Social distancing measures on flights has been a hot topic of late. Some airlines have chosen to sell fewer tickets for flights, block out the middle seat, or create an empty buffer zone near crew jump seats. Should a passenger feel like they need a personal buffer, however, Chinese domestic airline Air Changan is happy to oblige. Those traveling with the carrier can now purchase empty adjacent seats for $28 a piece.
$226 for a set of eight
The domestic market in China is showing tentative signs of recovery, which will undoubtedly mean the space on its aircraft will begin to feel cramped once more. As reported by Forbes, Air Changan, part of Hainan Airlines Group, is offering those wanting a secure social distance parameter around them the possibility to pay for the extra space and, perhaps, peace of mind.
An adjacent extra empty seat goes for $28. A whole set of eight, allowing the passenger to block off the row of three behind, one seat to each side, and the row of three in front, costs $226. Not included: extra baggage allowance and frequent flyer points.
The offer is only available at the airport on the day of departure and if there are enough seats available on the plane. This novel extra product is only offered on flights out of Air Changan’s home base, Xi’an Xianyang International Airport, in central China. It will initially be available until the end of 2020.
The story does not tell whether or not two people can create a buffer around themselves at the same time, meaning two empty rows one after the other. Or, if these passengers could end up paying for the same seats, still leaving only one empty row between them.
Air Changan, or Chang’an Airlines Co. Ltd, was established in 1993. To start, it operated several regional routes from Xi’an with Xian Y-7 aircraft. The domestically-built twin-engine turboprop plane was based on the 44-seat Ukrainian Antonov AN-24, for which China obtained production licenses.
The carrier was acquired in 2000 by the Hainan Airline Group. It flew under Hainan’s HU code until it recommenced independent service under the Air Changan brand on the 9th of May 2016. It then began operating a Xi’an to Zhuhai service with a Boeing 737-800.
Today, Air Changan’s fleet consists of 11 737-800 aircraft, three of which are currently parked, with an average age of seven years. The airline has two 737-MAXs on order and applied with the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) in October last year to launch international flights.
That middle seat apart
Several carriers, such as easyJet, have announced that they will be blocking out the middle seat when flights resume. Delta Air Lines already has this seating policy in place until June. Meanwhile, others, such as Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary, has called the notion an “idiotic idea” and said in an interview with the Financial Times that the airline would not resume operations if it would mean that the middle seat was out of play.
How much do you see a European low-cost carrier charging for a similar service? Would you consider it? At what price? Let us know in the comments!