Qantas Investigates Following Extreme Costs For Extra Legroom

A man trying to hitch a transcontinental ride on Qantas was recently quoted AU$987,999,999 for an extra legroom seat. Normally, Qantas wants you to pony up AU$70 for a few extra inches of legroom on this particular flight. The passenger, a fairly well-known Australian entertainment identity, captured the over-the-top quote in a screenshot and later posted it online.

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The Qantas app recently quoted nearly a billion dollars for a seat with extra legroom. Photo: Getty Images

$987,999,999 for an extra legroom seat

Dave O’Neil is a comedian who’d been performing at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. After wrapping up his show on Sunday evening, Mr O’Neil then wanted to fly to Perth on Monday. Over the weekend, he went to book a flight via the Qantas app.  Mr O’Neil was eyeing QF783, an evening service currently operated by a Boeing 737-800.

A Qantas 737-800 has your standard 3-3 layout in the main economy class cabin but offers extra legroom seats where the overwing emergency exits are (rows 13 and 14). The seat pitch in rows 13 and 14 is 38″ compared to 31″ across the rest of the Qantas economy class seats. Those extra inches might matter on the four-hour evening flight to Perth in a full 737-800.

How much Qantas charges passengers for a bit of space to stretch out depends on how long the flight is. The charge ranges from AU$15 on a Boeing 717 short-haul flight to AU$149 on the longest flights. For a transcontinental flight, Qantas normally charges AU$70.

Dave O’Neil says he was happy to pay the $70 – far cheaper than the AU$2,500 plus for a recliner seat in Qantas 737-800 business class cabin that comes with a similar amount of legroom.

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What did Dave O’Neil do?

With a brazen degree of recklessness or a very high degree of confidence in his credit limits, Mr O’Neil went ahead with the booking. When it came time to pay, rather disappointingly, the correct price was displayed. A billion-dollar fare would have seen a rich haul of frequent flyer points. That haul would have been even richer if Qantas’ double points offer booking cutoff date had not recently passed.

After posting the extra legroom quote online, Qantas responded, “Hmmm, that’s does look slightly over the normal price.” 

Well, yes, it’s pretty keen pricing. But Qantas is going in hard with its transcontinental fares right now. While the quote is an error and outlier, it does tie in rather nicely with Qantas’ history of high fares on these routes.

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The economy class cabin on a Qantas Boeing 737-800. Photo: Qantas

Some pretty hefty fares on the transcontinental run to Perth

Doing some digging to get the flight details, this writer found one-way economy class fares on the same flight next Monday, five days out, starting at AU$1,200. That’s for a four-hour, 2,700-kilometer flight on a bog-standard Boeing 737-800. Feel like upgrading? A business class recliner seat is selling at the time of writing for AU$3,509.

A Qantas flight leaving at a similar time on the same evening from Sydney has economy class seats starting from AU$1060 and business class seats selling at AU$3773. That’s also on a Boeing 737-800.

Normally, you could snag a return flight from Australia to Europe for those kinds of fares. Of course, Qantas is charging what it thinks it can sell the seats for. That’s not an ad hoc decision either. Rather, it’s a function of dynamic pricing and some fairly sophisticated analysis.

Dave O’Neil didn’t say what he paid for his fare. As a last-minute booking, it probably wasn’t an AU$199 red e-deal. After that AU$987,999,999 quote, even coughing up AU$1200 for a four-hour ride in coach class on a 737 might seem like a good deal.

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