UPDATE: 12.01pm Sat 1 April: Since we first published this story an industry spokesperson's been in touch with the following statement: "Check the date. Airlines would NEVER float far-fetched, eye-catching cost-cutting plans simply to attract media coverage."
Some of the UK's biggest budget airlines are planning to offer passengers a partial refund on their tickets if they help clean the plane before disembarking, or take on other jobs usually performed by cabin crew or airport staff.
MoneySavingExpert.com understands a number of carriers are planning to roll out the new ticketing model, in a bid to cut staff costs and speed up the turnaround time of planes.
Holidaymakers who volunteer for jobs such as clearing litter and bleaching the loos may be able to claim back up to 14% of their ticket cost after flying.
The scheme, which comes into effect from today (Saturday 1 April), will be trialled initially on a few selected routes between the UK and Spain, ahead of a wider roll-out.
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How the 'crew for cash' scheme will work
Passengers will be asked at check-in if they'd like to volunteer for a job on their flight. Those who put themselves forward will then be assigned a cleaning role or asked to help with other tasks.
Those who agree to clean the plane will be assigned a special seat with extra legroom to allow them to stow the cleaning sprays, cloths and dustpans they'll be issued. Overalls and gloves will also be provided.
Other jobs which will also earn a flight discount include:
- Loading your own baggage into the hold.
- Giving the safety briefing.
- Manning the food trolley.
Passengers travelling with musical instruments may be able to cut the cost of their extra baggage by performing onboard as airlines look to bring back the glamour of flying, while those without baggage will be refunded if they offer to round up stragglers to get the plane away on time.
Children over the age of four will also be able to take part, with likely roles including clearing rubbish in the gaps beneath seats and selling bus tickets for onward travel. It's estimated a typical family of four travelling to Alicante should be able to shave £41 off the cost of return flights.
'A win-win for airlines and passengers'
Airline industry spokesperson Paris Follo told MSE: "We're thrilled to announce this exciting joint venture, which we're certain passengers will love. What better way to start your holiday than with that feeling of satisfaction you get from a bit of hard graft – and some extra spending money in your pocket.
"This will allow us to cut the costs of cleaning workers, ground staff and cabin crew, while also enabling us to get planes ready quicker, meaning we can fit more flights into a day. And these roles are just the start – we're also exploring what roles in the cockpit keen map-readers or experienced computer gamers may be able to take on.
"We see it as a win-win for both the airlines and passengers who, once they have taken their overalls off, can enjoy their break knowing they've truly earned it."
Responding to the plans, MSE travel editor Flora Polydais said: "If you're looking to save money on flights this April, you'd have to be a fool to rush straight to the sun lounger without first rolling up your sleeves and getting stuck in."
Additional reporting by Gary Caffell.