China Southern To Allow Passengers To Purchase More Personal Space

In a world first, China Southern is allowing passenger purchase quite the unique upgrade – personal space!

Passengers of flights leaving the airlines hub in Guangzhou can purchase the economy seat next to them for a discount, ensuring that they are rubbing elbows with no one.

China Southern
China Southern Economy is up for sale. Source: China Southern

What are the details?

Dubbed the ‘One Passenger More Seats’ upgrade, it allows passengers to buy up to three economy seats next to them onboard any China Southern flight (where applicable) and have them empty onboard. This means more room to spread out (and in a 3 x row enough room to lie down) and the avoidance of awkward conversations with seatmates.

This would be quite useful on long-haul big aircraft flights (such as an Airbus A380 or a Boeing 777) but it would be harder for the airline to justify on smaller regional flights that come in a 3-3 configuration, especially on dense routes.

China Southern 787
A China Southern Dreamliner. Photo: Wikimedia

How much does it cost?

This new upgrade would only work if it costs less than a fully occupied seat, but is still profitable for the airline. According to, the seats are cheaper than buying a normal economy seat, ranging from as low as RMB250 (US$37.2) to RMB1,700 (US$253) depending on how long the flight is. For comparison, a normal economy seat between New York and Guangzhou is RMB4,480 (US$667).

But it gets better still; instead of always having to just pay to upgrade, passengers can enter a luck based lottery at check-in to secure an extra empty seat. By spending iterations of $97,$179, $253 for 1,2,3 seats respectively, passengers go into the running to ‘win’ the empty seats next to them. The one caveat is that it is only once check-in is closed that the seats are released and they find out if they are a lucky ‘winner’.

China Southern
You could be as relaxed as this passenger is. Source: China Southern

This means it’s actually better to book these empty seats during check-in rather than waiting for the lottery (especially when it’s a cheaper flight). Plus, the price starts to get rather expensive when compared to Business Class (on short haul) and it’s possible that you could pay more for an inferior product. It is unclear what happens if you want to upgrade your empty seat into a normal seat for a friend.

Currently, this offer is only available for passengers leaving the hub in Guangzhou, but the airline hopes to soon expand it to flights at Shanghai and Beijing.

We have yet to see if other airlines will follow in China Southern’s footsteps.

What do you think of the new policy? Would you want an empty seat next to you on your next flight? Let us know in the comments. 

    1. Essentially, you can either buy the extra personal space during booking, or you can enter a ‘lottery’ during check-in.

      The booking option is cheaper for short haul flights, whilst the lottery might be cheaper for long haul. The problem is, you only find out if you win (and get charged) if there are empty seats on the flight. if its full then you won’t get them.

      Some of these options, such as the $253 for 3 seats during the lottery, end up being more expensive than simply booking ahead of time ($37.5 per seat)

  1. I still feel iffy about airlines trying to make more $$$ by “selling space” in economy rather than actually giving space by removing two or four rows of seats (airlines probably won’t go bankrupt by removing a couple dozen of passengers now, would they?) and reducing one seat abreast to give more width…

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