Flogging fruit juice and furniture, food deliveries and flights to nowhere. Airlines are struggling to find revenues in the pandemic

With thousands of aircraft parked in deserts and a fraction of people willing or able to fly, the airlines are trying some bizarre ideas in their scramble for revenue.

One is offering its 'Signature Salted Peanuts' and another is selling off fully loaded drinks trolleys. There's a national carrier serving meals on the ground in it's HQ, a budget airline delivering meals to your home with a fleet of 500 scooters - and Australians can take a mystery day trip with snorkeling and/or wine tasting. 

It's because of COVID-19 of course, and with the number of flights still down more than 40% here's a glance at some of the creative ways the world's airlines are using to try and survive.

Aircraft surplus furniture

Selling bits of old aircraft isn't entirely new, but this niche upcycling has been taken to new levels of absurdity during the pandemic. Qantas pushed the envelope in September 2020 when it sold surplus serving trolleys from its recently retired Boeing 747s. 

A thousand of them were snapped up in just two hours at AUD 947.70 (£527) a pop. There being fully stocked with booze as per a flight, with 80 mini bottles of wine, two First Class sleeper suits and a throw. No doubt the booze helps to distract from their ugly and impractical carts and is all the better for blurring buyer's remorse too.

Trolley lolly: Qantas are selling fully stoked drinks carts for home use. Photo Qantas

Lufthansa has form with upmarket upcycling and launched its second collection in August 2020. After the success of chopping up and repurposing a decommission Airbus A340, the company moved on to scavenge over the fuselage of a retired A320, the company's first, delivered back in 1989. An example product is the 'A320-211D-AIPC Slat Table Lamp' for €999 (£860).

A lamp guaranteed to give you a leading edge over the neighbours. Photo: Lufthansa

As well coffee tables made from speed brakes and landing flaps, the star turn was a freestanding bar made from a whole cabin door retailing at around £7,000.

Sundry shopping

Many airlines have broadened the range of merchandise they offer via their website. Take the Malaysia Airlines 'Temptations' range. It features the unlikely treats from 'Signature Salted Peanuts' for £0.18 to Business Class duvets for £xx a piece. Qantas has even been flogging off its popular Business Class and First Class pajamas and amenity packs.

Purveyors of fine peanuts and pajamas. Photo Malaysia Airlines and Qantas

Plane restaurants

Singapore Airlines is actually using one of its A380s as a 'suite of experiences' - basically a familly-orientated opportunity to clamber aboard, tour the plane, eat airline food and meet some rather otherwise underemployed pilots.

Table for two, grounded SIA A380 style. Photo SIA

Thai Airways opened a pop-up 'Royal Orchid Dining Experience' inside its own headquarters in Bangkok. It's reached by climbing a set of portable aircraft steps, uses its trademark colour-splash orange, purple and red seats, and uniformed crew members as waiting staff. It's estimated that 800 airline food lovers a day have climbed those incongruous steps.

Faux in-flight dining on the first floor of at the Thai Airways HQ. Photo Thai Airways

In flight food home delivery

Singapore has launched a home dining service in Singapore too, called SIA@Home, offering First and Business Class meals for two, including canapes, appetizers, main course, desert, wine or Champaign plus amenities.

Splash out on a First Class wine and dine and you can also receive aa 22-piece First Class tableware set and a brace of First Class amenity kits and sleeper suits. Prices for a meal for one, with caviar, satay, garlic bread, wine and amenity kit start at SGD180 (the left-hand four squares above), with the First Class fandango above at SGD888 (the right hand six squares).

Fancy eating in flight food in your own home? SIA@home have the answer. Photo: SIA

SIA also had a stab at selling tours of its Singapore training centre, grooming workshops with cabin crew and wine tasting with the airline's sommeliers.

Malaysian Low Cost Carrier Air Asia has launched a AirAsiaFood, a delivery service in Singapore from March 3rd 2021. It already has 500 delivery riders, pitches its pricing around 5% lower than current competitors, and soon expects some 300 restaurants to be onboarded.

Flights to nowhere

Several airlines have flirted with offering scenic or experience flights that depart and arrive back at the same airport.

For any fly me to the mooner romantics, then Eva Air got all inventive using a Hello Kitty themed aircraft for a night-time circumnavigation of Taiwan's main island coinciding with the August Mid-Autumn Festival (included in the price was the pilot tilting the aircraft towards the full moon, aah). It even laid on a three-hour speed-dating flight to nowhere to allow people the opportunity to 'engage in deep conversation, according to the airline. Starlux, also of Taiwan, has ran several such flights too. 

Goodbye Kitty, see you back in Taipei in three hours. Photo Eva Air

And Japan's Peach has been running school trip two-hour flights to nowhere during which the kids learn about the work done by pilots and cabin crew. 

Qantas started the trend when it offered seven-hour scenic flights over Uluru and the Great Barrier Reef. There were 134 seats up for grabs at £445 a pop, which were snapped up in under ten minutes.

Flights to who knows where?

Qantas sold a seven-hour flight over the country's Gold Coast and Outback wilderness that sold out in ten minutes. With flying removed as an option for so many millions of people, the flights prove popular as they allow a small number of enthusiastic flyers to experience that sense of expectation and excitement that some still feel at the prospect of a flight.

We're on a ride to nowhere. Come on inside. Photo: Qantas

My Gran took me as a small child a a mystery trip with British Rail, from Derby to as-it-turned-out, Bridlington. Enough fun was had to book another mystery tour the next year, which unfortunately as-it-turned-out trundled back to Bridlington.

Let's hope Qantas has more luck in resurrecting a surprisingly 90's phenomenon of people paying for flights, and still not knowing where they were going until boarding the aircraft. This new take on a slightly bonkers old idea is designed to boost domestic tourism, and will be operated from Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney by three Boeing 737s.

The Qantas Mystery Flights booked out fast, and there's now a waiting list in case of more day trips being offered, which incidentally include on-the-ground tours and experiences.

Blueberry juice anyone?

This super Scandy airline has long had an eye for innovation, but who would have foreseen buying Finnair blueberry juice drink or Reindeer Meatballs in a supermarket?

For now the business class meals are only available at a supermarket close to the airline's Helsinki Airport hub, but the And now its blueberry juice drink is available across Finland at around 300 K-group shops, in an attempt to secure the jobs of catering staff.

Finnair's Blueberry Juice Drink. How about some Finnair branded vodka next? Photo: Finnair

Fins have a bit of a blueberry fetish - they play a role in the cuisine and simply everyone there has foraged in the woods to pick their own - the blue-fingered lot living in the northeastern region of Kainuu pick a yearly hoard of 60kg per household .

Luckily enough it's a super-food that doesn't taste like wallpaper paste, and slugging back an onboard blue juice is part of the Finnair experience. About a million litres of the stuff is served annually on Finnair flights.