With the shift to working-from-home, many workers took the opportunity to move to cheaper locations, taking advantage of more space further away from urban centers.
But what if your commute was a flight that was just over 90 minutes—and that you could take as often as you wanted for a flat fee?
Star Flyer, a regional airline in Japan, is testing that idea with a 30-day package of unlimited flights between Tokyo and Kitakyushu, a city of around 900,000 on the northern coast of Japan’s southern Kyushu island that serves as the airline’s home base. The 30-day period began in mid-May and will end June 13.
Millennials and older generations don’t get quite as nice a deal, however, with the unlimited flights costing them $1,100.
The airline has, so far at least, issued 90 passes through a lottery from a pool of 550 applicants, according to the report.
Star Flyer has suggested that it wanted to target remote workers as early as last year, seeing them as a way to revive the airline’s fortunes during the COVID pandemic.
In October, the airline announced plans for a monthly subscription allowing unlimited flights between Tokyo and the southwestern city of Fukuoka, just under two hours’ flight away. The package would have cost between $1,300 and $2,600, but came with a perk: rented accommodation in Fukuoka, with cheaper living costs than the capital of Tokyo.
“Demand for business travel is still weak, which is one of the reasons we consider relocation as a way to cultivate new demand,” a company spokesperson told Bloomberg at the time.
Like other firms in Asia, Japanese companies did not embrace remote work as much as their American or European counterparts during the COVID pandemic.
Even during the country’s COVID waves—and despite the government’s urging that people should stay at home—Japanese employees often continued to commute into the office due to an office culture that prized in-person interaction and a slow adoption of remote working tools.
Opinions on remote work among Japanese companies appear to be evenly split. Almost 40% of Japanese companies plan to return to pre-COVID working practices, according to a May survey from financial research company Teikoku Databank. A slightly smaller proportion suggested they would maintain their remote work policies even after COVID.