Australia’s Qantas Airlines will fly a seven-hour “flight to nowhere” that takes off and lands in Sydney, a bizarre idea hinging on the belief that people who have been cooped up during the pandemic would want to just experience air travel, even if their destination is the same airport where they departed. And, strangely, Qantas was right.
While it’s being called the “flight to nowhere” the flight path will reportedly go over scenic spots around the state of New South Wales, including Byron Bay, Bondi Beach, and the Sydney Harbor Bridge. The plane will sometimes fly at a low altitude, according to Australia’s ABC News, but it’s unclear how much scenery passengers will actually be able to see during the trip, especially those with aisle and middle seats.
The booking sold out in just 10 minutes, the fastest-selling flight in the airline’s history according to the country’s public broadcaster. Adjusted for U.S. currency, the flight is priced at $575 for an economy seat, $1,305 for premium economy, and $2,767 for “business class,” and is scheduled for Oct. 10.
It seems that people are losing their damn minds to feel anything close to normal again as coronavirus surges globally and many people struggle with the idea that it could be at least a year before mass vaccinations start across the world. Globally, we’ve seen over 30 million confirmed covid-19 cases and more than 946,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University, both numbers which are believed to be vast undercounts due to the strange nature of the disease and the prevalence of asymptomatic carriers.
Australia has fared relatively well overall during the coronavirus pandemic, with a total of 26,800 cases and 837 deaths. But the country experienced a very rough second wave in July and August that’s finally subsiding. Melbourne, the country’s second-largest city and the epicenter of the second wave, went into a strict lockdown that was able to bring down daily cases from a peak of 721 on July 30 to just 34 cases yesterday.
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The entire Australian state of Victoria has endured over six weeks of lockdown since the latest restrictions were imposed on Aug. 2, which only allow people to leave their homes for four reasons: getting to work, exercise, care-giving, and shopping for essential items like food. It’s still not clear when the state government will ease those restrictions.
But Australia isn’t the only country exploring the idea of “flights to nowhere.” Singapore Airlines is reportedly thinking of doing the same thing soon. But as environmentalists in Singapore point out, the idea of flying a plane just to circle around in the sky comes with a cost. Air travel has a tremendous carbon footprint and contributes to climate change in very serious ways. Unnecessary flights are silly, to say the least.
It remains to be seen how people on the ground in Sydney might react to seeing a passenger airplane flying around at 4,000 feet near densely populated areas. Australia hasn’t experienced a bad domestic terrorist attack in recent history, excluding a horrific mass shooting in 1996 that took the lives of 35 people, but Australians sure as hell know what happened on Sept. 11, 2001.
Low-flying passenger flights will surely raise some eyebrows come Oct. 10. But if you’re in Sydney and see a low-flying plane, don’t be worried. It’s just a bunch of weirdos trying to feel alive again.