For travel-starved people around the world, “flights to nowhere” have popped up. The roundtrip flights offer airlines a way to sell tickets while passengers get the thrill of a trip without worrying about touching down in another country and possibly spreading COVID-19.
This weekend, that concept goes a step further to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
Ukraine International Airlines will be flying a sold-out flight over the site at an altitude of about 900 meters, with a professional guide providing information along the trip.
“Learn the history of the accident and get unforgettable impressions from the trip,” the airline's website says about the flight.
The airline has flown other flights over Chernobyl during the pandemic, with the pilots providing a narration for passengers. Interest in the abandoned nuclear power plant and neighboring ghost town, Pripyet, have seen an increase following the HBO miniseries, “Chernobyl.”
For those wondering, yes, passengers will get some radiation from flying over the exclusion zone. However, the airline says it is about the same level as those who do a day tour at the site.
Tickets cost the equivalence of $105 U.S.
In 2019, Ukraine’s government said it wanted the area to become an official tourist site. They plan on applying for UNESCO World Heritage status this year to attract more visitors and funding.
On April 26, 1986, a reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded during what was supposed to be a safety test. Thirty-one plant workers and first responders died in the immediate wake of the explosion, mostly from acute radiation sickness. Thousands of others later died from radiation-related illnesses, and the true death toll may never be known.
Tens of thousands of people had to evacuate the area permanently, leaving wildlife and nature to thrive in the contaminated zone.