ARE PLEASURE FLIGHTS SIMPLY A BAD IDEA?

In adapting to change, our perspectives on many habits, hobbies and things we considered luxuries have shifted.
But as we imagine a post-pandemic life, will we continue to challenge our conditioned beliefs and ideals for sustained, long-term change, or revert back to the previous ‘norm’?

There are many lessons to extract from 2020, and as we move into the new year, it’s natural to look back and assess how our lifestyles have changed.

Before the pandemic, an increasingly time-poor society was feeding their wanderlust with weekend breaks and micro trips, however now with continued and stricter travel restrictions, pleasure flights are increasing in popularity. Essentially, it’s flying for flying’s sake.

In Autumn 2020, Qantas launched a ‘Flight to Nowhere’ package which sold out within a matter of minutes; the fastest selling flight in the Australian airline’s history. A direct response to the impact of Covid-19 on travelling and in particular air travel, the flight offered passengers aerial views over some of Australia’s most scenic landscapes. It was marketed as purely recreational, aiming to “reignite the joy of flying” amidst a world in the throes of a pandemic, as “from the sky, there are no border restrictions”.

For up to $1,999 USD travellers embarked on a seven-hour round trip which flew over Queensland, the Gold Coast, New South Wales, the outback, Sydney Harbour and the Great Barrier Reef.

This is not an anomaly; other recreational flights across various airlines were oversubscribed, including a three hour-long Hello Kitty-themed flight from Taipei run by Taiwanese airline EVA. In Japan, Fuji Dream Airlines worked around the closure of Mount Fuji (due to COVID-19) by offering a 90 minute sightseeing flight experience where travellers could enjoy Japan’s tallest mountain from a bird’s-eye view. Proving to be extremely popular, the flight sold out immediately, compelling the airline to add on further dates. 2020 also saw Royal Brunei offer a ‘Dine and Fly’ experience, where passengers ate a meal while flying around the country for 85-minutes.

These flights are designed to be as entertaining as possible, with airport and on-board surprises, decorations and themes. But after how long does staring out of a window begin to get tedious? As much as we miss travel, aren’t these ‘joy flights’ just a blatant waste of time, money and fuel? While it may temporarily satiate the cravings of a minority with disposable income to spend on this seemingly purposeless travel trend, the negative implications are suffered by all; not only bad for the environment but put people’s lives at risk too.

Airlines were quick to stipulate the low-level risks involved with air travel as well as additional precautionary measures being taken, but even with air filtration, frequent cleaning and mask wearing, there’s still the inevitability that passengers will be in close proximity to each other both in airport queues and when on-board. We all know there’s no social distancing on an aeroplane.

A study carried out by LSE (London School of Economics) estimated that in the UK in 2020, emissions due to passenger air travel were 41.5 percent lower than what they would have been had the COVID-19 pandemic not occurred.

So, perhaps rather than trying to compensate for the past year’s disruption to air travel with these harmful pleasure flights and panic-booking trips to make up for lost time we ought to reassess our air travel habits for good and consider: How can the consequent deduction in flying actually be sustained, so that we can continue to mitigate carbon emissions? As consumers in this industry, the demand created by us is what influences business decisions and has the power to tip the scales when it comes to industry-wide trends, so let’s keep making conscious, sustainable travel decisions.