New mystery flights will take Australians … somewhere

To combat the “border blues,” Australia’s national carrier said Wednesday that it is launching three mystery flights to unspecified domestic destinations.

The announcement came a day after government officials announced the country’s international border closure would stretch through at least June, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Mystery-flight travelers will find themselves roughly two hours away from the departure airports in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. In addition to “low-level scenic flybys of key landmarks en route,” the trips will include a day’s worth of activities on the ground. The airline says that could include a winemaking course or live music on a tropical island — and promises to give passengers clues so they know what to wear and pack.

Qantas’s flights are a throwback to an earlier era: The airline last offered mystery flights in the 1990s, and other airlines in Australia and Germany have run similar excursions in years past. But the new option, which includes one trip each in March, April and May, has a coronavirus twist since Australians are mostly not allowed to leave the country — and have also faced domestic travel restrictions.

“Our customers tell us that where they can and can’t travel within Australia has been a bit of a mystery lately,” Stephanie Tully, Qantas Group’s chief customer officer, said in a news release. “The vaccine rollout is bringing a lot more certainty and domestic border restrictions should soon be a thing of the past. In the meantime, these flights turn that mystery into a positive by creating a unique experience for the many people keen to start traveling again.”

The airline said the flights are also meant to promote tourism in parts of the country that have been hit hard by the loss of travelers since last year.

The flight is far from low-cost: Fares, which include meals, drinks and experiences, cost the equivalent of $575 at current exchange rates for an economy seat and $1,232 for business class. Qantas said it will offset carbon emissions for all three flights.

Airlines have been trying to come up with ways to encourage travelers to fulfill their wanderlust — and make some money — as the pandemic has kept many flights grounded. An earlier sightseeing “flight to nowhere” that Qantas flew in October sold out in 10 minutes.

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