Choosing an airline seat can often feel like a game of chance. Even the most experienced travelers are just tossing the dice when they check a box on the seat map, with no control over who their onboard neighbors will be or whether they’ll luck out and get a whole row to themselves. But now some airlines have a convenient new feature—the ability to block out the seat next to you.
Earlier this week, Australian airline Qantas announced the trial of its “Neighbour Free” seating option, allowing passengers the option to ensure the seat next to them will remain free for a fee. The company says that the program is currently being tested on six domestic routes within Australia, and is not guaranteed to stay empty until departure time.
The option is currently being offered on an invitation-only basis to eligible customers on those select routes, who will receive an email before their flight, with costs varying by route. The airline cautions that the extra seat is then meant to remain empty, and not to be used for infant seating or extra carry ons, including musical instruments. Qantas hopes to gauge customer feedback during this trial period, and if the idea sticks, they’ll roll it out to more domestic routes later this year.
And they’re not the only ones who have gotten into the business of promising some on-board elbow room, especially in the age of pandemic travel. Here are the airlines currently offering the opportunity to block out your adjacent seat at a discounted cost.
The current “Neighbour Free” trial for Qantas is available to economy passengers for $30 to $65 on six routes, chosen for their range of flight time between 90 minutes to four hours. Eligible passengers flying between the Gold Coast and Sydney, Adelaide and Sydney, Darwin and Melbourne, Darwin and Sydney, Perth and Brisbane, and Adelaide and Brisbane will receive an email 48 hours before their flight to invite them to opt in.
Even after purchase, the extra seat is not guaranteed until departure. If someone ends up buying that seat, the customer will receive a refund. Availability is limited, so interested passengers are advised to book early.
Fiji Airways says that it first introduced “My Bubble Seat” manually in 2021 and then opened it up to customers when the country’s borders reopened in December. With the aim of offering social distancing, additional comfort, and more personal space, the option is available to purchase between 72 to four hours before departure time.
Passengers will have the option to select either one or two seats they’d like to block out on the seat map. For those choosing two seats, it must be an entire row, as seats across an aisle or in other rows can’t be blocked out.
For more than three years, Dubai-based Emirates Airline has been allowing economy customers to buy up to three adjoining seats, but they can only be bought at the airport check-in counter before departure. The company confirms that they first introduced the program in March 2021 in response to passengers who prefer the economy class, but wanted more space. That includes couples who’d like a row alone, parents with infants traveling on their laps, or those who’d simply like to guarantee social distancing.
The cost for the upgrade is between $55 and $165 (or AED 200 to 600).