Airlines have had to get creative to woo passengers back onto planes, following a period that has decimated air travel. Some airlines are offering free weekend flights and $1 seats, but New Zealand will have to wait
The pandemic has seen a huge increase for subscription services like Netflix, so why not unlimited flights? So argues China Eastern Airlines, which has introduced a "Fly at Will" ticket giving holders access to free weekend travel until the end of the year. Going on sale in July for around $700 or 3322 yuan, the airline has called it their gift the circular economy and "long-distance relationships".
China has seen a boom in discount airfares and aggressively marketed to the masses.
China Express and Hainan Airlines' 12 brands have also launched their own versions of "Fly at Will."
The airlines are still hurting and these flights are being run at a loss. Yet, it's still more cost effective than leaving fleets grounded. The aim of course to bringing passenger numbers back to pre-pandemic levels.
On other domestic air routes seats are being sold at bargain prices not seen since before the pandemic. Fares from Shanghai to the other side of the country selling for as little as $40.
The China Eastern says the 'Fly at Will' scheme has already helped return some routes to 90 per cent capacity, predicting demand could be back to normal by the end of the year.
Elsewhere, in Vietnam budget carrier Viet Jet aviation has launched their 2021 Lunar New Year sale early with fares from as little as $0.19. Yes, less than 1/5 of a dollar.
These airlines in East Asia are capitalising on the confidence of passengers who see the response to the pandemic as a success.
But could it work in New Zealand?
Don't start counting your free weekends just yet.
While passengers are willing to travel domestically, airlines are less confident. Last week Qantas-owned JetStar extended its grounding of New Zealand flights until at least 16 September.
Without competition on domestic routes and only able to sell sixty per cent of seats, Air New Zealand said it would not be bringing in discount fares just yet.
As Auckland joined the rest of New Zealand in level 2 the airline was clear that a seat sale was off the table for now.
"We won't be able to offer our lowest lead in fares until physical distancing measures are removed," said airline boss Greg Foran.
Once restrictions are eased and with the return of competitors JetStar airfare bargain hunters could be in for a windfall. At the beginning of the year Foran hinted that mystery weekends promotion could be given a relaunch to get more passengers into lesser explored parts of the domestic network.