Taipei, Taiwan   |  Sun, September 20, 2020  |  06:21 pm

On Saturday, a Taiwanese airline carried about 120 passengers on a “flight to nowhere” to view Jeju’s South Korean resort island, before heading straight back home, the new gimmick to give people a glimpse of normality during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines, tough border restrictions to keep the coronavirus under control have led to a 97.5 percent plunge in international travel in the region.

Many frequent flyers lacking to get on aircraft and airlines like Taiwan’s EVA Airways Corp and Japan’s ANA Holdings Inc, desperate for revenue and keeping the licenses of their pilots up to date, have provided special sightseeing flights.

Saturday’s flight from Taipei’s Taoyuan International Airport by Tigerair Taiwan, the low-cost unit of Taiwan ‘s largest carrier China Airlines, took off from Taipei’s Taoyuan International Airport and flew up to Jeju, circling low in order to give passengers a chance to see the island, amid restricted views, and then return to Taiwan.

“I feel like I haven’t been abroad for a long time and I think this is a very special thing. It’s a nice deal,” said Chen Shu-tzu, 43, a passenger.

To mark the flight, some passengers wore traditional Korean dress.

“Before the flight took off, passengers and workers posed for pictures, carrying a sign reading in Chinese, Korean and English:” South Korea is missing you. Tigerair Taiwan Longing flight (to) take off.

Although international travel has plummeted, in Taiwan, where the pandemic is well under control, domestic travel is booming.

Flights to the sun-drenched offshore islands of Taiwan and the rugged east coast are full, with Tigerair leasing out some of its aircraft to bolster domestic supplies.

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