You know the feeling: boarding is almost complete and the seat next to you is empty. Then, the very last person takes it and your dreams of not having a person next to you for the next few hours vanish! That may not happen anymore on some Qantas Airlines flights, thanks to a new program.
Buy An Empty Seat
Australian-based airline Qantas is trying out the “Neighbour Free” seating option. It will allow passengers to buy the seat next to them for a discounted price up to 48 hours before takeoff. Prices range from $20 to $34 depending on the length of the flight.
Right now, the program is being offered on a trial basis on select domestic flights over the next six weeks. Routes testing out the pilot program include Gold Coast to Sydney, Adelaide to Sydney, Darwin to Melbourne, Darwin to Sydney, Perth to Brisbane, and Adelaide to Brisbane. Depending on the outcome of the trial program, Qantas will consider adding it to more domestic flights, but right now has no plans to offer it on international routes.
How It Works
If a flight is not sold out, Qantas will send economy passengers an email 48 hours before departure with an option to buy the empty seat next to them. But, here’s the catch: the empty seat is not guaranteed to remain empty until the actual departure time. That means someone can still buy that seat up to the time the plane takes off. Should that happen, the passenger buying the upgrade will receive a refund for the empty seat price.
The prospect of having an empty seat next to you is growing in popularity across the airline industry. Currently, Air New Zealand allows economy passengers to purchase a “Skycouch.” That’s when the crew turns a row of economy seats into a couch after takeoff. Air New Zealand is also working on plans for “Economy Skynest,” a pod of six lie-flat beds which passengers can book for specific time frames during flight. That offering is expected to roll out in 2024.
Emirates already has a similar program to Qantas, allowing passengers to buy the empty seat next to them, and Etihad Airlines allows passengers to buy up to three empty seats.
Check out the “Neighbour Free” seating option the next time you travel within Australia. Perhaps you want to see why we consider Brisbane a hidden gem in Australia or check out our top things to do and see in Melbourne or check out the key differences between Melbourne and Sydney.