unable to travel,most of us are missing the wonderful experiences that travelling offers.

So what if I told you, that you can still have a small part of that experience, would you believe it?

Airlines across Brunei, Taiwan, Japan and Australia have started booking flights that start and end in the same place. Some airlines call these “scenic flights”; others are more direct, calling them “flights to nowhere.”

With the global airline industry decimated by the pandemic, flights that take-off and return to the same airport a few hours later allow airlines to keep their staff working as well as satisfy that itch to travel — even if it’s just being on a plane again.

Take for instance an 85-minute flying experience on Royal Brunei Airlines, on its flight to nowhere, which is a “dine and fly” program, where the airline serves local cuisine to passengers while flying over the country.

Or the Taiwanese airline EVA Air that filled all of its 309 seats on its Hello Kitty-themed A330 Dream jet for Father’s Day in Taiwan, and Japan’s All Nippon Airways whichhad a Hawaiian-resort-themed, 90-minute-flight with 300 people on board.

Qantas, which announced its ‘flight to nowhere’ over Australia, sold out within 10 minutes. The flight will take travelers around Australia, flying over the Northern Territory, Queensland and New South Wales.

The airline also recently brought back its popular sightseeing flights to Antarctica that don’t actually land in Antarctica, but allow passengers to walk around and have different views of the continent.

 ‘Flights to nowhere’ may give travellers their plane fix. But we also have to consider looking at the bigger picture here. Are we considering the impact of the carbon emissions from these flights, which could also affect the environment? I think airlines should primarily consider using bio fuel for such flights to minimize the carbon emissions.

Although flights to nowhere come with significant costs for the airline, industry experts have said they are likely to break even on them, if not make a small profit. Although how much of a fundamental change to the bottom line of this struggling industry will be, is yet to be seen.

We all know that planes are meant to be flying and their engines need to be revved up every few weeks to them in ship shape. According to Civil Aviation Authority’s even pilots need to perform at least three take-offs and landings every 90 days for the specific type of aircraft they are qualified to fly to keep their licenses valid . However, pilots may also meet this requirement by using a flight simulator.

Given these points, some may argue flights to nowhere can kill two birds with one stone by keeping planes and pilots in tip-top shape, while generating profit from travel-starved passengers. But while all this is an amusing distraction, it’s just not the same.

Flying, for many, still represents the freedom from boundaries and the gateway to new experiences and opportunities. Flights to nowhere are also an experience some may crave, and perhaps would utilise planes that would have been flown anyway for maintenance purposes.

But the environmental campaigners have condemned the rise of such scenic “joy flights” as the cost of a flight to nowhere is still outweighed by that of air travel as a whole. While there may be technology solutions for cutting the emissions for aviation in the future, there are few options available today beyond simply flying less. Airlines therefore must push for research and development of long-term and green solutions to be both sustainably and economically viable.

-Madhavi

OS:NYTimes;SkyNews;ChannelNewsAsia