Over the next month 7 airlines are launching the ability to buy multiple seats for yourself online as part of buying a ticket, and pick those seats off the seat map to guarantee you as much space as you wish.
This isn’t entirely a new idea, of course.
- You can buy an extra seat for yourself today on the major US airlines – but this isn’t something they promote. That seems like a big missed opportunity to generate extra revenue from the passengers they’ve got – at a time there are so few passengers – by delivering something everyone wants now which is more space.
- Up until 2007 United Airlines used to block middle seats for all elite frequent flyers, only filling them on full flights. They ended the benefit when planes were regularly full, because the number of seats having to be assigned at the gate was unwieldy. Back in March I argued this benefit should return.
- Frontier airlines had the brilliant idea of charging for blocked middle seats at a discount and they got filleted for it. But the idea of charging people who want extra seats on board to guarantee it for themselves is catching on, at least with some airlines in certain parts of the world.
- Airlines including Air New Zealand (“SkyCouch”) have offered multiple coach seats for sale as a bundle in the past.
Plusgrade, which is the provider behind airline ‘bidding for space available upgrade’ programs that several airlines run, announced their newest project Dynamic Seat Blocker“Dynamic Seat Blocker” today. This really seems like an opportunity for both airlines and passengers to benefit from the space on a plane.
- Airlines that already offer Plusgrade integrations (bidding for upgrades) can choose to “block the neighboring seat, the entire row, or request an upgrade to a higher service class.” (Existing Plusgrade airlines are promised 4 week implementation, while airlines they aren’t already working with – so where payment isn’t already integrated into the airline’s passenger service system – it’s an 8 week timeline.)
- Availability and pricing is managed dynamically based on load factor and inventory buckets available.
- This is all done through the existing purchase path, letting customers pick their seats (plural) off the flight’s seat map.
Plusgrade has been offering a more bare bones version of this, “Neighbor-Free Seat,” since 2017 and I’d never heard of it. It seems like it’s a product whose time has come. Airlines can’t ignore the revenue potential (in good times the list of revenue-generating projects is longer) and it’s what customers clearly want – recognizing that in the U.S. marketing teams will need to get out ahead of ‘the Frontier problem’ where they’re accused of ‘selling safety’ (no matter how unfair the charge).
Launch airlines using this include Etihad Airways, Oman Air and Royal Jordanian Airlines and Malaysia Airlines, Philippine Airlines, and two other carriers are expected to have this in place within 30 days.