With international travel in much of the world still disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, some airlines are resorting to “flights to nowhere” that target passengers who long for air travel — and some are willing to shell out plenty of money for the tickets.
Qantas, among the latest to advertise a flight that departs and arrives at the same airport, told Reuters that the trip sold out less than 10 minutes after going on sale on Thursday. “It’s probably the fastest-selling flight in Qantas history,” a spokeswoman for the airline said.
The Australian carrier is following other Asian airlines that have offered similar options. Such flights have already taken place in Taiwan and Japan, while Singapore’s national carrier said Sunday it was considering one, as well.
The seven-hour Qantas flight will depart Sydney on Oct. 10 and return on the same day, with no stops along the way, to comply with restrictions on interstate travel. Passengers have been promised views of the Great Barrier Reef, the Uluru monolith and the Australian outback as the plane flies over the country at low altitudes.
The 134 available seats on offer quickly vanished at prices that ranged from $787 to $3,787 in Australian dollars, the equivalent of $575 and $2,765, according to Reuters. “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 spokeswoman told the news agency.
Airlines have suffered badly during the pandemic, with industry groups suggesting that overall revenue may fall by 50 percent in 2020 after governments shut down borders and passengers cancel planned travel.
Last month, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said that the coronavirus pandemic had led to the worst financial climate in the company’s 100-year history and that international flights were unlikely to resume before summer 2021. The airline lost roughly $2.9 billion during fiscal 2020.
On Thursday, the airline took out full-page advertisements in several newspapers that called for the reopening of domestic borders. The advertising space for the campaign was donated by Australian media companies, the Guardian reported.
Though 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, though they are unlikely to create any fundamental change to the bottom line for the struggling industry.
“It certainly doesn’t hurt to do these flights, but I wouldn’t expect a big impact in terms of revenue or reduced losses during these challenging times,” Brendan Sobie, an aviation analyst with Sobie Aviation, told the Strait Times after Singapore Airlines suggested it may start flights to nowhere next month.
Environmental groups have raised concerns about the trend, pointing out that carbon emissions from air travel are a major contributing factor to the worsening climate crisis. Qantas has promised to pay for carbon offsets to alleviate the impact of the seven-hour flight, according to Reuters.