Australian national airline Qantas has begun trials of its “neighbour free” seating offer on select international flights after seeing success with the product on its longer domestic flights.
The offer allows eligible customers to pay an extra fee to reserve a seat with nobody next to it on flights that have not been fully sold 48 hours before departure. However, the neighbour-free seat is not guaranteed and customers who see their extra seat sold to someone will receive a refund.
Qantas will begin offering the service on select flights between Australia and New Zealand, Singapore, and the US, costing between A$45 ($28) and $225 ($142).
Qantas chief customer and digital officer Catriona Larritt said: “The data shows it’s most popular with customers on our longer flights between the east and west coasts, so rolling it out to our international flights makes a lot of sense.”
The airline’s trial of the service, which will be expanded to other routes in the coming months, comes after it announced plans to expand capacity on its international flights to the US, Asia, Africa and New Zealand and go beyond its target to reach pre-pandemic levels by March 2024.
Reserving a neighbour-free seat costs less than the price of a normal ticket and does not include any upgrades for baggage or meal allowances. It is not available for extra legroom seats, upgraded seats, passengers travelling with an infant, or for unaccompanied minors.
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Qantas has been affected by a series of issues recently, including multiple court cases covering the layoff of workers during the pandemic and selling seats for already cancelled flights. The controversies have led to a board renewal process and new CEO Vanessa Hudson apologising to passengers.