When Jun Jae O, a pilot for South Korea’s low-cost carrier Air Seoul, announced that his plane was entering the skies above Japan’s Tottori Prefecture on the Sea of Japan coast one recent Sunday morning, the cabin began to stir to life.
While passengers positioned their cell phones to take photos of the land opening up below them, the 44-year-old pilot added that local officials were also welcoming them from ground level — social distancing taken to an extreme.
“Today’s flight will be a short one, but I really hope that once the coronavirus pandemic is over, you and your family and friends can enjoy traveling to Tottori Prefecture,” he said.
South Koreans, like people around the world, have had to put their overseas travel plans on hold due to COVID-19 restrictions. But special flights that whisk passengers over Japan for an hour or so before landing them back in South Korea have become a big hit since their launch last fall.
Permission for the scenic flights was given in November by the country’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport to help boost the airline industry, which has been hammered by the health crisis. Tickets cost 103,000 won (about 10,000 yen), including tax…