If you caught a flight in economy class in 2020, you likely had the pleasure of not having someone sit next to you in the dreaded middle seat. But when Delta Air Lines became the last to reverse its open middle policy in May 2021, the days of the extra precaution (and space) are over — unless you’re willing to pay for it.
If business or first Class prices are not for your wallet, some airlines have reintroduced “sleeper rows” or “neighbor-free seats” to ensure your comfort and safety. The deal is essentially that you purchase the seats next to you for an extra fee that’s either at a fixed price, or, in the case of some airlines, bid on. Then you’ve got the space of three seats for a price that’s often lower than the roomy first and business class sections (minus the free welcome drink and other perks, of course).
This is a game-changer for long-haul flights, with international airlines like Etihad, Philippine Airlines, Lufthansa, and Malaysia Airlines making it easy to book the seats around you. While the concept isn’t new, a fresh reason to consider the practice is the extra precaution against COVID. One study found that blocking the middle seat led to a 23 percent decrease in catching pathogens on a flight while having an entire row brought that number down even further, to 57 percent. Before jumping all in, make sure you check that the seats next to you aren’t already open. TikTok influencer Mally, known for her travel tips, was offered the chance to purchase one and posed the question to those who watched if it was worth it, but it turns out the flight was already empty.
They’re not all cut and dry seat purchases with no perks. Lufthansa’s Sleeper Row seats come with a Sleeper’s Row set. You’ll get a thin mattress to put across the three seats, plus a “Business Class-quality blanket and pillow.” That could also provide some extra comfort against all of the cracks and crevices between the three seats. The additional charge could be anywhere between about $179 and $249 per leg of the trip, so be sure to keep an eye out to compare pricing with business or first class. Also be sure to check how full your flight is — you might get your own row regardless.