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While environmentalists want to reduce air travel, airlines are offering fixed-price subscriptions

With airfares soaring, airlines are devising a host of strategies to tempt travellers to take to the skies again

Published: Jun 3, 2023 08:43:46 AM IST
Updated: Jun 2, 2023 06:55:02 PM IST

While environmentalists want to reduce air travel, airlines are offering fixed-price subscriptionsGreek carrier Aegean Airlines is launching a fixed-price pass for year-round travel. Image: Shutterstock

While the past year or so has seen environmentalists float the possibility of personal individual carbon allowances or budgets that could in theory implement a quota limiting the number of flights you can take in a lifetime or the number of kilometers flown, the airline industry is, in contrast, trying to woo passengers with the concept of a pass to take to the skies all year round.

It seems like Ryanair's 99-pence or 10-pound airline tickets are already relics, something from the distant past. Last summer, the Irish airline's CEO warned that the skyrocketing price of kerosene would put an end to those kinds of ultra-affordable ticket prices. And the effects are being felt. Hopper's report on 2023 summer travel indicates that while domestic flights in the US is relatively stable, "airfare to Europe and Asia this summer is already the highest it’s been in more than 5 years, with trips to Europe averaging over $1,100 per ticket and trips to Asia averaging over $1,800 per ticket. Both have increased more than $300 per ticket compared to last summer." Meanwhile, airfare for intra-regional flights within Europe are expected to be an average of 5.5% higher for economy class according to American Express's Air Monitor Report.

A pass locking in prices for travel throughout the year

With airfares soaring, airlines are devising a host of strategies to tempt travelers to take to the skies again.

In this regard Aegean Airlines' strategy is likely to draw the ire of environmentalists. The Greek airline has just unveiled the concept of a fixed-price pass, introducing the idea of a fare lock, for visiting Greece and its various island destinations throughout the year as well as an international version between Greece and certain European destinations including Paris, Frankfurt, Barcelona and London. For instance a pass costing 656 euros, entitles the holder to eight flights between Paris and Athens. The holder gets a seat in economy class included in that price, or a half-price reduction for front seats offering more legroom. Holidaymakers may also be tempted by a 30% reduction on baggage charges.

A concept that is clearly light years away from the idea of a lifetime quota on flights -- in particular the number of four flights in a lifetime evoked by French engineering consultant and climate expert Jean-Marc Jancovici.

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This isn't the first time an airline has come up with the concept of a kind of "all you can fly" pass (albeit with some limits). Last winter, US carrier Frontier Airlines proposed a similar scheme, slashing the original price of its pass from $199 to $599. Available only to Americans, and introduced at the beginning of May, this enabled the holder to take flights to the Caribbean, the USA, Mexico or Latin America. After the first year, the price for the package goes up to $2,000 in the second year. The annual pass isn't the American carrier's only such offering; it also offers seasonal passes for travel throughout the summer, at a cost of 499 dollars, or for the autumn/winter season, when you can fly for 299 dollars. In its formula, pass-holders have to pay $0.01 for a ticket and book it the day before departure for travel within the USA, or within ten days for outside the US borders.

In the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, the airline industry also looked to unlimited travel in a package approach. In China, several airlines used it to stimulate domestic travel in 2020, offering unlimited weekend flights. And of course we can't forget the PR coup staged by Compagnie, the French carrier specializing in business class travel between Paris and New York. In 2017, it made headlines with a 35,000-euro pass allowing the holder to travel as many times as they wanted between the City of Light and the Big Apple.

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