Qantas mystery flights: On board the revived trips to destinations unknown

Danielle Don of Boronia had a special trip planned for her 50th birthday in 2020 - eight weeks in Europe.

With the pandemic cancelling those plans, Ms Don on Saturday took off on an alternative holiday interstate, albeit one lasting only one day in a destination she wasn't aware of until just prior to take-off.

With state borders closing at the first sign of a COVID-19 infection and international borders closed for the foreseeable future, in March Qantas announced the return of a style of trip not seen since the early '90s: the mystery flight.

Passengers booked not knowing which destination they would be flying to - only that they'd be guaranteed a good time when they got there.

Saturday's flight from Melbourne headed to Launceston, the destination revealed by the plane's captain in the Qantas lounge at Melbourne Airport prior to take-off.

"We decided to book a mystery flight just so we could get out and start travelling again, support local communities and see what was on offer," Ms Don said.

Making up for lost holidays in 2020 was a common theme on board the mystery flight, which carried passengers marking birthdays, anniversaries and even a babymoon. Others on board were simply regular travellers or aviation enthusiasts who desperately wanted to get on a plane again and didn't care where they were going.

After a 50-minute flight, passengers took a trip to Launceston's popular farmer's market, followed by a four-course lunch at Josef Chromy Wines, before finishing the day at the spectacular Cataract Gorge just outside the city. Unseasonably warm weather and clear skies topped off the experience.

Ms Don had taken a mystery flight more than 25 years ago, from the Gold Coast to Sydney.


"There were none of the bells and whistles we've had today," she said. "It was just literally jump on the flight and you didn't know where you'd end up. Once you got there, that was it. It wasn't organised."

For platinum frequent flyer Daniel Burela, who travelled internationally two or three times a month prior to the pandemic, it was his first opportunity to get on a flight for 14 months.

It was also the first flight for his baby daughter, who is just six weeks old.

"We signed her up for Qantas frequent flyer on the day she was born," he said.

Mr Burela proposed to his wife, Yanli, on board a flight. "Since our marriage started off on a plane, now we've got a newborn daughter we thought we'd bring her on the first flight available."

Pat and Angela Caputo from Strathmore decided to do the trip to mark their 20th wedding anniversary.

"I was grounded due to COVID," said Mr Caputo, who works in the mining industry and cancelled a trip to Perth after the recent lockdown was announced. "When we saw the concept we didn't mind it, had a chat and organised it pretty quickly."

"That's one thing with the mystery flight," said Mrs Caputo, "you've got the reassurance that there's the flexibility of changing locations if a state does get locked down."

The Launceston trip was the final mystery flight for the time being, following previous trips from Sydney to Hamilton Island and Brisbane to Orange. However, given the three flights sold out within 15 minutes after going on sale, Qantas has not ruled out bringing the concept back again in the near future.

The writer travelled as a guest of Qantas.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said the flight took place on Saturday. It took place on Sunday.

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