Proving the ‘flights to nowhere’ trend is taking off, Thai Airways has given religious tourists a bird’s-eye view of 99 holy places across Thailand. Olivia Palamountain reports
Led by “celebrity fortune teller and religion history expert” Dr Khata Chinbunchon at the end of November, the “Thai Magical Flying Experience Campaign” from Thai Airways gave Buddhists the chance to see 99 sacred sights from the air, complete with chanting.
Passengers on the Thai Airways flight from Bangkok received Buddhist prayer books and a special in-flight meal while flying over temples in 31 provinces before returning home. Tickets ranged in price from 5,999 baht (£149) to 9,999 baht (£248).
The sacred sights included Bangkok’s Wat Arun and Wat Phra Kaew (commonly known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha), Phra Samut Chedi in Samut Prakarn, Wat Phra Boromma That Chaiya in Surat Thani and UNESCO-listed heritage sites in Sukhothai and Ayutthaya, in the kingdom’s central plains.
Part of a plan to boost domestic tourism, the initiative comes hot on the heels of similar offerings from the likes of Qantas, China Airlines and Eva Air, all of which have launched their own series of scenic and themed flights over the past few months. Globetrender has also reported on Covid-secure luxury cruises to nowhere, recently launched in Singapore.
Tourism accounts for up to 20 per cent of GDP in Thailand, and in a blow to the national carrier, the kingdom has remained shut to foreign travellers throughout the pandemic. However, the airline had been struggling even before coronavirus turned travel upside down. Estimates suggest it is now buried under £6 billion worth of debt.
Still, Thai Airways has been a pioneer of creative initiatives that boost revenue. The airline has put bags made from life vests and slide rafts on sale, opened an airline-themed café selling in-flight meals in Bangkok, and a food stall selling dough fritters. It has also opened its Airbus and Boeing flight simulators to the public.
In the autumn, Thailand reopened its borders to international travellers with the launch of a new 90-day Special Tourist Visa (STV).