SEOUL: A total of 96 passengers boarded the ‘flight to nowhere’, flying from Incheon International Airport, to experience the Kota Kinabalu-themed sightseeing flight.

Flight to Nowhere is also known as scenic flights or sightseeing flights. Travellers get to experience all the airport and airline processes, but instead of arriving at a new destination, passengers will arrive at the same airport they departed from.

In support of the local aviation industry and duty-free sectors in South Korea that were affected by the global pandemic, the South Korean Government has extended its permission for its local-based airlines to operate the ‘Flights to Nowhere’ programme. Jin Air has taken this opportunity to operate the flights and Sabah has been selected as the 4th international destination after Hong Kong, Osaka, and Okinawa.

With the support from Sabah Tourism Board and assistance from Tourism Malaysia, Jin Air, one of the largest South Korean low-cost airlines, has launched its 4th ‘Flight to Nowhere’ on 25 July 2021. Departing at 12.40pm from Incheon International Airport, the flight route took the passengers low-flying over Daegu, Busan, and partially the Japanese airspace. It then completed the journey by arriving at the same place it took off from at 2.30 pm.

The Kota Kinabalu-themed sightseeing flight has attracted South Koreans’ attention with its variety of benefits and special inflight activities. Passengers boarding the flight were offered goodie bags prepared by Jin Air and Sabah Tourism Board to commemorate the occasion. Major duty-free shops in South Korea namely Shilla, Lotte, and Shinsegae have offered duty-free services on board. The cabin crew also prepared additional entertainment such as quizzes and lucky draws to keep the flight interesting. Round-trip tickets (Incheon – Kota Kinabalu) sponsored by Jin Air, as well as hotels and sunset cruise vouchers sponsored by the Sabah Tourism Board were offered as prizes to the passengers onboard.

“People clearly miss the experience of flying. These experiences will surely offer opportunities for them to remember Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia as a top-of-the-mind tourist destination,” said Mr. Shaharuddin Yahya, Director of Tourism Malaysia Seoul Office. Given its success on the first Flight to Nowhere project, Sabah Tourism Board together with the Tourism Malaysia Seoul Office is planning to continue this activity with other South Korean airlines including Air Busan and Jeju Air with an increased number of flights in August 2021.

“Flight to Nowhere is the closest thing to travel abroad and it accommodates travelstarved travellers,” said Madam Noredah Othman, General Manager of Sabah Tourism Board. “We welcome Koreans to visit us again once the international travel borders reopen,” she added.

With most international flights suspended or severely reduced over a year due to COVID19, the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs in South Korea has been supporting aviation and tourism by permitting ‘flights to nowhere’ and it has proven to be incredibly popular among those who feel nostalgic for the pre-pandemic days.

Sabah has been one of the top holiday destinations in Southeast Asia among the South Koreans prior to the outbreak. Nearly 400,000 South Koreans were recorded visiting Sabah in 2019 with 67 direct flights departing from Incheon, Busan, and Muan to Kota Kinabalu. -Bernama