December 12, 2020 08:14
Cash-strapped airlines are enticing deprived would-be travelers with flights that go nowhere and land where they started.
Some carriers began offering the flights on an experimental basis in October and were surprised by the uptake. Now they are expanding them from domestic airspace to overseas. One lure is that duty-free purchases are possible just like on normal flights.
Asiana Airlines, Jeju Air, Jin Air, T'way Air, Air Busan and Air Seoul are deploying 26 aircraft on nowhere flights twice a week until Jan. 2.
Asiana offers a flight that takes off from Incheon International Airport on Saturday and flies over Miyazaki, Japan. It takes three hours and 20 minutes, and out of 78 business suite class seats priced at W400,000 and business class seats priced at W350,000, only six were left on Thursday afternoon (US$1=W1,092). Half of the 393 economy-class seats priced at W250,000 were also booked.
Air Busan started offering a W99,000 flight to nowhere. Asiana and Jin Air flights on Christmas eve and Air Busan and Jeju Air's flights on Christmas day are particularly popular among fliers who want to buy duty-free gifts. Asiana is also offering a "long-haul" flight that takes off at 5:30 a.m. on Jan. 1 and returns at 8:50 p.m. that day.
The response is a godsend to the travel industry. Asiana and Hana Tour collaborated in late October to offer tour programs consisting of domestic flights to nowhere and accommodation, which proved a hit.
"A program that included a business class seat and overnight stay in a hotel in Incheon were sold out in just a minute," a Hana Tour staffer said. Customers who bought the package flew over Jeju Island for two-and-a-half hours and were served crew meals and given a pilot log book as a gift.
The duty-free industry is also eager to benefit from the new trend by offering steep discounts. According to the Korea Duty Free Shops Association, domestic duty-free shop sales from January to October of this year plummeted 36.4 percent on-year to W12.9 trillion.
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