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

A train ride on a loop and a curve

toy-trains-of-india

The crispness of the cool mountain air, traversing through the slow moving train, tranquility amidst the lap of nature with green valley’s surrounding you, the veil of clouds falling on your face kissing your cheeks and filling you with its heady intoxicating mist.

Nothing quite beats the romance of travelling on a steam train or shunting through mountains. It’s no wonder, that the whistles and sounds of a steam engine featuring the humble ‘toy train’ is a staple in many a Bollywood song, even today.

We have to acknowledge the British who not only established their cantonments into the various parts of the Indian subcontinent, but they also developed many hill resorts where they could go for breaks to beat the excruciating heat in the plains.

The rail routes that they laid to reach these hill stations still exist and function with the very same engines and carriages. The Mountain Railways of India are the best example of bold, ingenious engineering solutions for the problem of establishing an effective rail link through a rugged, mountainous terrain. A trip to the hills by rail is a real treat to the eyes, with these 5 amazing mountain rail routes showcasing India’s spectacular landscapes.

1.Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

darjeeling

Inaugurated in 1881 over the beautiful hills of Darjeeling, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, popularly known as the ‘toy train’ is an engineering marvel.

It covers a distance of 88 km in West Bengal from New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling in seven-and-a-half hours. The station Ghum is India’s highest railway station having an altitude of 2,257 metres. The route has 8 major bridges, 542 minor bridges and 177 unmanned level crossings. This train has the narrowest of the regular narrow gauge rail tracks and use diesel electric or steam engines.

The Railway received the World Heritage Site status on Dec. 2, 1999.

2. Nilgiri Mountain Railway.

Nilgiri-Mountain

The first leg of the Nilgiri Mountain Railway from Mettupalayam to Coonoor was opened to traffic in June 1899 and was extended up to Ooty only by 1908. The Nilgiri toy train travels all over the Nilgiri hills aka ‘The Blue Mountains’.

The main features of this meter gauge line are the unique rack rail system, and the equally unique and complicated steam locomotives.

The delightful little train covers a distance of 46 km from Mettupalayam to Ooty in four-and-a-half hours. The real thrill of this train ride is the engine which is at the back pushing the carriages up the hills its twists and turns around the hills, passing through many tunnels, bridges, traversing forests and tea plantations.

On July 15, 2005, UNESCO recognized Nilgiri Mountain Railway as a World Heritage Site.

3. Kalka-Shimla Railway.

kalka

Shimla is a very popular destination with Indians as it was to the British. The Kalka-Shimla Railway line which opened to traffic on Nov. 9, 1903, connects the residents of the plains to the summer capital of British India.

The six-hour-long, 96 km journey, crossing with 101 tunnels, is an engineering masterpiece on narrow gauge and covers many arched bridges and several picturesque stations. The slow movement of this train enables many travellers to sit on the doorway or stick their heads out of the windows to smell the fresh mountain air and enjoy the breathtaking visual of the Himalayas.

On July 7, 2008 the Kalka-Shimla Railway was included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list.

4. Matheran Light Railway.

matheran

The Matheran Light Railway, which connects Neral to Matheran , was opened to traffic in March 1907. The floods in 2005 forced its shut down but it was re-opened in 2007 much to the people’s delight.

This narrow gauge line takes the sharpest curves when compared to any Indian hill railway line. The view along the journey is indeed breathtaking, and the 21 km ride is covered in two hours. The unique feature of the train ride is the One Kiss Tunnel (the only tunnel on the route, which earned its nickname because the tunnel is just long enough to exchange a kiss with one’s partner).

All stations on the route have solar power and wind energy plants,and energy-efficient LED lights and fans. the train travels over forests and mountains to reveal the astounding beauty of Nature.

5. Kangra Valley Railway.

kangra

Commissioned in April 1929, the Kangra Valley Railway line starts at Pathankot (Punjab) and ends at Joginder Nagar(Himachal Pradesh), travelling on a narrow gauge for 9 hours and 20 minutes, covering 164 km.

Apart from the Kalka-Shimla railway it is the second railway that runs through the beautiful hills of Himachal Pradesh. There are only two tunnels on this stretch, which give tourists an opportunity to enjoy the mountains and valleys without any distraction. This railway line, which is famous for its 993 bridges, connects the state with its hydroelectric power house.

darjeeling-06

All the five mountain railways of India are around a hundred years old. These train trips epitomize the old saying about the journey being as memorable as the destination. There are intriguing stops along each of these lines, leaving it up to the traveller to have nothing to do but sit back and enjoy the scenery.

 

 

 

 

PC: Better India; Tripadvisor; Wikimedia; Travel Leisure India;Discover My Travel