No such commodity as a zero fare

BANGKOK, 5 March 2018: Vietjet is famous for its sneaky discounts that vanish into thin air almost as fast as the cabin attendants strip down to their undies to gain free publicity if you believe their publicity stunts.

This is an airline founded and run by a woman who could be accused of exploiting gender in the work place.  It’s quite amazing how a female CEO can adopt dubious advertising campaigns without causing a social media storm.

We might muse that she should be an example of how to run an airline without straying into a grey area that could leave the airline open to taunts of sexual exploitation.

What is beyond question is that despite the puff and fluff that this airline engages in, there is no such commodity as a free flight, even if Vietjet would have us think so.

From a media perspective there is no point falling into the trap of announcing Vietjet’s zero fare promotions as they are most likely dead as a Dodo within minutes of the promotion’s launch.

All the media is doing is encouraging travellers to waste time chasing deals that are very likely running away at a speed faster than light. Even as the press releases are dumped on websites on day one of the promotion, editors and bloggers are obviously too busy to check if offer has a shelf life beyond the the next hour.

Of course, the airline will claim millions of travellers snatch up the bargains within seconds of the launch.  Well they might be tempted, but the process of snatching up is long and tedious. It’s never as simple as just clicking on “Krabi” and up pops your free fare.

The airline’s latest endeavour was a zero fare on a new route Bangkok-Krabi due to be launched 5 April.

Punters were given from 1 March to today, 5 March, to grab an undisclosed number of free tickets. They were not really free.  You still needed to pay for fees and tax of around THB259.

I thought I could waste some time chasing a rainbow so I logged on the airline’s website, 2 March, to see whether the zero fare would pop up as an option without too much fuss.

The first obstacle is ensuring you are on the Thai language website page.  The English landing page highlights international flight offers and when you narrow it down to a booking search for a flight to Krabi, guess what you cannot confirm the dates of travel.

There are other obstacles in the way. You need to be a member before the search for a zero fare to Krabi begins in earnest.  That takes a couple of minutes to fill in your details and once the cookies are activated you are ready to resume the booking quest for a zero fare.

I switched to Thai language to avoid getting lost again in a page of international deals. It appeared to be more straightforward. You have to make sure that the currency is Thai baht, or it will revert to Vietnamese dong. With all the dots in line you should now be able to discover a free fare to Krabi.

No such luck. The zero fare flees over the horizon.

Vietjet runs these campaigns to gain free publicity and build awareness. Zero fares are teasers that will probably waste our time. They are not supposed to be real. They are part of the “fake news” environment we live in today.

Just how many passengers actually fly free on a one of these campaigns?  The airline is not going to tell us.   If the airline played fair it would state exactly how many tickets were made available for the campaign and how many are left as the bookings progressive. The system can make that calculation and some airlines actually  provide this kind of information as a matter of course on a daily basis.

By trial and error after repeated missions to lock down a deal I managed to secure a cheap fare. It was the nearest I could get to zero; THB 545 one-way to Krabi in mid-May. This included THB 200 in fees and tax.

The travel period for the vanishing free fares runs from 5 April to 27 October. The airline will fly the Bangkok to Krabi route twice daily, starting 5 April.