By: John Yoon
@ 2021 The New York Times Company
Border restrictions that are part of the pandemic response in Japan have deterred most tourists from visiting the country. So one airline is taking an unusual approach to generate revenue by offering extreme discounts on domestic flights.
Peach Aviation said it would sell 150 unlimited passes to passengers 12 and older with valid photo identification giving a month of access to the budget carrier’s 33 domestic flights. It said it was catering especially to digital nomads in Japan who are working remotely and looking for “workcations” in places they haven’t been after months of coronavirus restrictions on travel.
On Tuesday, the first 30 buyers would be able to buy a pass for as little as $173. (In comparison, a 21-day Japan Rail Pass costs $583.) For $87 more, they would get to reserve their seats and bring along a checked bag. Fares for the remaining 120 passes would cost $87 more.
The airline is hoping to tap into a demand for domestic flights after the restrictions grounded most airplanes.
“There have been signs of recovery in passenger demand, a trend that is expected to increase going forward as vaccinations progress,” the airline said in a statement in August.
Budget airlines in South Korea, which are also trying to drum up demand for domestic flights, have offered similarly steep discounted tickets. At least one airline there is selling something other than a seat on a plane.
T’way Air, a South Korean budget carrier, has sought new streams of revenue by selling its bacon tomato spaghetti, hamburger steak over rice and other in-flight meals to customers on the ground.
Its microwaveable meals are designed to “remind customers of the happiness and excitement they felt when traveling by plane,” said the listings on Coupang, the country’s largest online-shopping site, where the meals are offered.
The travel industry in both countries is still far from returning to its pre-pandemic levels of business. Subsidiaries of ANA Holdings, including Peach Aviation and other airlines, said they flew 1.35 million passengers on domestic flights in July, about one-third of the number of passengers from the same month in 2019.
In South Korea, Incheon Airport reported serving 5.4 million passengers for domestic travel in September, just 40% of the number of domestic passengers who flew in September 2019.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.