Airlines Are Offering Sightseeing Flights That Go Nowhere

The last Qantas Boeing 747 airliner prepares to take off from Sydney airport to the U.S. on July 22, 2020. The downturn in the airline industry following travel restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 outbreak forced Qantas to retire its grounded 747s after flying with the Australian carrier for almost 50 years.
The last Qantas Boeing 747 airliner prepares to take off from Sydney airport to the U.S. on July 22, 2020. The downturn in the airline industry following travel restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 outbreak forced Qantas to retire its grounded 747s after flying with the Australian carrier for almost 50 years.
Image: PETER PARKS/AFP (Getty Images)

Finally, a form of leisure travel more detestable and tedious than cruise ships. Some airlines are so desperate to retake the skies that they are now offering sightseeing trips that begin and end at the same airport. It’s a horrifyingly wasteful practice and, with tickets proving extremely popular with jet-setting customers tired of being grounded by COVID-19, it’s probably not a passing fad. From USA Today:

Australian carrier Qantas Airways has offered a flight billed as the Great Southern Land Scenic flight that both takes off from and lands in Sydney.

Taiwan-based EVA Air flew “Hello Kitty” themed flights roundtrip from and to Taipei in August, the Bangkok Post reports. Japan’s ANA offered a brief sightseeing flight from Tokyo in August on the planes it normally uses on the Honolulu run. The airline says 300 passengers “enjoyed a Hawaiian resort experience at the airport and onboard.”

Singapore Airlines is weighing whether to give the concept a go. “Singapore Airlines is considering several initiatives that would allow us to continue engaging both our customers and members of the public. Currently, none of these plans have been firmed up,” said spokesman James Boyd.

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Ah yes, a Hawaiian resort experience in an...airport. That honestly sounds terrible and nowhere close to as good as actually getting to be in Hawaii. I used to fly four or five times a year and have never enjoyed anything about an airport except leaving it. Qantas airline’s seven-hour “flight to nowhere” sold out of its 134 window seats in 10 minutes, with ticket prices ranging from $566 to $2,734. Seven hours. A seven-hour flight already sounds like a pain in the ass when heading somewhere fun and enjoyable, let alone going right back to the same airport. Here’s what the Qantas trip entails, according to CNN:

“It’s probably the fastest selling flight in Qantas history,” the airline’s CEO, Alan Joyce, said in a statement.

“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.”

The seven-hour scenic flight will perform a giant loop taking in Queensland and the Gold Coast, New South Wales and the country’s remote outback heartlands.

From above, keen fliers should be able to spot famous Aussie attractions including Sydney Harbour and the Great Barrier Reef. The jet will do a low flyover over certain landmarks, including Uluru and Bondi Beach.

Special onboard entertainment is promised too, including a surprise celebrity host.

The journey will take place on a Qantas Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft, usually reserved for intercontinental journeys across continents. Right now, there are very few flights operating to and from Australia due to travel restrictions and Qantas international fleet has been grounded.

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The Qantas flight is extra terrible due to featuring such amazing sights as the Great Barrier Reef, a delicate ecosystem currently under threat from climate change, during such a wasteful, polluting flight to “nowhere.” Airlines currently account for 5 percent of all global warming, according to the BBC, and that share will continue to grow if flying rates continue to grow over the next two decades.

A long-haul flight can produce as much carbon dioxide as two family cars do in an entire year. Flying is, mile for mile, one of the most polluting ways to travel, and you should really do it only if you’re actually going somewhere.

Managing Editor of Jalopnik.

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DISCUSSION

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How low in your “celebrity career” do you have to be to want to be the “surprise host” on a seven hour flight? Is this “slightly above rock bottom”? And, if so, is this “recovering from” or “about to hit”? Either? Both?