Seatmate uncertainty is one of the most daunting parts of air travel. Who knows if you’ll be assigned a spot next to someone smelly and annoying, or nobody at all?!
Etihad Airways lets passengers guarantee the latter with “neighbor-free” seating in economy class, it announced this week. The program lets travelers pay extra to keep the seats surrounding theirs empty to secure some extra elbow room or even an entire row for lie-flat napping.
Here’s how it works: Before a flight, a passenger can place a bid online for one, two or three seats next to theirs, depending on the type of plane and how full it is. It’s not guaranteed they’ll score any extra space, according to Etihad, but they’ll receive a confirmation 32 hours before the flight. If the bid is accepted, the passenger pays for keeping the extra seat or seats empty and enjoys some bonus space. If not, they’re out of luck.
An Etihad spokesperson wouldn’t confirm how much “neighbor-free seats” are going for. There are minimum and maximum bidding amounts for each flight, according to the carrier’s website, but it doesn’t specify what those prices are.
“Neighbor-free” bidding is among moves the Abu Dhabi-based airline is making to generate more revenue streams in a difficult Middle East market, Bloomberg notes. Etihad flies into the U.S. through Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Dallas and Washington, D.C.
Indeed, airlines have found all sorts of creative ways to play with profits lately, like shrinking seats to fit more passengers and introducing “no frills” tickets that come at a cheaper upfront cost but tack on extra fees for necessities like checked bags.
This latest offer, however, has us intrigued. And ready for some elbow room.
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