Korean Air mulls duty free on ‘flights to nowhere’

By Luke Barras-hill |

Inflight duty free sales on ‘flights to nowhere’ are being considered, says Korean Air.

South Korea’s flag carrier Korean Air is contemplating the introduction of inflight duty free services on so-called ‘flights to nowhere’, subject to permission being granted by government.

The ‘flights to nowhere’ phenomenon, which involves passengers boarding airlines that takeoff and land on the same day at the same airport, has generated widespread media attention of late.

Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport is understood to be in discussion with local airlines to permit the service, including the provision of inflight duty free shopping in a bid to assuage some of the damage to travel retail revenues amid Covid-19.

A spokesperson from Korean Air told TRBusiness: “Currently, Korean Air is considering ‘flights to nowhere’ operations and reviewing possible services for our passengers, including inflight meals and inflight duty free sales. However, we will be able to provide more details after further discussion and development.”

So-called ‘flights to nowhere’ have been gaining popularity, with tickets selling out fast as travellers flock to recreate the feel-good experience of airline travel. Source: Korean Air.  


Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport has been approached for confirmation on the mooted policy, but TRBusiness is reliably informed via several sources that no decision has been made as yet on whether it will be introduced.

A report from Pulse News Korea claims airport operators have also asked the transport ministry to allow airline ticket holders access to airport duty free shops, who argue they should be allowed the same rights to sell merchandise in the terminals akin to inflight duty free sales for international travellers.

However, at the time of writing TRBusiness was yet to receive any official verification of this.

The Shilla Duty Free declined to comment on the proposal, with a spokesperson pointing out that it has been the airlines that have sought access from the ministry for inflight sales.

The spokesperson adds that as a result, the travel retailer would ‘wait and see’ on the results of such discussions.

A Korea duty free source told TRBusiness: “Duty free operators want to sell duty free items on the online channels. Customers can buy duty free items when they board an airplane, not flying overseas. But this is not the same as domestic duty free policy.”

Source: Eva Air.

Flights to nowhere’ have been gaining huge traction of late, with tickets selling out fast as travellers flock to recreate the feel-good experience of airline travel.

Last month, CNN reported that a seven-hour Qantas ‘flight to nowhere’ sold out in 10 minutes, with CEO Alan Joyce quoted as saying the flight was the airline’s fastest-selling in its history.

Among several other ‘flights to nowhere’, Taiwan’s Eva Air launched a special ‘Hello Kitty’ trip in August to celebrate Father’s Day (pictured right).

Departing from Taiwan Taoyuan Airport, the flight lasting two hours and 45 minutes passed through Taiwan and Japan’s Ryukyu Islands.

All Nippon Airways has also operated an hour-and-a-half sightseeing route from Tokyo’s Narita Airport to Honolulu in Hawaii.

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