For many avid travellers and frequent flyers, international (and even domestic) travel is off the cards. However, a new trend is emerging; joy flights onboard large commercial airliners.
While most joy flights before COVID were on single-engine Cessna aircraft, this is the era of COVID-19! However, the principle remains mostly the same; you board the domestic flight and land again at the same airport.
Taiwan is not a large island, so domestic flights from end-to-end are almost non-existent. For avid travellers, a longer flight is a necessity. These immensely popular flights are operated by EVA Air, China Airlines and Tigerair Taiwan. Newcomer Starlux is also getting in on the action.
EVA Air’s offering is extravagant, to say the least. Using its Hello Kitty branded Airbus A330-300s, EVA’s father’s day joy flight took-off and landed at Taipei Taoyuan Airport. Onboard the flight, which operated on 8th August, passengers were served meals designed by three-star Michelin chef Motokazu Nakamura.
The flight was about three hours long, which allowed passengers to capture views of Guishan Island and the picturesque Huadong coast. The aircraft then headed south to Eluanbi and Xiaoliuqiu, before returning to Taipei. Unlike a standard commercial flight, this one flew at 20,000 feet.
Onboard EVA Air flight BR5288, each passenger was served an exquisite Michelin meal. Some highlights included 海鮮丼 (sashimi over rice) and 牛肉麵 (braised beef noodle soup).
Flight BR5288 is significant for Taiwanese fathers day, as it sounds similar to “I love dad” in Mandarin Chinese. Tickets cost TWD5,288 ($180) for Economy. Passengers could also choose to upgrade their seats to Business class for an additional TWD1,000 ($34).
“[We launched] a special flight [to allow] everyone to go abroad… [The flight] will surely surprise Hello Kitty fans, aviation fans and people who love to go abroad.”
「我們推出了」專案航班… 大家一起圓夢出國去，一定會讓Hello Kitty迷、航空迷及熱愛出國的民眾驚喜連連。EVA Air press release (TRANSLATED)
Taiwanese startup Starlux, which launched in January 2020, has also operated joy flights onboard their Airbus A321neo aircraft. On 7th August, flight JX-8888 left Taipei Taoyuan Airport for a three-hour scenic flight around the Taiwanese coast and the Philippines.
Like EVA Air, Starlux also loaded Michelin-starred meals onboard. A diverse Asian selection was offered to passengers; featuring dishes from Longtail Taipei and barbecue from Hutong, according to Taiwan News.
The flight was piloted by Starlux chairman Chang Kuo-wei, who is a seasoned captain himself. At NT$4,688 (US$160) a seat, the 188 tickets sold out in minutes.
Because of the flight’s popularity, Starlux has vowed to run these flights regularly.