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October 21, 2020

Flights to nowhere? I’m game. More often, I’m reading about pandemic-era disruptions (sometimes altercations) on board airplanes involving passengers who refuse to wear masks in order to prevent spread of the novel coronavirus. In some cases, airplanes have returned to the airport to remove uncooperative passengers. Each time I hear about these passenger tantrums, the more a “flight to nowhere” sounds like a dream trip where all passengers are happy.

When I first got wind of these abbreviated adventures taking flight, I poo-pooed the idea. Why, in Covid times would anyone put themselves through the stresses of schlepping to the airport, checking in and going through security lines -– to go nowhere.

Now I get it.

We can all agree that the spontaneity of flight travel is a thing of the past. And like everywhere else, airports must follow strict Covid-19 protocol – masks, social distancing, and sanitizing. Suffice it to say, pandemic-weary travelers are longing for the care-free wanderlust of a not-too-distant past when we traipsed the world “free as a bird.” There was a romance about going somewhere, exploring a new place – and while waiting for your flight, people-watching reading a book, sipping a coffee, grabbing a bite.

Sell-out flights to nowhere depart from and return to the same airport. And no need for luggage. Hong Kong Express does a 75-minute loop around Hong Kong, EVA Air in Taiwan does a 90-minute flight with a Michelin-starred chef, Japan’s ANA has a Hawaiian-themed journey, and Quantas offers a seven-hour flight with aerial views of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and Sydney Harbor. Environmental impacts of flights to nowhere, however, have also come into play. For this reason, Singapore Airlines elected to stay put on the tarmac and instead provides dinner service inside a grounded Airbus at Chiang Airport.

Truly, Covid times has called on all industries to reinvent themselves any way they can – all in the name of survival – including the airlines.

As we all look for ways to uplift spirits in a time when Covid has closed off borders, the airline industry is finding ways to maintain a pulse, help pilots to continue clocking in required flight hours – and offer an emotional “shot in the arm” to domestic citizens hungry for an escape. Anywhere.

Washing Hands + Wearing a Mask + Social Distancing = Saving Lives

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