Hong Kong (CNN) – I was on a lot of flights where people clapped when the plane landed. But this was the first time I was on a plane where everyone was clapping on takeoff.
In addition to giving airlines a chance to recoup lost profits, these flights also give aviation geeks a chance to return to the skies and enjoy some little extras.
Although the idea of these flights seemed kind of silly to me at first – you have to deal with the whole airport security quarrel and then have nothing to show for it? – When I found out that a native airline was offering it, I just couldn’t resist.
The trip to work
My favorite way to get to the airport is by high-speed express train, which departs from Hong Kong station.
As elsewhere in the city, the station is full of signs reminding people to hold their masks. However, I felt brave enough to get out little by little to drink some water. Removing a mask in Hong Kong is currently illegal and I felt a slight hint of danger, although there was no one around to see me. (After all, it’s not hard to distance yourself socially when you’re the only person on the platform.)
Although several other relaxed people boarded the other train stops in Kowloon and Qing Yi, I had a whole car for myself for the half-hour trip. I took advantage of both the free chargers and the free Wi-Fi.
The express train is usually a pleasant experience, but that without luggage has changed the game. Or at least a change of shoulders.
Arrival at the airport
Despite the fact that we did not leave Hong Kong airspace, everyone on the flight still had to go through normal airport security processes. That meant taking out my passport and putting a pair of socks in my bag in case I had to take off my sandals.
Temperature checks have been present at Hong Kong International Airport since the days of SARS and bird flu, but the tightened protocols mean an abundance of free bottles of hand sanitizer located throughout the terminal and the constant presence of a cleaning crew.
Good thing there wasn’t much security in the queue, though – I had to get things out of my pockets at the last minute and get a Kindle out of his sleeve. It’s official: I’m out of practice. A year ago, I would have grumbled rudely to someone else doing the same thing to security scanners.
Most shops and restaurants at the airport were closed and there were more signs inviting people to move away socially than there were people to distance themselves socially.
Upstairs: The bathrooms were sparkling clean.
The disadvantage: The non-arrival of an international flight means that the duty-free shop is out of bounds.
In the sky
In my work as a traveler and editor, I flew at least once a month. When travel is your job, it takes away some of the brilliance – each stagnant $ 12 pie and loud snoring quickly add up.
But as the plane slowly moved away from the gate, I felt strangely emotional. Suddenly we burst into spontaneous applause.
A Hong Kong Express spokesman had told us that one of the motivations behind their flights to nowhere was to remind people of the magic of travel. Thirty seconds after the flight, I felt like I was holding my breath. I realized that I was thinking of my late grandmother, who grew up during the Great Depression and did not fly a plane for the first time until she was in her thirties.
It is easy to forget that aviation is a miracle.
I’m usually a strict corridor. But for the 75-minute cycle around Hong Kong, everything was by the window.
Not only the lack of a final destination made this flight different. There was no food or drink service – easier to hold masks that way – and no luggage. The boarding was scattered and all middle seats were blocked. More than just a pleasure cruise in the sky, it was a glimpse of what flying around the world is likely to look like when it resumes.
Currently, anyone coming to Hong Kong is subject to a 14-day quarantine either at home or in an approved hotel.
To make sure that passengers on the Hong Kong Express flight did not fall into the quarantine group, each of us received bright purple straps to wear on arrival.. It was as if the quarantine was a vampire and our connections were garlic, but the system worked.
Although I didn’t have jet lag or a stamp in my passport, my trip to nowhere ended up feeling a little – very little – like a vacation.