Why Do Full Service Carriers Charge For Seat Reservations?

It has been standard procedure for low-cost carriers to charge extra for an allocated seat. However, it is now becoming more common for full service airlines to charge for reservations.

Singapore Airlines Boeing 777
Despite traditionally being a full service carrier, Singapore Airlines recently introduced monetized seat reservations. Photo: Bahnfrend via Wikimedia Commons

For low-cost carriers, the lack of an allocated seat is often justified due to the low initial fare. By charging a premium for choice, these carriers can keep unallocated seats at a reasonable ticket price. Now, many passengers are having to pay extra for allocated seats on services that did not previously charge.

Growing trend

Earlier this summer, Thai Airways started to charge passengers for particular seat selections onboard their flights when booking. Economy passengers now have the choice to pay and upgrade to exit rows or the front of the plane.

This followed a similar move by fellow Southeast Asian carrier, Singapore Airlines. Business Traveller reported that from January last year, passengers buying the cheapest fares now have to pay a selection fee. To reserve a seat in advance, customers are now charged a fee starting from US$5 per sector.

Etihad also implemented seat reservation fees on their flights from 2018 as part of the “Enhance Your Economy Class Journey” promotion. Here, most passengers have to pay extra in order to select a seat in economy class.

CNN reported that United also recently introduced a paid seat reservation system. The new “Preferred” option offers passengers to pay for a limited number of aisle and window seats at the front of the economy sector.

Etihad Airways Boeing 787-9
Etihad promoted the introduction of reservation fees as a new product. Photo: dxme via Wikimedia Commons

In demand

Ultimately, carriers claim that these introductions are part of a move to diversify products and give passengers greater choice. The airlines feel that these features give customers freedom to choose sought after locations on the aircraft.

However, skeptics feel that this trend is just another way to maximize profits. Airlines are continuing to monetize previously inclusive services such as on-board food and baggage allowances.

On the other hand, some may feel that the ability to choose a seat is a bonus as the airline’s ultimate job is to get passengers to their destination. Just like how music event companies charge extra for concert tickets that are closer to the stage, carriers have the opportunity to do the same.

Airplane seating
Passengers are having to continue accounting for extra costs that were previously included during check in. Photo: PxHere

Here to stay

Whether they will be charged for a reservation or not, there is a demand for allocated seats. The aviation industry has been going through great uncertainty with fluctuating costs, grounded aircraft and continued airline collapses.

Therefore, firms have to find ways to maintain revenue goals and seat allocations looks to be an increasingly preferred method. Do you think it is fair for full service carriers to charge for seat reservations? Let us know of any alternative ideas in the comment section.