Environmental campaigners have condemned the rise of scenic “joy flights” aimed at passengers “missing the excitement of travel”.
Tickets for a seven-hour round trip from Sydney with Qantas sold out within 10 minutes, making it one of the airline’s fastest selling flights ever. Seat prices on the 10 October flight range from A$787 (£607) economy to $3,787 for first class.
Using 787 Dreamliner aircraft usually employed for long-haul international flights, Qantas’ Great Southern Land flight will fly as low as 4,000 feet (1,220 metres) over Queensland, the Northern Territory and New South Wales, giving passengers the chance to see Australia’s most famous landmarks, including Uluru, the Great Barrier Reef and Sydney harbour.
An advert for the trip promises it will “reignite the joy of flying”, adding “from the sky, there are no border restrictions”.
Qantas is not the first airline to introduce recreational flights in a bid to make up for financial losses inflicted by the Coronavirus pandemic. Last month Taiwanese airline EVA launched a Hello Kitty-themed flight that took off from Taipei airport and landed back there three hours later. Japan airline ANA plans to run two 90-minute “Hawaiian experience” flights in October after a sightseeing flight in August was massively oversubscribed. And Singapore Airlines is reported to be planning to launch no-destination flights by the end of October.
Climate campaigners have been quick to decry the trend and dismiss Qantas’ promise that its flight will be carbon neutral. “We’ve got to get our heads around the fact that flying can’t be emissions free anytime soon,” said Mark Carter of campaign group Flight Free Australia. He said passengers on board the Qantas flight will be increasing their annual emissions by 10% in just seven hours “as they gawk at the Barrier Reef they are helping to destroy”.
“Our home is on fire. At a time when all industries need to be urgently reducing their emissions massively, Qantas’s ‘sustainability’ claims of offsetting flight emissions is a scam that allows their emissions to continue on the back of buying the reductions of others. It’s like agreeing to pour a bucket of petrol on the burning house for every bucket of water you throw.”
Anna Hughes, director of sister campaign Flight Free UK, said “I understand why they are doing it – but it really is insanity – a flight to nowhere is simply emissions for the sake of it. If that’s the society we’ve built, where we’re that addicted to flying, then we have a serious problem.”