LONDON: Taiwanese people who long to travel but can’t because of coronavirus restrictions have been offered a solution — a “fake flight experience” at one of the country’s airports.
Songshan airport in the capital Taipei allows “passengers” to check in for a flight, go through passport control and airport security, and even board an Airbus A330. There is only one catch — the aircraft does not leave the runway.
Almost 7,000 people applied to take part in the experience, with 60 lucky winners chosen at random for the first “fake flight” on Thursday.
Passengers were given boarding passes, and ushered through security and immigration before boarding a China Airlines aircraft, where flight attendants greeted them.
Sadly — for some, at least — in-flight meals were not provided, but passengers could dine at one of the airport restaurants and even shop at the duty-free store.
“I really want to leave the country, but it's impossible because of the pandemic,” said one passenger, Hsiao Chun-wei, 38, who brought her young son along for the day.
Songshan airport deputy director Chih-ching Wang said: “People who don’t have a chance to take international flights at the airport can use this experience to learn more about the boarding process and relevant service facilities.”
The airport has scheduled more fake flights in coming weeks for those who missed out first time round.
Airport authorities say the fake flights will help show off Songshan’s renovations, which were completed while passengers have been forced to stay away, and highlight the coronavirus-prevention steps it is taking.
Songshan usually has flights to Tokyo, Seoul and several Chinese cities, and is an important domestic hub.
Taiwan imposed an early lockdown, closing its borders in mid-March, which meant it was relatively unscathed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Authorities in the country have advised citizens against overseas travel unless absolutely necessary.
Fewer than 500 cases have been recorded in the country, with just seven deaths from the virus.