With airplane seats getting smaller and concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic running rampant, airlines are trying to make flying more comfortable and convenient for passengers by selling them empty seats. Qantas is the most recent airline to instill this policy, which allows travelers in economy class to purchase the seat next to them for a $20 to $30 fee.
If a booked passenger’s flight isn’t full 48 hours before the flight, they’ll receive an email that gives them the option to buy an empty seat that’s adjacent to theirs. The extra space is not guaranteed; if the flight fills up, the airline will refund customers for the unused upgrade.
Travelers who want to take advantage of this benefit should move quickly. Qantas is offering this option for select domestic routes over a six-week trial period. If all goes well, the option will continue.
Securing an empty seat is a boon for many passengers. It provides them with more space and encourages social distancing.
Although Qantas is not the first airline to do this, it makes the process of securing that extra space more convenient and affordable.
During the height of the pandemic, many U.S. airlines blocked off middle seats to give passengers more room. As the restrictions eased, these airlines experimented with various policies to accommodate travelers who want to expand their personal space.
Frontier airlines offered a limited number of extra seats for $39 and seats with extra leg room for $79. Alaska Airlines featured empty middle seats in Premium Class through May 2021.
Passengers can always purchase an additional seat at the regular economy fare. Many airlines, including American Airlines and Southwest, require travelers that can’t fit safely into one seat to purchase an extra one. But customers often get a refund if the flight leaves with unsold seats.