Karyn Thomas hasn’t set foot outside Australia since October 2019, but she has chased the vivid green glow of the Southern Lights through the skies just north of Antarctica. That’s because the avid traveller was on the first-ever Aurora Australis flight earlier this month, organised by the company Chimu Adventures, which chartered a Qantas Dreamliner for an adventure that began and ended at Sydney Airport.
“Arriving at the airport late in the afternoon with bags packed was very exciting,” says Thomas, a keen photographer. “Getting on the plane you had the pillow, the blankets and the snack packs, so it did bring back memories of international travel and the excitement. Everyone felt like they were going somewhere special – the same as going overseas.”
Australia’s borders have been closed for more than a year because of the pandemic, so the 10-hour trip offered the kind of plane adventure that is otherwise inaccessible at the moment. It’s one of several such experiences that have become popular over the past year. When Qantas offered a seven-hour ‘flight to nowhere’ in October out of Sydney that flew passengers over the Outback and Great Barrier Reef, seats reportedly sold out in fewer than 10 minutes. Other airlines have launched pop-up restaurants inside jumbo jets, tours of crew training facilities and at-home delivery of in-flight meals – all of which have become hot-ticket items even as the airline industry deals with its worst-ever crisis.
In a year of travel restrictions and cancelled plans, these kinds of aviation-related experiences seem to have become a proxy for the freedoms and frivolities of our pre-pandemic lives. And for the airlines, these new creative endeavours have helped keep brands in the public eye – and remind some of us of the excitement of flying at a time when we feel more grounded than ever… (continue reading at the BBC)