Qantas has come up with a plan to make flying in economy a bit more bearable – but you’ll have to cough up for it and the benefit could be withdrawn once you’re on-board.
The airline has announced its new “Neighbour Free” program which will enable passengers at the back of the plane to book an empty adjacent seat to their own on some routes.
“Neighbour Free offers you the opportunity to reserve the seat next to you, so you can enjoy extra space and comfort when travelling in Economy,” Qantas stated.
It’s not available internationally or on some of its busiest domestic routes – at least for the time being.
Some top tier frequent flyers have long been able to quietly access this perk in economy for free, but now it’s open to all passengers for a price.
After booking a domestic ticket a customer will receive an email 48 hours prior to departure – if they’re flying on an eligible route and there are seats available – inviting them to reserve the seat next to them.
The passenger will then pay between $30 and $65 extra and will receive confirmation their Neighbour Free request has been accepted.
The cost of securing the seat next to you will depend on the route. Flying from Sydney to the Gold Coast or Adelaide to Melbourne will set you back the minimum of $35.
But most of the eligible routes, including Adelaide to Brisbane, Brisbane to Perth and Darwin to Sydney will cost $65.
Many of Qantas’ busiest domestic routes will not be part of the Neighbour Free program, at least not initially, including flights from Sydney to Melbourne and Brisbane, and Brisbane to Melbourne.
No services to Canberra or Tasmania also appear to be in the initial tranche of routes. Neither are international Qantas flights.
However Qantas has told travel website Executive Traveller that there were “plans to further expand the initiative to other domestic routes in the months ahead”.
The seat cannot be used for children nor can musical instruments or extra carry-on bags be placed on them.
The airline has also cautioned that the empty seat can also be pulled at the last minute.
Qantas has stated that “Neighbour Free seats are subject to availability and may need to be changed for operational, safety or security reasons, even after boarding the aircraft”.
Essentially if Qantas later sells the seat then you could still end up with a neighbour but it’ll likely try and put people with last minute tickets into unsold Neighbour Free seats first.
Passengers will only know for sure if they have secured the adjacent seat at the gate.
If the seat is filled, you will get a refund on the now no longer empty seat.
Qantas has been trialling the initiative on six routes since September of last year. All these six routes remain part of the expanded program.