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What if an airline got its most loyal customers to commit in advance to buying a certain number of trips, in exchange for an advantageous price? That’s what Air France’s Le Pass is trying to do, by offering all passengers — not just the most frequent flyers — the option of buying bundles of flights on the Air France and Hop! networks. It’s also a good way for legacy airlines to try and compete with the low-fare carriers that have changed the face of air transport in Europe.
On the dedicated Le Pass website you can play with the different parameters and see fares adjust instantly, until you strike the balance between cost and flexibility that best suits your needs. Once you have pre-paid for your package, you must then redeem it by booking yourself on specific flights.
You can buy your package for a specific route — let’s say Paris CDG to Nice (NCE) — or by region, for example “France”, “Germany” or “Europe”, just to name a few, which gives you access to all Air France and Hop! direct flights within that specific region or country. (Caveat: Le Pass is not available for long-haul flights.)
You can also purchase pre-configured packages for the most popular choices. For example, a 30-flight bundle to be used within 12 months on the Paris CDG to Barcelona (BCN) route with 90 days advance booking sells for €1,890, or €63 per flight, which Air France says is a 75% discount off the regular fare. Other popular pre-set packages are advertised as selling at discounts of over 70% off their theoretical market value.
Of course, the more you narrow the scope, the cheaper it can get. All flights must be return tickets and the minimum bundle is six flights (or three return trips.) Let’s say you’re a super-frequent flyer, and six flights would hardly last you a week, for example. In that case, you can buy up to 900 trips in one go. The pass validity ranges from one month to a year.
If you buy a bundle of more than 20 flights, you only need to pay 20% upfront. The rest you can pay in installments. Or you can share. Every Le Pass holder can attach up to nine other travellers to a bundle. Remarkably, it is not necessary to name the other users at the time of purchase.
You can also set the time constraint for when you want to redeem your pre-paid flights, from two hours to up to 90 days before the flight. Of course, the closer to departure you want to be able to book your flight, the more expensive it will be. You must also select which one of Air France’s branded fares —Light, Standard and Flex — you prefer, depending on your needs for rebooking flexibility.
A weekend stay can also help lower your price. This was common practice among legacy carriers before the era of low cost carriers. It is interesting that Air France has included it explicitly in this new product. Finally, the option of traveling on black-out dates will cost you more. When you have selected all variables — not a trivial task, considering the many combinations possible — you’ll hit the Search button and get a quote.
Flying Blue members will be able to collect miles as they would on a standalone booking. Those who buy a Le Pass bundle of 20 or more flights before September 30th will get an automatic Flying Blue status upgrade and, if they are already Platinum members, 20,000 extra miles.
Expect similar products to pop up in the near future. In fact, barely three months after the launch of Le Pass, TAP Air Portugal followed suit with an analogous product, Flight Pass, powered by the same technology platform.
Air France’s Le Pass and TAP’s Flight Pass product will appeal to business passengers, but also to the growing number of international commuters that have their personal and professional lives split between two different cities — not a rare instance in Europe.
Featured image of an Air France Airbus A319 at Paris Orly airport by Fabrizio Gandolfo/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images.
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