Korean Air Mulls International Sightseeing Flights To Nowhere

Korean Air is set to operate international sightseeing flights after being granted approval by Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport. The airline plans to commence its ‘flights to nowhere’ from February 27th onwards, with the destination rumored to be Japan.

Korean Air Staff
Korean Air is set to fly sightseeing passengers over Japan. Photo: Korean Air

Korean Air joins the flights to nowhere club

Following the example of other airlines over the COVID pandemic – including ANA, Qantas, and Air India – Korean Air plans to launch flights to nowhere at the end of the month. However, unlike most other carriers, Korean Air plans to go international with its sightseeing flights. The ‘destination’ is believed to be Japan, although nothing official has been confirmed yet. A spokesperson told Simple Flying:

“No details are yet confirmed. We are reviewing possible impacts very carefully, especially considering the safety of travel.”

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The airline has been granted approval by the relevant authorities. Photo: Getty Images

Flights to nowhere have been a novel way for airlines to bring in revenues and keep their planes and crew in shape. Korean Air was given the green light by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport, Korea’s aviation regulatory body. The airline has permission to begin its flights to nowhere from February 27th. In a statement to the Business Traveler, a Korean Air representative said,

“We have been getting some requests from the tourism industry. We’re currently in preparation for operation of the sightseeing flight, and discussing time of the sale with related parties such as agencies.”

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How common are international sightseeing flights?

This isn’t the first time international flights to nowhere have been put forward. As airlines aren’t actually landing planes on foreign territory, international flights to nowhere are possible without running afoul of international travel restrictions. Asiana Airlines was set to roll out its own international sightseeing flights in December, with Japan as its destination. However, due to a spike in Korean COVID cases, the airline scrapped the whole idea.

Asiana Korean Airlines
Rival Asiana Airlines flew an international flight to nowhere with an occupancy of 35%. Photo: Getty Images

Asiana did manage to operate a single flight over Japan on December 12th but abandoned the scheme soon after. Air Seoul, a subsidiary of Asiana, also scrapped its plans for international flights to nowhere around the same time. With Korean Air stepping up its own plans for sightseeing flights, there’s every chance Asiana will reintroduce their flights to nowhere in the coming weeks.

Korean Air emerges from 2020 in good health

There has been some good news recently for Korean Air after the carrier announced it turned an operating profit through 2020. Despite carriers worldwide hemorrhaging money to stay afloat, Korean Air managed to post operating profits of $219 million. It managed this by cutting its operating costs by 40% and focusing heavily on cargo operations.

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Korean Air and Asiana may soon merge and become one of the world’s largest carriers. Photo: byeangel via Wikimedia Commons

The airline is in the middle of a mammoth merger deal with Korean rival Asiana Airlines. If successful, the $1.3bn acquisition would establish one of the biggest airlines in the world. While Korean Air has argued the merger will improve competitiveness, detractors claim the deal will disadvantage Korean aviation and may invoke the ire of antitrust authorities.

Would you consider going on a ‘flight to nowhere’ from your local airport? Let us know what you think in the comments.