Qantas launches 'Mystery Flights' as Australia extends international travel ban

Karla Cripps, CNNUpdated 3rd March 2021
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(CNN) — With Australians still unable to travel abroad due to pandemic restrictions, flag carrier Qantas is launching a series of "Mystery Flights" to encourage domestic travel.
Travelers who book one of the three journeys on offer will put their fates into the hands of the airline.
The one-day trips, which go on sale March 4, fly out of Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, departing on March 27, April 18 and May 1, respectively. Each Boeing 737 flight will be limited to 120 passengers and travel to a destination within approximately two hours.
Guests enjoy breakfast in the Qantas lounge at 7 a.m. -- returning in the early evening.
Travelers won't know where they're headed until the plane makes its descent to the mystery location, though the flight path will appear on the seat-back screens, giving fliers a chance to guess where they're headed. The flights will reportedly include some low-level flybys of key landmarks en route.
The airline is offering a few hints on its website.
For instance, flights from Brisbane will offer "the perfect getaway" for those who love country hospitality, gourmet food and wine and the great outdoors. Sydney flights will head to the tropics, making it an ideal trip for those who enjoy "lunching on the beach." The Melbourne flight will be suitable for fans of the great outdoors, gourmet food and wine and regional farmers markets.
Customers will be given further clues upon booking to ensure they pack suitably.
The all-inclusive packages cost AUD 737 (US$577) for economy-class seats and AUD 1,570 for business.
"As well as helping bring more of our people back to work, these mystery flights are another way to support tourism operators in regional areas especially, who have been hit particularly hard by several waves of travel restrictions," said Qantas Group chief customer officer Stephanie Tully in a statement, referring to domestic state border controls.
The airline first offered mystery flights in the 1990s. Passengers would arrive at the airport and be placed on a scheduled flight to any destination across the Qantas network.
In 2020, the airline offered a seven-hour sightseeing "flight to nowhere," which sold out in 10 minutes.
Australia has returned to relative normalcy since the start of the pandemic, with the country reporting zero new locally transmitted cases on Tuesday and nine cases among returned travelers in hotel quarantine. In total, it has recorded 28,986 cases and 909 deaths as of March 3.
The country locked its borders early on, with Australians returning from abroad forced to quarantine in a hotel for two weeks. Australia has also imposed a ban on overseas travel, with those wanting to leave the country needing to get an exemption from the Department of Home Affairs.
On Tuesday, the government announced Australia's international travel ban would be extended by three months to June 17.
Qantas said it plans to resume international flights by the end of October 2021.