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Qantas passengers hit with seat booking fee

THE next time you want to book a seat next to your partner or children on an international Qantas flight be prepared to pay up for the privilege. The airline has begun charging economy passengers $20 per person per leg of the journey to select a seat via its website.

Those who want to avoid the fee will have to request a seat upon arriving at the airport, taking the risk that there may not be enough free seats left to be able sit beside loved ones.

The airline's Advance Seat Selection option can be used for exit row seats but will attract a fee of up to $160 for long haul international flights. Those travelling on domestic flight or in first, business and premium economy cabins will avoid the seat selection fee. Frequent flyers and members of their loyalty scheme will not be charged.

A Qantas spokesperson said that the new initiative will benefit passengers. “Advance Seat Selection complements Qantas’ pre-boarding services designed to make the pre-boarding experience quick and onboard experience comfortable,” the spokesperson said. “It is another initiative enabling Qantas customers to have greater choice with their travel experience. “Should customers not select their seat directly after they have booked their flight, they can continue to select their seat during online check-in free of charge.”

The Advance Seat Selection was previously available to frequent flyers with Platinum, Gold or Silver status.

Qantas is not the first airline to introduce such a charge. British Airways launched a fee for advance seat selection in 2009, charging passengers around $25 for the privilege. Qantas has carried out a series of domestic and international fuel surcharge hikes this year, with further increases flagged. Last month the airline announced that domestic fares will rise up to $10 a flight from the end of the month, on top of the five per cent hike in February.

The airline also announced a range of cost-cutting moves last month in a bid to combat rising fuel costs and the economic impact of recent natural disasters. This included cutting jobs and flights on routes such as Japan, Melbourne and New Zealand, as well as downsizing some aircraft.