Qantas’ well-publicized supermoon flight took off on Wednesday evening, heading out into the Tasman Sea to complete a series of loops that enabled 180 passengers to see a once-in-a-generation event. The flight was the latest in a series of widely popular scenic flights operated by Australia’s national airline.
VH-ZNE Skippy, a Qantas 787-9 Dreamliner, operated QF1250 out of Sydney Airport on Wednesday evening. The plane was in the air for just under three hours, reaching altitudes of 43,000 feet, and flying a pretty interesting track off the New South Wales coastline.
In their statement issued following the flight, Qantas described a wide range of passengers on the flight. But most had one thing in common – they were keen travelers thwarted by border closures and a lack of travel opportunities.
Planning challenges ahead of the Qantas supermoon flight
Qantas says the biggest planning challenges for the supermoon flight were dealing with variables of weather and air traffic. Qantas Chief Technical Pilot, Captain Alex Passerini noted it was no easy task coordinating the optimum flight route.
“We had designated airspace set aside for us around 289 miles (465 kilometers) off the coast of Sydney, and we mapped out the flight path based around the trajectory of the Moon rising and the timing of the total eclipse,” Captain Passerini said.
“We executed a series of turns to ensure passengers on both sides of the aircraft got great views of the moon at various times.”
Not only was there a supermoon on Wednesday evening, but there was also a full lunar eclipse. It’s a rare combination not scheduled to happen again until 2033. According to the Qantas statement, the total lunar eclipse began at 21:11 AEST.
“During this time, the pilots dimmed the cabin lights as the moon crossed into the darkest part of the Earth’s shadow, and passengers experienced totality for 14 minutes and 30 seconds. This total eclipse was relatively short because the Moon was only passing through a small section of the Earth’s umbra” the statement reads.
A break from repatriation flights for VH-ZNE
The aircraft operating the flight, VH-ZNE, was the plane Qantas used earlier this week to operate a repatriation flight from Istanbul to Darwin. The Dreamliner scooted down to Sydney on Tuesday, operating as QF6100, before readying for Wednesday evening’s flight.
Seats on the flight started at US$386 and went north to US$1161, depending on where you preferred to sit on the plane. Qantas scored some headlines when they announced the flight earlier this month. Qantas offered an early pre-sale opportunity to their best customers. After that, the remaining tickets were snapped up in two and a half minutes when released to the general public.
What’s next for Qantas and their scenic flights
While proving popular, many other regular flyers don’t see the point of scenic flights or flights to nowhere. Many travelers argue the point of flying is to go somewhere rather than to simply take a flight. But the public response to scenic flights suggests they have plenty of supporters and willing takers.
Like some other airlines running scenic flights or flights to nowhere, Qantas has also attracted some criticism for the environmental impact of non-necessary flying. But Qantas points out their scenic flights operate with net-zero emissions, with 100% of carbon emissions offset.
Qantas has form when it comes to operating some off-beat scenic flights. They’ve proved hugely popular. The airline has not announced what they have planned for their next scenic flight. However, the odds are Qantas will come up with something interesting soon.