In an article about flight options, an illustration by June Le
What will be next? Cruise trips to nowhere? (Illustration by June Le, Minneapolis College of Art and Design)

Take a Flight to Nowhere: How Taiwan Is Adapting to the Pandemic

A Taiwanese airline has curated a new experience for those who still want to travel during the pandemic — flights that come right back to the same airport.

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In an article about flight options, an illustration by June Le

A Taiwanese airline has curated a new experience for those who still want to travel during the pandemic — flights that come right back to the same airport.

For frequent travelers, quarantine has been especially challenging. As we’ve been required to sit in our homes for months, the itch to travel has been steadily increasing.

However, when there is a life-changing event, innovation always follows. People get creative and make something out of nothing.

Now, an airline in Taiwan is giving travelers the ability to take a flight to nowhere. Want to enjoy flying again like you did during “precedented times”? Well, this experience can give you exactly that, and it won’t cost you that much either.

A Solution for Those With Wanderlust

As someone who goes on 10 or more flights a year, quarantine has been rough for me. Like many individuals across the world, I feel that the experience of going on a flight is part of the journey.

From the flight attendant showing the safety card video to the free snack offers that would wake me from my slumber, the experience of being on a flight was an important part of my travel journey. Now that things are completely different, companies across the world are adapting.

EVA Air, one of the biggest airlines in Taiwan, decided to completely change the travel game. Their mission was simple: “Satisfy people’s yearning for going abroad, without ever having to land anywhere.”

No hassle and no border restrictions. Just unobstructed views from the window seat as each passenger is reminded of the alluring Taiwanese coastline.

Passenger Experience

On August 8, EVA Air made history. The Hello Kitty-branded flight took off and then returned to the same airport 2 hours and 45 minutes later. The flight flew over northeast Taiwan to the Ryukyu Islands in Japan, and then over the eastern coastline of Taiwan.

The flight, which soared on Tawainese Father’s Day, was also branded with the numbers BR-5288, which sounds like “I love dad” when said out loud in Chinese.

During the flight, passengers indulged in an onboard meal designed by three-star Michelin chef, Motoke Nakamura. It included seafood, Chirashi sushi and beef sambal noodles. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t eaten very well during the quarantine.

Coming in at $180 (5,288 yuan), EVA Air’s experience is affordable and perfect for those who are trying all they can to stretch their cash. With in-flight entertainment and a decorated interior, the Hello Kitty plane brought joy to travelers.

If Hello Kitty isn’t your speed, the Tawainese airline offers accommodations for every type of guest. For parents who may be tired of having their children run around their house, EVA Air offers a unique experience.

Recently, at their headquarters in Taoyuan, 50 children participated in a course on how to serve passengers aboard a cabin. Cheng Yu-wei said he boarded the aircraft with his 6-year-old daughter, “To revive the old feeling of traveling.”

“Maybe it’s because we have been bored for too long,” Cheng said to Agence France-Presse.

Suited in new uniforms, the animated group of kids learned what it takes to be a flight attendant, and they were able to join their parents in a flight across the mountain range.

These innovative measures come at a time when airline companies across the world scramble for extra cash and the travel business is dried up.

Economic Impact

As many would assume, COVID-19 has impacted almost every sphere of life. Since March, four American airline companies and 13 companies outside of the U.S. have filed for bankruptcy or shut down operations, according to Airlines for America.

People are taking precautions to reduce being infected, but every measure comes at a cost. Airlines for America also reported that U.S. airline passenger volumes were 73% lower than they were in 2019, with New York, Hawaii, DC and several others having the lowest number of travelers going through TSA. The numbers are similar to those of international travel, which is almost nonexistent.

As you can imagine, EVA Air was no exception. In March, the company faced a 24% share price drop to around $8 (although recent stock prices have risen to $11). The drop greatly affected investors’ trust in the company and the travel industry.

According to The Diplomat, Taiwan’s transportation ministry released a $140 million bailout to the aviation industry, as the country heavily relies on international flights to sustain the sector.

“The aviation industry is being hit hard by the epidemic. It is the biggest victim,” transportation minister Lin Chia-lung said in March.

EVA Air called the pandemic an “avalanche,” and as a result, called for stricter measures. Out of this uncertainty, the company was able to move forward. By creating places for people to experience the wonders of aviation in a safe and fun way, the airline reinvented itself for the future, despite the pandemic.

What’s Next?

Over the next several weeks, both EVA and China Airlines have reported that they are quickly selling out, as people scramble to get a piece of the action. With only a small chance of passengers catching the virus, this may be the new normal for people in Taiwan who have been bitten by the travel bug.

“With widespread international travel unlikely in the foreseeable future, authorities have been encouraging Taiwanese to take domestic holidays instead,” said a Philippines online newspaper.

After seeing the success of airlines, cruise ship companies on the island have also offered trips for passengers to sail to nowhere.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced us all out of our comfort zones, but out of our bubbles comes innovation, not only for our lives, but for major companies.

A trip to nowhere reminds us that things will soon get back to normal, and we are all going to have to do things differently until then.

Like the great painter Pablo Picasso said, “Without great solitude, no serious work is possible.”

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