The novel coronavirus pandemic has slammed the aviation sector across the world, leading to low occupancy rates and tightened cash flow. Chinese carriers have developed innovative incentive programs under the banner of “fly at will”, so as to stimulate domestic demand, build seat factors and earn much needed revenue.
China Eastern Airlines took the lead by launching its “unlimited weekend flights” product on June 18 (ended at 30th June). The unprecedented package is priced at 3,322 Yuan (US$474), and allows economy-class passengers to fly at any time to any destination on the Chinese mainland during weekends until the end of the year, with multiple weekend getaways allowed.
China Express launched a similar ticket package on June 23 (priced at 2999 Yuan and targets to new clients, doctors and nurses). Although the validity period from June 28 to Oct 24 (except for Sept 28 to Oct 10) is shorter, it allows passengers to take weekdays’ flights. According to China Express Weibo account, it has brought in a 3 million Yuan cash flow.
Following the moves, Hainan Airlines announced its version of “fly at will” on July 1, allowing passengers to fly freely with 12 airlines under Hainan Airlines Group to and from Hainan province. Additionally, the user will be given 2,880 Yuan worth of shopping vouchers for duty-free shops of China Duty Free in Hainan, as the special offerings are tailored for promoting Hainan as a free trade port and its duty-free policies. The package costs 2600 Yuan for the first 2000 sets and 2999 Yuan for another 8000 sets. It is valid from July 15 to Dec 31 (except for Sept 30 to Oct 8).
Juneyao Airlines followed suits on 10th July, its package is priced at 888 Yuan and is valid till 31th Dec 2020. Users will have unlimited opportunity for upgrade at no cost.
Budget carrier Spring Airlines has also launched its ticket packages on 18th July. It is priced at 2999 Yuan and includes routes to Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan and usable during the National Holiday.
On 29th July, Shandong airlines launched its package priced at 2999 Yuan. There’s no limitation of number of journeys from August till end of the year, including summer holidays and National Holiday.
These are examples of how airlines in China are actively stimulating demand in order to build passenger numbers and revenue in this difficult period of time. These moves have received very positive market feedback, significantly lifting the airlines’ passenger load factor, particularly in major routes linking key destinations.