Etihad Airways: Passengers can pay extra to sit next to an empty seat on flights

Etihad Airways is offering economy passengers the chance to pay to keep the seat next to them free.

The Abu Dhabi-based airline has launched a “neighbour-free” seat scheme, which gives customers the option of inputting a price they would be willing to pay in order to keep the seat next to theirs empty.

Space-loving flyers can bid for up to three adjacent seats, meaning, if the price is right, they could have a whole row to themselves. 

Etihad says passengers can bid to keep adjacent seats empty any time up to 35 hours before departure; it’s not possible to bid for empty seats at the airport or on board the flight. Travellers can also change their bids online after checking Etihad’s seat selector tool.

The airline says it will let passengers know by email whether or not their bid has been successful – obviously it’s subject to demand, and if the flight is fully booked any bids will be null and void. If unsuccessful in their bid, customers aren’t charged. 

Auctioning seats has already been trialled by Virgin Atlantic, which has a Your Bid scheme allowing customers to enter an online auction to upgrade their seat. The airline previously offered a feature called Seat Plus, whereby economy customers could pay £99 to £199 to ensure the seat next to them was vacant, but this service ended in May 2016.

Etihad is also allowing economy passengers to pay to use its premium lounges in Abu Dhabi, London, Manchester, Dublin, Paris, Washington D.C., New York JFK, Sydney, Melbourne and Los Angeles.

“On the ground, premium class guests can enjoy free access to Etihad Airways’ collection of outstanding lounges,” said Mohammad Al Bulooki, Executive Vice President Commercial for Etihad Airways. “By offering paid access to Economy Class guests, these signature lounges can now be enjoyed by all who desire to experience our award-winning facilities.”

This comes after Ryanair has been accused of changing its seating policy to deliberately split up parties travelling together who refuse to pay more to reserve seats.

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