A local Japanese airline is attempting to fill vacant seats by giving Tokyo-based employees subscriptions that would allow them to relocate to a location over 900 kilometers (550 miles) away and go back and forth to the capital by air as frequently as they like.
In addition to limitless flights between Kitakyushu, where the airline is located, and Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, Star Flyer Inc. wants to launch a monthly subscription service that includes lodging in and around the southern city of Fukuoka on the island of Kyushu in the spring.
According to the carrier, the price will range from 200,000 yen ($1,340) to 400,000 yen a month, which will be competitive with rents for large homes in the capital to attract workers with families.
The regional carrier is staking its future on its ability to capitalize on the growing demand for remote labor as airlines, hotels, and merchants try to recover from the pandemic’s financial effects.
In an interview, Furuse stated, “compared to tourism, demand for business travel is still weak, which is one of the reasons we regard relocation as a means to develop fresh demand.”
There have already been employment losses due to commuters staying at home due to Japan’s large train network, which has long reduced the attraction of short-distance domestic flights. According to information provided by office broker Miki Shoji Co., the pandemic has also caused office vacancy rates in the capital to reach an eight-year high of 6.5%.
The airline created the program after Chairman Tomonori Yokoe, who assumed the position in June, requested fresh ideas from his staff. The service won out over 120 other submissions.
The lodging offered and whether the promotion is valid during peak travel times like New Year’s and other holidays when seats are generally fully booked are among the additional information that Star Flyer expects to make public later this year.
Japan Airlines Co. and ANA Holdings Inc. say they will earn a profit this year as they look to capitalize on the island nation’s recent decision to reopen its borders to visitors. Star Flyer, on the other hand, has not yet provided profit forecasts despite reporting a net loss for three consecutive years. Additionally, a 53% seat occupancy rate in the last fiscal year ended March 31, down from 75% three years ago.
Rents in the Fukuoka region are typically between one-third and fifty percent less than those in Tokyo, where, according to real estate portal Lifull Co., the average monthly rent for an apartment in Shibuya in the city center is 115,500 yen.
It is uncertain whether moving almost two hours away from work would be acceptable to Tokyo-based employees. Just 20% of Japanese workers said they would leave their current jobs and seek employment elsewhere if required to come to the office five days a week, indicating that they are less inclined to demand the freedom to work from home. Although living expenses are cheaper and people can afford larger homes in Fukuoka, the airline is banking that there will be enough demand in the city.