Higher fuel prices have led airlines on a creative revenue-raising quest. Most carriers have already reduced complimentary snacks to a small bag of pretzels and half a can of soda. Fees for extras like early boarding, headphones for movies and music, and checked baggage are also common. What else is left for airlines to fee? Seat selection.
For nearly a year, several airlines have added fees for select seats in coach class, according to a report from the Associated Press. American Airlines (PINK:AAMRQ) and US Airways (NYSE:LCC) charge more for reserved window and aisle seats, while Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL) and Jet Blue Airways (NASDAQ:JBLU) charge more for seats that come with more space.
Some companies, like Spirit Airlines (NASDAQ:SAVE) and Allegiant Air (NASDAQ:ALGT), randomly assign seats at the check-in counter unless customers pay extra for reserved seating. This doesn’t work out well for families who have to either have to pay as much as $15 per person for an assigned seat or risk not being able to sit near each other.
Barry Biffle, Spirit’s chief marketing officer, said it’s difficult to find several vacant seats near each other during check-in time because by then all that’s left are “onesies and twosies.” “If you want to sit together,” Biffle told the AP, “we would highly encourage you to get seat assignments in advance.”
Some customers are actually happy about the seating changes.
Frequent business travelers have benefited from the shift to reserved seating. Many airlines are specifically setting aside more window and aisle seats for their most frequent fliers — and this is often done at no extra cost for the traveler.
“The customers that are more loyal, who fly more often, we want to make sure they have the best travel experience,” Eduardo Marcos, American Airline’s manager of merchandising strategy told the AP.