We used to think we knew travel: a trip in a plane or on a train to some far flung destination, to flop on a beach or eat a smorgasbord of delicacies. Then COVID hit and suddenly travel as the world knew it changed. Destinations closed off and flights ground to a halt.
Instead of sinking into the mire, the travel industry has this year focused on adapting and getting creative – with aviation being no exception. Airlines and airports, faced with a lack of places to go to, have instead come up with an ever more creative array of travel experiences that can still go ahead within the confines of this year’s pandemic.
The latest of these new ways of letting customers soak up the aviation experience comes from Singapore’s Changi airport, which has been named best in the world for eight consecutive years. The airport is allowing visitors to ‘glamp’ within its retail wing.
Before you imagine a tent set up next to a few duty free outlets, remember that Changi airport is unlike most other airports: along with the usual shops and restaurants, there’s the longest indoor waterfall in the world and a forest surrounded by 900 trees and 60,000 shrubs. Tents are similarly plush, measuring four metres across and coming with queen-sized beds.
The airport offers giant slides to take visitors to their gate, a butterfly garden, movie theatre, and swimming pool.
Two experiences are being held. The first, Glampcation in the Clouds, is hosted in Cloud9 Piazza on the airport’s fifth floor with views of the Rain Vortex waterfall — a 40-metre waterfall. The other, Glampcation at Shiseido Forest Valley is on the first floor within the “garden wonderland,” and will allow visitors to take advantage of the space’s “hiking trails”.
Guests of the latter will also be able to freshen up with use of the shower facilities at YotelAir. Both experiences include free parking and access to the Sparkling Christmas at Jewel, Canopy Park, and Changi Experience Studio.
Alongside the glamping, a ‘Night at the Airport’ experience is also on offer, which features a two-day, one-night program for families with kids six and older, and the Changi Experience Studio Play + Sleepover, which has a more ‘relaxed’ itinerary. All available dates are also unfortunately sold out.
Here are three other unusual ways airlines and airports around the world have found to cater to visitors during the pandemic…
1. Flights to nowhere
A spate of airlines this year launched ‘flightseeing’ trips, where planes would take off and land at the same airport, forgoing any need to quarantine. The idea was that passengers would get the feeling of flying, see a bit of aerial scenery out the window, and help keep the airlines afloat by dropping some serious change for the privilege. Though many of the flights sold out, the concept proved deeply unpopular with environmentalists – the backlash led to many being cancelled.
A number of these flights are still in operation, however, including Taiwan’s EVA Air and Qantas, which resumed its sightseeing trips over Antarctica late this year.
See also: ‘Is this a joke?’ Qantas sightseeing flights slammed
2. In-flight dining
Singapore Airlines was one such carrier who had to cancel its flights to nowhere in September due to criticism. As a more environmentally friendly alternative, people are now able to do a dining experience onboard one of the airline’s grounded Airbus A380s: the world’s largest passenger aircraft. Known as Restaurant A380 @Changi, the pop-up opened for a weekend in October and was quickly booked up.
In Thailand, Thai Airways’ staff cafeteria in its Bangkok headquarters was converted into an aircraft-themed restaurant in September, and serves in-flight meals. Aircraft chairs and old engine parts have been used for tables. Meanwhile in Pattaya, a plane café was launched this year – Coffee War – in a retired commercial airplane.
See also: Why people pay hundreds of dollars to eat on grounded planes
3. Takeaway inflight meals
Even if you can’t get into a real aircraft, you can still takeaway its food – though whether you’d want to is still up for debate. AirAsia, the Malaysian low-cost airline, capitalised on their popular in-flight cuisine, Santan, from January to September 2020 by selling it as a takeaway option at the Air Asia Santan restaurant, which was launched in December 3, 2019, just before the pandemic hit the industry.
Israel’s Tamam Kitchen, which services El Al, Turkish Airlines and Garuda of Indonesia, also sold takeaway inflight meals during the pandemic.
The Telegraph, London