After the pandemic had been around for a while and people were juuuuust starting to fly again, most passengers, understandably, didn’t want to sit directly next to someone they didn’t know. Airlines were understanding, not to mention desperate to get as much business as they could. So for months, they were willing to leave seats open between parties, as a form of social distancing. It’s not as if flights were full at the time, so leaving seats open at the time didn’t even hurt their bottom line.
The good times couldn’t last forever though, and as more people (A) were willing to fly and (B) were vaccinated, one by one, most airlines went back to some form of “business as usual” and people were back to being crammed next to their neighbor. If you wanted a second seat, you could buy one…at full price, of course.
That being said, there are several airlines that still allow you to buy the seat (or seatS) next to you, for less than the cost of buying 2 (or 3 or 4) seats. They don’t care why; it could be to give you more wiggle room, or space to sleep more comfortably, or maybe you’re still concerned about catching COVID. Whatever your reason, there’s no judgement; if you’re willing to spend the (nominal amount of) extra money, the seat(s) next to you can be yours, too.
We went over these airlines back in September last year (some of the prices have increased since that post; we’ve made note of which ones). However one of them, Qantas, was only offering their “Neighbour Free Seating” option as a pilot program. At the time it was set to last 6 weeks, across 6 domestic routes, and by invitation only. So pretty exclusive.
However the pilot program appears to have been a success and has now expanded.
Along with the six original domestic routes, Qantas has added 8 more routes that are eligible for Neighbor Free Seating. So there are now 14 domestic routes in the program (prices are AUD/USD):
- Adelaide – Brisbane ($65 / $42)
- Adelaide – Darwin ($65 / $42)
- Adelaide – Melbourne ($30 / $20)
- Adelaide – Perth ($65 / $65)
- Adelaide – Sydney ($45 / $29)
- Brisbane – Darwin ($65 / $42)
- Brisbane – Perth ($65 / $42)
- Darwin – Melbourne ($65 / $42)
- Darwin – Sydney ($65 / $42)
- Melbourne – Gold Coast ($65 / $42)
- Perth – Darwin ($65 / $42)
- Perth – Melbourne ($65 / $42)
- Perth – Sydney ($65 / $42)
- Sydney – Gold Coast ($30 / $20)
and it appears the airline plans to add more eligible routes in the not-too-distant future.
Here’s now it works:
Neighbour Free offers you the opportunity to reserve the seat next to you, so you can enjoy extra space and comfort when travelling in Economy. If eligible, you will be sent an email invitation where you can purchase a Neighbour Free seat between 48 hours until one hour before your scheduled flight departure. Neighbour Free seats are subject to availability and may need to be changed for operational, safety or security reasons, even after boarding the aircraft.
Qantas also reserves the right to take away your Neighbor Free seat (I guess if someone wants to still buy the seat for full price), in which case they’ll refund you your Neighbor Free fee.
So essentially, they’re giving you the opportunity to buy a second seat if they’ve been unable to sell it. Even if you do buy the seat next to you at the Neighbour Free rate, they still reserve the right to sell the seat for full price.
Buying a Neighbor Free seat doesn’t give you any extra baggage allowance, and the seat can’t be used for storing carry-on items or infants.
But you’ll have an empty seat net to you for cheap. Maybe. If they don’t sell it last-minute. 😉
Feature Photo: Emirates
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