You can get more space in economy.
Let’s be honest here: if you could, you’d never have a neighbor sitting next to you on a plane. Especially when you’re flying economy. But would you pay extra to reserve the seat next to you?
Australia-based Qantas Airlines is the latest airline to employ a creative way to offer more elbowroom to its customers—at a price. It has launched neighbor-free seating that gives passengers a chance to book unsold seats next to them and get more space on their economy flights.
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Qantas began the trials of neighbor-free seats domestically this year and after its success, it has expanded to international routes, including the U.S.
It’s not exactly a business class experience, but a little more space on a flight, especially when it’s a long one, can be a blessing. USA Today reports that on a Qantas flight between the U.S. and Australia, an empty seat can cost $140.
Here’s how it works: If you’re eligible, you’re sent an email 48 hours before your flight. Then you can reserve extra seats up to one hour before departure for domestic flights and up to two hours for international flights. You can choose your neighbor-free seat along with your standard seat. If confirmed, your boarding pass will indicated that you have more than one seat on your ticket.
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However, it’s not a given. Qantas stresses, “Neighbor Free seats are subject to availability and may need to be changed for operational, safety or security reasons, even after boarding the aircraft.”
So until boarding, you won’t know for sure if you’re traveling with both armrests or not. If it doesn’t go as planned, you’ll receive a refunde.
There are other things to remember. This seat is just for your personal space; you won’t get bonus baggage allowance or meals when you book it. The cost varies and you can only have one reservation for your booking regardless of the number of people traveling together. If your flight gets cancelled, you will get a refund on your neighbor-free seat (even if you are booked on another flight). And, you can’t reserve neighbor-free with loyalty points.
Plus, this feature is not offered to unaccompanied minors, families with infants, those with extra legroom, and those traveling in groups.
More Neighbor-Free Airlines
Neighbor-free seats is not a new concept: airlines such as Sri Lankan Airways and Etihad have been offering passengers a chance to book out the full row. Sri Lankan Airlines lets passengers book up to three seats by sending an invitation for neighbor-free seats between four and 48 hours before flights. With Etihad, you can keep up to three neighboring seats to yourself—they become available between four and 72 hours before flights and you can bid on them.
There are a couple of caveats though. Airlines don’t allow changing of seats and there is no guarantee. There may also be extenuating circumstances (like safety issues) that may cause passengers to lose the privilege. And you may also not get to sit freely on your row if the seat gets sold. But it’s worth a try—if you’re willing to pay more on top of the ticket price.