Celebrity chefs, designer pajamas, and flatbed seats are all luxuries unlikely to show up in economy class anytime soon. But airlines do seem to be coming up with ideas on how to make non-VIP passengers more comfortable.
The latest comes from Australia’s Qantas Airways. The “Neighbor Free” program allows passengers to reserve the seat next to them for some extra space or perhaps to avoid an overly chatty neighbor.
Forty-eight hours prior to departure, eligible travelers will be invited via email to reserve an adjacent seat for a fee. The program began this month.
The prices vary depending on the flight route. A “neighbor free” seat on a flight from Sydney to the Gold Coast would cost a minimum of 30 Australian dollars, or $20, while most eligible routes like Adelaide to Brisbane would set you back 65 Australian dollars, or $40, per Executive Traveller.
The new campaign has received mixed reviews. “I think I would pay the extra dollars, a little extra room would be lovely,” said a man to Today News reporter Izabella Staskowski. “I like to be a little social, I think that’s a little bit anti-social, isn’t it?” said another.
Meanwhile, Sky News host James Macpherson thinks it’s a “terrible idea.” “Qantas are only doing this to try to make a few dollars out of seats that are already empty,” Macpherson told Sky News host Rita Panahi.
Qantas states that these seats are subject to availability and may be rescinded for “operational, safety or security reasons, even after boarding the aircraft.”
Though the airline’s new program is currently only offered on emptier domestic flights, there are “plans to further expand the initiative to other domestic routes in the months ahead,” a Qantas spokesperson told Executive Traveller.
Next year, Air New Zealand will introduce the “sleep zone,” with bunk beds for passengers to rent during the journey. On other airlines— including Singapore Airlines — hot towels and amenity kits are handed out to long-haul passengers in coach.
Insider has reached out to The Qantas News Room for comment.
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