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Brief Published: 25 Sep 2020

Pandemic Consumers Embrace Flights to Nowhere

With travel still hampered by restrictions, consumers are embracing alternative escapes by taking flights to nowhere. First noted via Taipei Songshan Airport’s summer 2020 vacation-simulation scheme, this trend has spread globally and underlines consumer desire to interact with travel touchpoints.

When Taipei’s Songshan Airport announced its flight-free tour experience in June 2020, over 7,000 people entered to snag one of 180 spots. Participants had a half-day to roleplay the usually onerous tasks involved in a plane journey: they checked-in, went through security, cleared immigration, had a meal in the terminal and boarded a plane. Host airlines took the opportunity to discuss their cleaning procedures and safety protocols during the boarding process – a key consumer pain point as we explain in Covid-19 + Airlines. The format proved so popular that local airline Starlux is rolling out pampering “holiday” packages that combine a departure-less flight with a luxury hotel stay. 

Similarly, Australian airline Qantas ran a promotion in September 2020 that gave 134 passengers a seven-hour scenic flight. Departing from Sydney, passengers glimpsed iconic sights including Uluru, the Great Barrier Reef and Byron Bay. Perks were at the forefront: passengers received a meal from Australian celebrity chef Neil Perry, a pre-departure lounge breakfast and could participate in an auction of Qantas memorabilia. Seats cost between AU $787 ($575) and AU $3,787 ($2,675) and sold out within 10 minutes of going on sale.

Meanwhile, national airline Royal Brunei runs Dine and Fly. These short scenic flights over the nation state combine pilot commentary of on-the-ground views with an in-flight meal.

These destination-free flights illustrate the engagement potential for brands that simulate consumers’ urge to escape, especially when combined with an experiential add-on, like dining or sightseeing. For more on engaging with pandemic-era travellers, see Profiling the Future Traveller.

Taipei Songshan Airport