Buckle Up: 5 Wacky New Air Travel Trends That Prove Flying Isn’t What It Used To Be

Post originally Published January 31, 2024 || Last Updated January 31, 2024

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Buckle Up: 5 Wacky New Air Travel Trends That Prove Flying Isn’t What It Used To Be

In 2020, a curious new aviation trend took flight: so-called "flights to nowhere." These are round-trip flights that depart and land at the same airport with no actual destination. While the idea may seem odd, flights to nowhere gained popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic when regular air travel halted.

For aviation enthusiasts missing the thrill of flying, these novel joyrides provided a way to re-experience some of what they loved about air travel. Singapore Airlines, Qantas, and Japan's ANA were some of the first carriers to offer special scenic flights. Tickets for these trips sold out almost instantly, proving strong demand.

On a Qantas seven-hour flight over Australia, travelers enjoyed sweeping views of famous landscapes like the Great Barrier Reef and Uluru. Complimentary in-flight meals matched the journey's sightseeing theme. At journey's end, guests emerged invigorated. For those accustomed to lengthy flights, the novelty and nostalgia made the time pass quickly.
While flights to nowhere originated as a pandemic stop-gap, some airlines plan to continue offering them post-COVID. Travelers cite benefits like experiencing aircraft amenities without the stress of airport connections. The flights allow aviation buffs to sample different classes of service more affordably. With climate change concerns mounting, some carriers aim to make these trips carbon-neutral.
That said, flights to nowhere have drawbacks. Environmental groups decry the unnecessary emissions. Critics argue the flights contradict sustainability initiatives underway at many airlines. Additionally, while scenic flights represent an easy way for carriers to generate revenue amid low demand, consumer advocates contend their novelty value doesn't justify the expense.

What else is in this post?

  1. Buckle Up: 5 Wacky New Air Travel Trends That Prove Flying Isn't What It Used To Be - The Rise of "Flights to Nowhere"
  2. Buckle Up: 5 Wacky New Air Travel Trends That Prove Flying Isn't What It Used To Be - In-Flight Yoga and Meditation Classes Take Off
  3. Buckle Up: 5 Wacky New Air Travel Trends That Prove Flying Isn't What It Used To Be - From Tiny Houses to Tiny Plane Cabins
  4. Buckle Up: 5 Wacky New Air Travel Trends That Prove Flying Isn't What It Used To Be - In-Flight Entertainment Gets Out of This World
  5. Buckle Up: 5 Wacky New Air Travel Trends That Prove Flying Isn't What It Used To Be - Airline Food Goes Gourmet
  6. Buckle Up: 5 Wacky New Air Travel Trends That Prove Flying Isn't What It Used To Be - Snacking in the Skies: New Onboard Dining Options
  7. Buckle Up: 5 Wacky New Air Travel Trends That Prove Flying Isn't What It Used To Be - Ultra-Long Haul Routes Link the globe
  8. Buckle Up: 5 Wacky New Air Travel Trends That Prove Flying Isn't What It Used To Be - Cabins Designed for Health and Wellness

For harried travelers, spending hours cooped up in a plane can be stressful. However, some innovative carriers now offer in-flight yoga and meditation to help passengers find their zen. These classes provide physical and mental health benefits that can turn tense travelers into tranquil globetrotters.

A pioneer of onboard wellness, Taiwan's EVA Air was one of the first to offer "Hello Kitty"-themed flight yoga in 2013. Stretching gently in seats, travelers followed along with an in-flight video. The classes proved so popular EVA Air expanded their wellness offerings. Lufthansa and Air New Zealand also jumped on board. On select long-haul flights, passengers can now participate in guided meditations broadcast through headsets. Enthusiasts cite feelings of calm and restored energy upon landing.
Y7 Yoga, a yoga chain with studios across Asia, partnered with Thailand's Bangkok Airways in 2016 to create yoga classes.Before sun salutations in the aisles, instructors demonstrate proper form using seat backs for support. Mindful movement helps prevent stiffness from prolonged sitting. Care is taken to avoid disturbing others. After class, passengers often nap or work peacefully.

While in-flight wellness is not widespread yet, advocates enthuse about its benefits. Yoga devotee Lenka Purnerova said mid-air stretches on her 14-hour Melbourne-London trek made her flight breezier. "Being able to move and breathe consciously definitely made the lengthy journey more pleasant. I arrived markedly less fatigued and jet lagged," she remarked.
Critics argue cramped cabins aren't conducive to yoga. Indeed, auspicious alignment and lifts like sun salutations are impossible. However, simple seated twists and forward folds can relax the body. Restorative poses also work well. Airlines seem sensitive to passengers who don't wish to participate, keeping classes optional. Many fliers just don headsets and close eyes to meditate.

The tiny house movement has captivated imaginations worldwide in recent years. This trend toward minimalist living has inspired some innovative aircraft cabin designs that provide more spaciousness and comfort without requiring larger planes. While airplane bathrooms seem to shrink with each generation of aircraft, some carriers are thinking outside the box about how to maximize precious cabin real estate.

Singapore Airlines made waves in late 2022 when it announced new A380 layouts by 2024. Working with renowned design firm JPA Design andBritish yacht interior specialists Hirsch Bedner Associates, Singapore Airlines aims to enhance premium cabin comfort through thoughtful space planning. While the final designs remain top-secret, industry insiders expect creative use of mirrors, textiles, lighting and textures to create an airier aesthetic.

Rethinking traditional cabin layouts, new plans reduce eight first class suites to six more lavish ones without reducing the A380's overall passenger capacity. Suites promise bespoke furnishings like swiveling cocktail tables and integrated ambient lighting. Adjustable dividers between middle suites allow friends traveling together more options. Singapore Airlines executives call this a "brand-defining product" central to the carrier's reputation for premium service.

Some budget airlines take a different approach by tapping rising consumer interest in tiny homes. Colorado-based Frontier Airlines plans to install bunk beds on selected overnight routes by late 2023. Bunks built into the cabin walls feature personal TVs, USB ports, and privacy curtains. While not full-lie flat, Frontier's president claims their restorative rest potential outshines traditional reclining seats. Reservations for these quasi-sleeper pods receive priority boarding.

Frontier executives explain that by stacking bunks, more travelers can sleep comfortably per flight without extensive aircraft redesigns. They describe the experience as akin to luxury hostel travel popular with Millennials. For now, Frontier aims to offer bunk beds on key red-eye routes like Denver to Orlando. If successful, wider installation could ensure better rested customers.

For generations, in-flight entertainment has tried distracting passengers from the tedium of travel with lackluster movies, TV reruns, and glitchy games. However, today's connected travelers expect more immersive, high-tech options when spending hours aloft. Airlines worldwide now endeavor to deliver next-level entertainment that's literally out of this world.

At the 2022 Airline Passenger Experience Association expo, airline executives previewed sci-fi worthy entertainment advances aiming to dazzle customers. Many center on virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR). Soon travelers may explore virtual worlds, attend Interactive concerts or become gaming avatars via airline-provided headsets. VR already succeeded in Qatar Airways' Oculus-powered "QVerse" program. CEO Akbar Al Baker declared VR "the next frontier of inflight entertainment.”

Immersing passengers in digital realms offers many advantages over seatback screens. VR users can self-direct their experience versus watching a flat film dictated by an airline. Enhanced VR graphics reduce motion sickness concerns. Groups like families can interact in virtual worlds together. Airlines also hope captivating VR prompts positive associations with their brand after flights.

Singapore Airlines plans to unveil VR seatback tablets in late 2023. Tablets promise DnD tablet games plus destinations viewable in 360 degrees. Customers can preview Singapore highlights or a Hawaiian beach before arrival. Downloaded content means smooth playback without Internet lags. Travelers call Singapore's prototypes intuitive, commenting the heightened sense of place readies them for upcoming adventures.

In 2024, Emirates seeks to unveil VR "windows" rendering stunning landscapes from a plane's exterior perspective. CEO Tim Clark said, “We'll see the Alps, the canals of Venice, and the Pyramids at Giza as never before.” This aims enhancing views from interior seats. Clark added tactile feedback like virtual ocean mist may arrive later. Other airlines want VR relaxation like mountain hikes or Tai Chi classes midair.
Still, some industry voices call VR's emergence measured. Airline analyst Marry Schlangenstein remarked to Travel Weekly, “The central questions are what hardware works best on planes and how to keep costs sustainable.” She notes deploying tens of thousands of headsets creates financial and logistical challenges. Carriers must also balance tech demands with practical realities like recharging and hygiene.

While VR seems poised for takeoff, early adopters acknowledge kinks remain. Nonetheless, its capacity to immerse and delight means in-flight entertainment will keep ascending to new heights. VR can shrink lengthy trips and stoke travelers' sense of wonder. As airlines compete for customers through innovation, virtual reality seems here to stay.

For decades, airline food was synonymous with overly salted mystery meat, rubbery pasta, and soggy vegetables. However, today’s carriers aim to tantalize taste buds and wow passengers with restaurant-quality cuisine curated by celebrity chefs. This inflight dining renaissance delights foodies seeking memorable meals aloft.

Singapore Airlines helped catalyze culinary improvements in the skies by partnering with acclaimed chefs like Suzanne Goin and Carlo Cracco. Their Business and First Class menus highlight regional flavors and artfully plated dishes like Wagyu beef with wild mushroom ragout. Goin said thoughtfully composed meals please eyes as well as palates while showcasing Singapore's superb service.

Seeking a competitive edge, other Asian and Middle Eastern airlines also upgraded cuisine. Japan Airlines collaborated with Japanese Iron Chef Yuji Wakiya for dishes like sour plum-glazed chicken with fried rice. ANA offers seasonal bento boxes and premium sake pairings. Emirates provides regionally inspired plates by British chef Vineet Bhatia, like paneer tikka with saffron rice.

In the U.S., Delta hired respected Atlanta chef Linton Hopkins to oversee their menu revamp. His seasonal rotating dishes include a standout roasted chicken with ricotta dumplings and preserved lemon. Hopkins said his dishes are designed to satisfy after take-off yet refresh before landing. United also updated options for premium cabins, partnering with Rouxbe Cooking School for culinary training. Menus highlight fresh, healthy choices that travelers crave.

But improved food isn't just for those in First Class anymore. Many economy menus now provide elevated options for purchase, a trend accelerated by COVID-era meal suspension. JetBlue's EatUp Cafe sells tasty picks like prosciutto-swaddled mozzarella, hummus, and mixed olive snacks. Their Mint Class dining includes produce from the Tides Family farm.

Alaska Airlines upgrades economy with sandwiches from Portland's Beppe & Gianni's Italian deli. Offerings like turkey with pepperoncini and ciabatta please West Coast palates. SAS Scandinavian's menu offers New Nordic cuisine with emphasis on quality Scandinavian ingredients. Notably,airlines are listening more to customer feedback to finetune choices.

Gone are the days of settling for a tiny bag of pretzels or peanuts to get you through a long flight. Today's airlines now offer an array of tasty snacks and small plate options perfect for nibbling at 30,000 feet. These new snacking choices make inflight dining more satisfying.

Travelers short on time often skip sit-down meals in airport lounges. Thus flying famished and hoping for decent food later. Quality snacks help avoid an uninspiring meal of dry airplane lasagne leaving you unsatisfied. Portable bites also suit unpredictable itineraries. Weather or traffic delays might keep you from your connection and that restaurant reservation at your destination.

Having flavorful snacks on hand prevents hanger and blood sugar dips that worsen jet lag's disorientation. Comfort foods also ease anxieties common while flying. Finally, tasty snacks just make travel more fun. Who doesn't smile unwrapping a chocolatey treat?
Alaska Airlines woos snackers with selections like Beecher's flagship mac and cheese, complete with crispy panko crust. Their Picnic Pack contains Peel Handcrafted cheese, crackers, salami and cherries. JetBlue's unlimited snack basket impresses. You'll find vanilla almond KIND bars, Terra lightly salted plantain chips and Humm Kombucha probiotic drinks. Their EatUp menu sells a zesty SuperGreek salad with quinoa, olives and feta. Hawaiian Airlines provides Hawaiian Host chocolate-covered macadamia nuts and Taro Chips made from local Okinawan purple potatoes. The options make island flavors soar.

Even budget carriers are getting snack-savvy. Frontier Airlines sells the Cheez-It Snack Pack with deux types of cheesy crisps plus Folios Parmesan cheese wraps. Their Mittz Stix offer buttery baked pretzel sticks with Wholly Guacamole individual servings. Spirit Airlines highlights Big AZ Iced Teas, Snyder's of Hanover pretzel pieces and Priority Organic protein nut bars. Affordable prices prove great snacks need not break the bank.

As aviation technology improves, airlines continue pushing the limits of ultra-long haul travel to link farflung global destinations with fewer connections. These new nonstop routes make travel between distant cities on separate continents possible in one marathon flight. For time-pressed travelers, this opens new one-stop itineraries to maximize exploration.
In late 2022, Qantas launched the first-ever nonstop flights between Sydney and London. The airline's research helped engineer Airbus A350s with optimized lighting, exercise zones and cabin humidity to minimize the 17+ hour journey's rigor. Yet speaking to Executive Traveller, pilot Captain Alex Passerini described crew rest zones and autopilot reducing fatigue. "Ultra-long haul is easier on pilots than complex regional flying," he explained.

Qantas' historic Perth-London route premiered in 2018. Frequent flyer and blogger Peter Vincent expressed to Australian News Corp that the single changeover freed more days for European jaunts without compromising rest. "It was a long flight but I arrived surprisingly refreshed. The Perth stopover returning broke up the trip nicely."

Singapore Airlines also flies Newark-Singapore using next-gen Airbus A350-900ULRs. Its 161 seats are all business class for optimized comfort on the world's current longest flight at 18 hours. Travel + Leisure writer Ramsey Qubein penned a firsthand review, describing surprisingly sound sleep after a catered dinner, snack and light breakfast. He enthused about the enormous entertainment selection and ambiance.

Middle Eastern carriers excel at ultra-long haul too. In June 2022, Emirates pioneered Dubai-Auckland, reducing travel time to New Zealand by two hours. Qatar Airways uses fuel-efficient Boeing 777-8s to fly Doha-Auckland, the first passenger aircraft to enter the 20-hour range. Both routes saw enthusiastic booking, promising expanded vacation options as more travelers seek bucket list adventures post-pandemic.

Still, ultra-long haul has criticisms. Activists argue such gas-guzzling routes contradict environmental sustainability. Yet airlines counter that new fuel-efficient planes like the A350 and 787 Dreamliner emit far less than before. FlightGlobal's David Casey suggests balancing eco-needs with consumer desires. "People want to travel further faster without flying stopover circuits. Done right, ultra-long haul can fulfill this."

For road warriors and frequent flyers, spending hours in cramped airline cabins can take a real toll on health. Neck and back pain, deep vein thrombosis, dry eyes, breathing difficulties — these represent just some of the physical issues exacerbated by air travel's confined quarters. With flyers more health-conscious today, carriers worldwide work to design innovative cabins that promote inflight wellness. From ergonomic seating to hydration stations, these thoughtful touches aim to keep travelers feeling their best aloft.

Aircraft outfitter Safran Seats unveiled high-tech Economy Class seats for Airbus at 2022's Aircraft Interiors Expo that aim to be a gamechanger. Nicknamed "Comfort Move", their dynamic cushions constantly self-adjust to distribute pressure points and stimulate blood flow in legs. This helps prevent circulatory issues prone in stagnant seated positions. Breathable, ventilated cushions reduce sweat and moisture accumulation as well. Electrics tilt and slide seats subtly but frequently to ease muscle fatigue. Safran claims their testing yielded exceptional spinal protection and lumbar relief.
Ergonomic seating also benefits Premium Economy travelers increasingly seeking health benefits. South African Airways collaborated with sports scientists and physicians on the new Premium Economy seats debuted on its A350-900s in late 2022. The designs provide spinal support via a thoraco-lumbar cushion mimicking the body's natural curvature. Adjustable calf rests reduce leg swelling. Footrests allow varied movement to boost circulation. Panels with ventilation, massage and heat functions further prevent discomfort in flight. After testing, over 80% of participants said the seats improved posture, muscle relaxation and joint mobility.
Hydration concerns in parched cabins are another health issue airlines tackle. Emirates installs hydration stations with touchscreen buttons offering still or sparkling water on new Boeing 777 first class suites. In economy, Singapore Airlines provides water bottle filling stations. Lufthansa stocks water carafes for self-service rehydration.

Hospitality expert Piper Stevenson explained to T+L how hydration stations represent a huge step up from "that tiny water glass filled only once." She enthused, "Being able to sip cold, refreshing water whenever parched made twelve hours pass painlessly." Other travelers confirm drinking more equals feeling energized upon arrival, with fewer headaches or dry skin. Proper hydration aids rest too.
Even cabin lighting and ambiance aim to support wellness today. Finnair's A350 business class lighting shifts hues based on circadian rhythms to reduce jet lag. Airbus and Boeing research optimal lighting levels and tints to induce relaxation or wakefulness when desired. Nurses like Fiona Chang favor airlines adding calmer hues of teal or lavender versus jarring fluorescent white. She told SIAT Digest, "Tailoring lighting and ambiance to biorhythms intuitively supports the body's needs when traveling through multiple time zones. These designs acknowledge human factors."

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