With passenger traffic drastically lower in this first quarter of 2020, we’ve seen a few airlines offering unlimited flight passes at eye-catching, hard-to-resist prices. These have mainly been in Southeast Asia, where prices are already relatively low. But as the saying goes, “if it looks too good to be true, it probably is” – and that might be the case for these passes…
Who’s offering unlimited flight passes?
In recent times we’ve seen several carriers offer unlimited flight passes for a set fee. So far we’ve reported on the following:
- Canada’s Flair Air*
- AirAsia X (out of Malaysia, to Japan, Korea, India, and Australia)
- Vietnam’s VietJet Air
- and Bamboo Airways – another Vietnamese carrier
All of these airlines are offering seemingly amazing deals on unlimited flight passes that range anywhere from 90 days to about one year. For Flair, VietJet, and Bamboo, destinations are limited to domestic only. However, AirAsia X takes travelers quite a bit further, flying pass holders between Japan, Korea, India, and Australia, mainly through its hub in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia).
At a time like this, the primary intention is to re-energize and stimulate travel demand in an adverse and challenging economic climate. But behind the flashy marketing is a catch that prospective customers need to be aware of before getting their credit cards ready.
*It appears that Flair put out their promotion too early, before realizing the severity of global events. Its Go Travel Pass information page has since been removed from the airline’s website.
The big catch
Common throughout all of our example-passes listed above is the fact that they only cover the essential fare portion of the flight.
AirAsia’s Unlimited Pass “excludes government taxes and fees, add ons, and other charges.” VietJet offers only the “free base fare ticket” and “does not include VAT” while Bamboo Airways’ pass covers “100% of the basic fare of Bamboo Plus ticket”.
Essentially, what all of this means is that pass holders are still on the hook for a large portion of the ticket cost for each flight. There are cases where the base fare is only 50-60% of the full cost of the ticket, meaning you could still be paying 40-50% of each flight.
So what are all these extra fees not included? Look closely at your receipt/ticket next time, and you might just see a long list of random and vague items added to the cost of your ticket. One of our recent flights showed the following:
- Airport Departure Tax
- Air Transport Tax
- Four different types of Airport Passenger Service Charges
- Airport Service Charge
- Airport Security Charge
- Security Charge
- Carrier-imposed international surcharge
- Currency conversion surcharge
Another ticket from another airline seemed a little more simple, only adding Airport Tax and Fuel Surcharge.
While the first example is from a European carrier flying out of the Middle East and may not apply to other airlines, that doesn’t mean it’s exceptional. Around the world, ticket costs will often include several fees that you will have to pay, despite holding an “unlimited pass.”
Is it still a good deal?
Yes and No. It depends on the airline, the flight, and the taxes you will encounter with your itinerary. One airport’s taxes and security charges may be far less than another.
It also depends on how frequently you use your pass. You could indeed recoup the value of your pass over its lifespan – but you’ll be spending additional money at the same time- just be sure to take that into account. Also, keep in mind that you’re locked into using a specific airline, forced to fly on days and times that you might find less when ideal compared to what other carriers are offering.
There are a lot of factors and a lot of things to think about.
It’s essential to read the fine print before getting too excited about a seemingly good deal. If saving money is your primary concern, then you’ll have to sit down and do some calculations on how much you’ll use your unlimited pass.
Yes, if used correctly, it is indeed possible to save some money – but probably not as much as you were expecting!
With all of this in mind, would you still purchase an unlimited pass? Let us know in the comments!