Travel-starved tourists board fake flight to nowhere in Taiwan

It was a moment the passengers on the China Airlines A330 had waited months for.

After printing boarding passes, checking their luggage, and finding their gate at Taiwan’s Songshan Airport, the 60 passengers boarded their first flight since the coronavirus outbreak. It was just like any number of departures in happier times.

Only, this plane was not bound for any exciting overseas holiday destination. This was a flight to nowhere.

Those with a seat had been selected from a lottery of some 7000 travel-starved Taiwanese passengers.

The “flight” had been arranged as a way to highlight improvements to Songshan Airport and even though it never left the ground the gimmick was overwhelmed by high demand.

In fact, the non-flight was so successful that two further “departures” have been planned from the airport.

Although passengers didn’t gain much altitude during the 30minues aboard the plane, they came away from the experience smiling.

“I hope the epidemic ends soon so we can really fly away,”one 48-year-old passenger told Reuters.

“I really want to leave the country,” said another travel-starved passenger “but because of the epidemic lots of flights can’t fly.”

“People who didn’t have the opportunity to take international flights at Songshan can use this chance to experience and learn more about the boarding process and relevant service facilities,” the airport’s deputy director Chih-ching Wang told The Telegraph.

The coronavirus pandemic has hardly affected Taiwan. The island has recorded fewer than 500 cases and 19 deaths in a population of 24 million.

In spite of being one of the most successful countries in their response to Covid-19, there have been few opportunities for overseas travel for Taiwanese tourists.

The country has poured almost $200 into domestic travel promotion and aid for local travel initiatives.

However, it seems some travellers can’t wait for the planes to start flying again to far flung destinations.



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