Travellers snap up Asian airlines' scenic 'flights to nowhere'

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Qantas Airways said a seven-hour flight over Australia's Outback and Great Barrier Reef had sold out in 10 minutes, as it joined a growing trend offering "flights to nowhere".

The Qantas flight, in a Boeing Co 787 typically used for long-haul international journeys, will fly at low levels over Uluru, the Great Barrier Reef and Sydney Harbour before landing back in Sydney.

Tickets cost between A$787 and A$3,787 ($575 and $2,765) depending on the seating class and the 134 available seats were quickly snapped up, a Qantas spokeswoman said on Thursday.

"It's probably the fastest selling flight in Qantas history," she said. "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."

More airlines are offering special sightseeing flights in a bid to build revenue and to keep their pilots' licences current.

Taiwan's EVA Airways used one of its iconic Hello Kitty livery planes for a special father's day flight last month, while ANA used an Airbus SE A380 that usually flies to Honolulu for a 90-minute flight with a Hawaiian experience on board.

Tickets costing $6,888 Taiwan dollars ($236) for a Tigerair Taiwan flight from Taipei that will circle over South Korea's Jeju Island reportedly sold out in four minutes. The price includes a one-year voucher for round-trip tickets from Taiwan to Korea, which can be used after COVID-19 travel bans are lifted.

Chen Shu Tze, 44, an engineer from Taipei, said she signed up for the flight because the voucher made it a good deal and she missed being able to travel - especially to South Korea, a favourite destination.

"The pandemic has a devasting impact on the tourism and airline industry, so I want to help boost the economy, and I miss flying," she told Reuters.

All of the countries where the flights are on offer have relatively low numbers of COVID-19 cases by global standards.

Among other airline stunts, Thai Airways International this month opened a pop-up restaurant on the ground, offering in-flight meals served from airline seats to would-be travellers.

Meanwhile, Singapore Airlines is also eyeing scenic flights from next month, the country's Straits Times newspaper reported on Sunday.

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