There’s a certain feeling of joy that bubbles to the surface when the flight attendant announces that boarding is over and you realize no one is sitting in the middle seat. It was an everyday reality at the beginning of the pandemic, but those days are long gone. However, Qantas Airways is the latest airline to offer customers the chance to purchase an extra empty seat for an upcharge.
The airline is currently trialing its “Extra Seat for Personal Comfort” program over six weeks on six domestic routes that run from 90 minutes to four hours: Adelaide to Brisbane, Adelaide to Sydney, Darwin to Melbourne, Darwin to Sydney, Gold Coast to Sydney and Perth to Brisbane. The service costs between $24 and $44.
Customers will not be able to purchase the spare seat up front. If the Qantas flight hasn’t sold out, they will receive an email roughly 48 hours before departure offering the chance to upcharge their ticket for extra elbow room. However, if the flight gets booked up by the time of departure, the airline can no longer guarantee the open seat, and customers will receive a full refund. So, think about it — if the airline can offer the neighbor-free seating option, the flight may be pretty empty anyway.
Qantas is not the first airline to offer this service. Aer Lingus, Etihad, Philippine Airlines, and Malaysia Airlines all have similar offerings, with some set up as a bidding system rather than a flat rate. Lufthansa even offers a sleeper row option where the flight attendants will set up a thin mattress to put across all three seats, plus a “business class-quality blanket and pillow.”
Just be sure to check the seating chart online or in the app before trying to purchase. You wouldn’t want to waste your money.