OPINION: Flights to nowhere are a bad idea

Airlines like Singapore Air have had to ground thousands of planes. (PHOTO: Steve Strike/Outback Photographics)

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Asian Aviation Editor Matt Driskill.

Airlines appear to have done an admirable job brainwashing people into believing that getting on a plane in the age of COVID-19, going through immigration, and paying hundreds of dollars for an Economy Class meal for a so-called “flight to nowhere” is a good idea. Witness what happened to Qantas when it announced it was selling a seven-hour flight over Australia’s Outback and Great Barrier Reef that sold out in 10 minutes.

Qantas convinced people to pay between A$787 and A$3,787 (US$564 and US$2,718) depending on the seating class. Taiwan’s EVA Airways and Japan’s ANA are also selling flights to nowhere while Singapore Airlines considered it and rejected the move after it came in for criticism from environmental campaigners who said the flights served no good purpose and only added to the current climate crisis by spewing CO2 emissions into the air without accomplishing anything. Qantas said it would offset its emissions, which is normally done by buying credits in forest replanting schemes, but it still allows the airline to pollute. According to a Qantas spokesman, “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.”

I agree that people miss travelling. I was supposed to have travelled to at least five different countries by this time this year including some of my favourite destinations like Japan and Cambodia and France. But I don’t really miss “the experience of flying” per se. I like the freedom that flying affords me in getting to another country quickly, but I don’t miss being stuck in Economy Class for 12 hours eating bad food and having the back of my seat kicked the entire time by a 12-year-old brat with no manners.

It’s good to see Singapore Airlines come to its senses and abandon the idea of flying to nowhere. Instead, the airline will let customers dine inside an A380 superjumbo, eating airline food and watching movies on the plane’s in-flight entertainment system. Diners will be seated in groups up to five, and face masks are required (except when eating). The company is also creating tours of the SIA Training Centre, with optional flight simulator training sessions, junior cabin crew activities for kids, and grooming workshops with Singapore Airline’s flight attendants.

It would be nice if all the other airlines were as forward-thinking as Singapore Airlines. If they were, it would be much easier to believe that the industry really cares about reducing its carbon emissions. I realise the need for airlines to try to make money anyway they can during this trying period, but flying to nowhere is not the answer.

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