The FINANCIAL — More than 130 Australians have bought a ticket to nowhere, with Qantas’ “Great Southern Land” joy flight now one of its fastest-selling flights ever. Passengers have been promised great views of Australian icons like the Great Barrier Reef and Uluru, which are off-limits to many people due to border closures. Proving how popular these now are, a sightseeing flight to nowhere offered by Qantas sold out in minutes, according to the airline, with passengers eager to take to the skies at a time when Australia has grounded almost all international flights paying premium prices. Qantas also offers a 13-hour nonstop flight to the frozen continent – Antarctica and back.
Australian air carrier Qantas announced that a seven-hour scenic “flight to nowhere,” which will take off and land at the same airport amid interstate travel restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic, sold out in 10 minutes. The unusual flight is scheduled to depart from Sydney on Oct. 10 and return on the same day, making absolutely no stops while promising passengers low-level scenic views over Uluru and the Great Barrier Reef, among other spots. Buyers quickly snatched up the 134 available seats, priced between $575 and $2,765 depending on the seating class, a Qantas spokeswoman told Reuters. Passengers are set to travel on a wide-body Boeing 787, normally used for long-distance international travel, according to Fox News.
The seven-hour scenic flight will perform a giant loop taking in Queensland and the Gold Coast, New South Wales, and the country’s remote outback heartlands. From above, keen fliers should be able to spot famous Aussie attractions including Sydney Harbour and the Great Barrier Reef. The jet will do a low flyover over certain landmarks, including Uluru and Bondi Beach. Special onboard entertainment is promised too, including a surprise celebrity host. Right now, there are very few flights operating to and from Australia due to travel restrictions and Qantas international fleet has been grounded, CNN reported.
Qantas says the plane will fly as low as 4,000 feet to get passengers as close as possible to these landmarks. “We knew this flight would be popular, but we didn’t expect it to sell out in 10 minutes,” a Qantas spokesperson said. Captain David Summergreene will pilot the flight on October 10 and said he was “super stoked” to be flying again after months out of the cockpit, ABC News wrote.
Qantas spokesperson also said that it is probably the fastest selling flight in Qantas history and people clearly miss travel and the experience of flying. In a statement posted on Facebook, Qantas said borders need to reopen to support regional communities, local businesses, and the larger tourism industry. “The health response to this crisis is our most important priority. And like many Australians, we believe a shared framework should determine when our borders open,” Qantas said, according to Yahoo Finance.
The carrier has also enabled separate “joy flights” to take place in Antarctica. Planes specially acquired for the planned UK-Australia nonstop route are being redeployed by Qantas on 13-hour nonstop roundtrips from Melbourne, organised by Antarctica Flights. Passengers are invited to pay upwards of A$1,199 (£656) for a 13-hour flight to the frozen continent and back. Much of the journey is oversea, with around one-third of it spent above the Antarctic continent. “While over Antarctica, most passengers get up from their seats and move about the aircraft, allowing everyone on board to enjoy excellent viewing opportunities,” says the company, Independent reported.
It is also interesting to note that on September 1 The Qantas Group has confirmed a 10 year, $500 million unsecured bond issue as part of ongoing management of its debt maturity profile. The proceeds strengthen short term liquidity and then are used to pay $400 million in bonds due to expire in June 2021. The coupon for the new bond, which was oversubscribed, is 5.25 percent – significantly lower than the 7.5 percent funding it replaces. Qantas is one of few airlines with continued access to long term, unsecured bond markets. Access to this and other funding sources in recent months – including secured debt and equity markets – during the COVID crisis reflects the national carrier’s strong overall position, the importance of aviation to its home market of Australia, and its clear recovery plan.
It is interesting to note that International tourist arrivals plunged 93% in June when compared to 2019, with the latest data from the World Tourism Organization showing the severe impact COVID-19 has had on the sector. According to the new issue of the World Tourism Barometer from the United Nations specialized agency, international tourist arrivals dropped by 65% during the first half of the year. This represents an unprecedented decrease, as countries around the world closed their borders and introduced travel restrictions in response to the pandemic. Read more.