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How much would you pay for an empty seat next to you on a plane?

Qantas is the latest airline charging passengers to keep a neighbouring seat free

Ed Cunningham
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Ed Cunningham
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You take your seat on a plane. You wait for another passenger to arrive and sit next to you. Then, slowly it dawns: there’s no one coming. For an entire flight, you’ve got a whole empty seat to yourself, with extra space to stretch out your legs and dump your stuff. Bliss.

The question is, how much would you pay to have that extra-seat feeling? Well, that’s something airliner Qantas is now looking to capitalise on. The Australian carrier has announced a ‘neighbour-free’ booking option that will allow passengers to block the seat next to them, giving them that bit more sweet personal space.

The cost of Qantas’s ‘neighbour-free’ option will start from AU$30 (£18, $20) and for now it will only be available on domestic routes. What’s more, you won’t be able to choose the option when you initially book your tickets: it will only be offered to certain customers within 48 hours of departure.

Qantas isn’t the first airline to have offered customers the chance to block neighbouring seats. Etihad has done a similar thing since 2017, offering passengers the chance to bid to keep the seats next to them empty, while Emirates lets people keep up to three neighbouring seats empty. Eurowings and Sri Lankan Airlines offer similar options.

Compared to other airlines’ ‘neighbour-free’ options, Qantas’s policy is fairly affordable: empty seats on Emirates start from £48 ($55) and the price on Eurowings starts from €10 (£9, $10).

Of course, all this stuff is also pretty savvy business sense. These empty seats would usually amount to lost business and unsold tickets. By getting customers to pay even a small amount for them, airlines are clawing in just a bit more money.

But then is it all worth it – especially when there’s a chance you might get an empty neighbouring seat anyway? Isn’t the surprise of getting one unexpectedly all part of the pleasure? We’ll leave that up to you…

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