Leading Japanese airline All Nippon Airways (ANA) has repurposed one of its flagship ‘Flying Honu’ planes – a double-decker A380 painted to look like a sea turtle – into a so-called ‘sightseeing flight’ above Tokyo.
COVID-related regulations saw the plane take off at only 64 per cent capacity, and passengers were chosen by lottery, with those that did make the cut enjoying 90 minutes in the air on the airline’s first full flight since June.
The plane normally runs between Narita Airport and Hawaii, so flyers sipped mojitos and pineapple juice served by cabin crew in vibrant Hawaiian shirts, enjoyed video screenings and a raffle, and took home toy turtle plus other souvenirs.
It may sound unorthodox, but it’s far from the first initiative to feature destination-less planes.
Earlier this year, Taiwanese airline EVA Air marked Father’s Day with a luxury Hello Kitty-themed flight – which took off from Taipei’s Taoyuan Airport and then landed there again three hours later.
A bit like an airborne cruise, the plane was laden with Hello Kitty memorabilia, Hello Kitty-branded seats, and staff wearing Hello Kitty printed aprons. Above and beyond most business classes, guests were also served a seafood feast designed by three-Michelin-starred chef Motokazu Nakamura.
Viewed on a flight map, the plane traced out a love heart just below Taiwan’s southern tip – a trick the airline later repeated, tracing out a thumbs up to thank carers.
The Hello Kitty plane went one better than a previous Taiwanese initiative at Songshan Airport, just across Taipei, in which passengers didn’t even make it off the runway.
The half-day ‘fake flight experience’ saw punters arrive at the airport, print off boarding passes, go through security, board a waiting plane and chat to the crew – before getting off and going home.
It might not sound a suitable substitute, but the first flight saw some 7000 applications for 60 spots.
So far, flying for the sake of flying remains a niche phenomenon. Airlines are no doubt hoping that regular service resumes before the trend has a chance to fully catch on!
Do you enjoy flying? Would you ever take a flight for the sake of flying or is it more about the destination for you?
– With PA
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