Taiwan airlines’ flight packages to nowhere draw strong response

Passengers will travel on a Hello Kitty-themed jet for EVA Airways' Father's Day flight (Courtesy of EVA Airways)

TAIPEI (CNA) — Half-day tours in the air being offered by Taiwanese airlines have been quickly sold out as people unable to travel overseas during the COVID-19 pandemic seek other ways to satisfy their wanderlust.

Border restrictions in other countries and 14-day quarantine requirements when entering Taiwan have essentially shut down overseas leisure travel since the COVID-19 crisis began, creating pent-up urges among many to simply get on a plane.

Airlines are capitalizing on that by offering flights out of Taoyuan International Airport that fly over Taiwan or toward neighboring countries before landing back at the same airport, and consumers are snapping up the tickets.

Local startup carrier StarLux Airlines said all 188 slots for a flight piloted by its chairman, Chang Kuo-wei (張國煒), were sold out within five minutes after going on sale Tuesday.

The Aug. 7 flight will head south along Taiwan’s east coast and down to near the Philippines before returning on the same route, the carrier said.

Branded an “omakase tour” in reference to the Japanese term for leaving the dishes to be served up to the chef, StarLux will serve food from a Michelin-starred restaurant on board and partner with a five-star hotel to offer accommodation to business class passengers.

Tickets for the Airbus A321neo flight from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. cost NT$4,688 (US$159) in economy class and NT$20,888 for a business class seat, which included a Westin Tashee Resort two-day, one-night package for two people.

Because of the strong demand, the airline said it will launch a second similar trip in the future.

EVA Airways (EVA Air) also sold out all 309 seats on a special A330-300 Father’s Day flight after they went on sale last week.

The Aug. 8 flight will cross northeastern Taiwan and head close to the Ryukyu Islands in Japan before heading south along Taiwan’s east coast. Once it reaches Taiwan’s southern tip, it will then turn around and fly back to the Taoyuan airport.

Flight BR5288, which sounds similar to “BR I love Dad” in Chinese, will depart from Taoyuan at 10:30 a.m. and return at 1:15 p.m.

The airfare was NT$5,288 for economy class seats and NT$6,288 for business class seats.

China Airlines (CAL) also sold out tickets on July 30 for special flights on Aug. 8 and Aug. 15 targeting children aged 6-10 and their parents.

A mother and son who participated in a fake going abroad program organized by Taipei Songshan Airport pose with two China Airlines boarding passes

The children will be given instruction on being a flight attendant and dressed up in a flight attendant’s uniform during a pre-flight class before boarding the Boeing 737-800 with their parents on a two-hour flight around the island, the carrier said.

Tickets for each parent-child pair will cost NT$6,000 in economy class and NT$8,000 in business class, with participants able to dine both in CAL’s lounge and on board.

Budget airline Tigerair Taiwan, a CAL subsidiary, put up 90 tickets for sale on July 28 for a four-hour flight on Aug. 6, and they were gone in 20 minutes.

Dubbed “Michelin dining in the air,” the flight on an A320 aircraft will serve dishes from Michelin one-star restaurant Da-Wan on its trip from Taoyuan to near Fukuoka in Japan and then back to Taoyuan, the airline said.

Passengers will also each be given a free Taiwan-Japan ticket for a destination of their choice that can be used up to one year after travel restrictions between the two countries are lifted, according to the airline.

According to the airport, it is currently handling about 2,000 passengers a day, compared with an average of about 131,500 a day in 2019.