NARITA, Chiba -- In an attempt to give passengers a taste of travel amid restrictions flying overseas, Japanese airlines are resuming scenic flights previously suspended due to the pandemic.
All Nippon Airways Co. (ANA) has been using a super-large aircraft especially for Narita-Honolulu flights on scenic tours; a parent and child sea turtles are painted on its body. Meanwhile, Japan Airlines Co. (JAL) has launched a series of "feel overseas" scenic flights with themes including Singapore and the United States.
On April 11, an ANA A380 carrying 300 passengers took off from Narita International Airport in Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo. The aircraft passed over Mount Fuji, the west Japan Shikoku region, and Kagoshima Prefecture before changing course to fly over Wakayama and Fukushima prefectures, and landing at Narita three hours and 20 minutes later.
Because the A380 is a dedicated aircraft for the Narita-Honolulu route, Hawaiian images and music were broadcast on board, and in-flight meals from the Honolulu route menu served. This scenic flight program began in August 2020; at one point, applications were 150 times capacity, and popularity remains high.
Hitomi Fukaya, 17, a high school student in Obu, Aichi Prefecture, said, "The sea turtle design is so cute, and I've always wanted to ride one. It's a comfortable journey with an atmosphere like a resort; it makes me feel like I'm visiting a foreign country."
To create memories, the pilots handed out stickers to the children at the boarding gate, and the flight attendants presented message cards to birthday children on board.
Kanami Okitsu, 28, a flight attendant on the scenic flight for the first time, said, "I felt the passengers were more excited than on a normal flight. I'm looking forward to the day when I can go to Honolulu with everyone."
In contrast, JAL conducted a Taiwan-themed scenic flight to and from Narita on April 3 attended by 153 people. The walls onboard were decorated with bright red ornaments and pictures, and images of famous tourist spots were shown on inflight entertainment screens to create a Taiwanese atmosphere. For the in-flight meal, local specialties such as "chimaki" rice dumpling, dim sum and mango pudding were served. The about three-hour tour, which took passengers over the Pacific Ocean after passing Mount Fuji and other places, created a heart-shaped flight path.
The director of the Taiwan tourism association's Tokyo office, which devised the event in cooperation with JAL and other organizations, explained, "We wanted passengers to feel Taiwan's atmosphere, since tourism between Japan and Taiwan is not possible at the moment."
A photo session with staff members dressed in Amis ethnic minority costumes was held at the boarding gate, and an on-board raffle to win Taiwanese tea and seasonings also went ahead.
Both airlines canceled scenic flights between Jan. 7 and March 21, when the coronavirus state of emergency was declared in Tokyo and surrounding areas, and resumed them after it was lifted. ANA plans to conduct a total of six scenic flights to and from Narita during Japan's "Golden Week" holidays between late April and early May, and JAL is planning six flights between May and October. However, the two airlines are cautioning that the scenic flight could be canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
(Japanese original by Tadakazu Nakamura, Narita Bureau)