There’s nothing like hearing the flight attendant’s announcement that boarding is complete with an empty seat still next to you. It feels a bit like winning the lotto. Unlike winning the lotto, though, you’ll no longer need to leave that feeling to chance thanks to one airline’s new Neighbor-Free seating option.
Per a new report from Travel Pulse, Qantas has decided to move forward with an option that will allow passengers to guarantee an open seat next to them on the plane. The idea is that, in lieu of upgrading to, say, business class, passengers will now be able to purchase a little extra space (read: the seat next to them) for as little as $143 USD.
“Neighbor-Free Seating,” as it’s been aptly coined, is now available on most domestic Qantas flights and will soon be an option on as many as 19 international routes, too, including several going to and from the U.S., following a successful pilot of the program last month.
As it stands, the routes that offer the option include Dallas to Melbourne, Dallas to Sydney, Honolulu to Sydney, Los Angeles to Brisbane, Los Angeles to Melbourne, Los Angeles to Sydney and San Francisco to Sydney. According to Qantas’ Chief Customer and Digital Officer Catriona Larritt, it’s been extremely well received by customers on longer flights traveling between the East and West coasts.
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“We’ve had a really positive reaction from customers who’ve opted to travel Neighbor Free on our domestic network and customers have told us they want the option on our international flights too,” Larritt told Travel + Leisure. “Whether they’re hopping across the Tasman or taking a longer flight to the United States, we think customers will value being able to secure some extra space.”
Of course, the one (albeit obvious) downside to the new program is that it isn’t available on fully booked flights. You’ll only know that it’s an option 48 hours before the flight, at which point (assuming you’re traveling an eligible route) you’ll receive an email notifying them that extra seats are available for purchase. Even then, however, those seats aren’t guaranteed…at least not until the time of departure. (If the free seat winds up selling between the time you’ve paid for it and departure, the airline will issue a refund.)
Further, as Travel Pulse notes, travelers who purchase options like extra legroom or who have already requested an upgrade, as well as those traveling with an infant or as part of a group booking, will be excluded from being able to partake in the Neighbor-Free Seating program.
In other words, you actually still kind of can’t count on having a free seat next to you, but at least your odds may be higher.
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