If you find the rent in top cities way too expensive but don’t want to throw away the exciting life you lead in bustling metropolises, a Japanese airline might have the perfect solution for you.
Star Flyer, a budget airline, plans to offer remote workers in Tokyo a monthly subscription that covers unlimited flights between the capital and Kitakyushu, with rental accommodation in the city—where the airline is based—included.
Fukuoka prefecture, where Kitakyushu is located, is known for some of the best cuisine in Japan and is known for its delicious bowls of ramen. The area is also known for its rich history and alluring landscapes, with plenty for tourists to do.
“Kitakyushu is also very centrally located in the prefecture, so it’d be easy for customers to get around,” a spokesperson for Star Flyer told VICE World News. The company also banks on business people who’d travel to Kitakyushu frequently for work.
Like many other airlines, Star Flyer has struggled to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, when demand for air travel was low and revenue plunged. Star Flyer has been operating at a loss since the pandemic started.
Though Japan never formally banned domestic travel, non-Japanese citizens were forbidden from entering the country for nearly two years, making Japan’s border restrictions one of the strictest in the world. In June, Japan finally began allowing tourists to visit in groups accompanied by guides and fully reinstated visa-free travel in October.
To boost sales, Star Flyer has come up with several ways to entice customers to fly, including the flight subscription service.
The company plans to set the monthly bill at about 200,000 yen to 400,000 yen ($1,334 to $2,668). Though they haven’t said what kind of rental accommodation they’d provide, a one-bedroom apartment in Kitakyushu costs about 60,000 yen ($400) a month, about a third of housing in Tokyo.
Typically, the flight between Kitakyushu’s airport and Tokyo’s Haneda airport, which takes about an hour and 40 minutes, can cost about 35,500 yen ($237) round-trip. This means customers would have to make between 5 to 10 round trips a month to get their money’s worth.
Star Flyer is also considering separating plans so that travelers can opt for just the unlimited flight service.
Ryodai Tanaka, the CEO of xOperation Group, a company that helps businesses restructure, said he found Star Flyer’s proposal enticing. He has employees based in Fukuoka prefecture and also travels there every month, meaning he’d likely find the service helpful.
But, he said, it all depends on what properties are offered and how much it costs.
“I also don’t think it’d be realistic for individuals to use the service, but for companies to offer it to their employees,” he told VICE World News.
“It’s customary for employees to pay for their own rent and for companies to cover transportation fees, so a service like this that combines both seems complicated for users,” he said.
The pandemic has inadvertently triggered a remote work trend. More than a quarter of Japan’s companies have allowed employees to work from home in 2022, according to business research company Tokyo Shoko Research.
In addition to rolling out the unlimited flight pass, Star Flyer is also looking to sell a flight and hotel package for pet owners that will let them fly with their pets next to them in a cage and enjoy a hot spring vacation in Oita prefecture.