"Fly me to the moon, let me play among the stars," were lyrics made famous by Frank Sinatra's voice, but Qantas passengers may well be singing the same tune this month.
In the latest of several novelty flights the airline has launched in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, a Qantas plane will fly above the clouds to give passengers a closer view of the supermoon and total lunar eclipse that will occur on Wednesday, May 26.
The Boeing 787 Dreamliner will depart Sydney on a three-hour journey, beginning with a flyover of Sydney Harbour before climbing to a cruising altitude of 40,000 feet (12,000 metres) above any cloud cover.
CSIRO astronomer Dr Vanessa Moss will work with pilots to design the best flightpath and will also join passengers on board to provide insights and commentary.
Supermoons occur when the moon comes slightly closer to the Earth. It is the second and final supermoon we'll see in 2021, following a so-called "pink" supermoon on April 27. The addition of a lunar eclipse makes the event a rare double phenomenon.
A lunar eclipse occurs when the moon moves into the Earth's shadow, which gives the moon a red appearance as it is blocked from direct sunlight.
The moon will reach its closest point to the Earth, 357,311 kilometres, at 11.50am on May 26, with the eclipse occurring in the evening between 9.11pm and 9.25pm.
"We'll be above the weather, we'll be getting that great view through the larger windows [of the Dreamliner]," said Qantas pilot Alex Passerini, "and not be subject to the light pollution of the Sydney area because that affects viewing. We'll be out over the ocean and we won't be affected by any atmospheric limitations."
Seats go on sale at midday on Wednesday, May 13, with economy fares at $499, $899 for premium economy and $1499 for business class (UPDATE: Qantas reports the flight sold out in record time, taking just three minutes for all seats to be snapped up).
The latest novelty flight follows the airline's revival of mystery flights, where passengers did not find out where they were headed until shortly before boarding, along with scenic "flights to nowhere" last year.
Qantas's fleet of long-haul Dreamliners has largely been grounded since the ban on international travel, with the exception of charter flights by the federal government to repatriate stranded Australians, along with sightseeing chartered flights by tour companies to see Antarctica and the Southern Lights.
Qantas had expected to restart most international flights in October, but with federal ministers indicating there is little chance borders will reopen this year, this seems unlikely.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce told the Australian Financial Review on Friday that Australia risked becoming a hermit nation unless reopening borders was given higher priority.
He warned that opening the borders too slowly could permanently damage Australia's tourism industry.