Pay $30 to keep off from annoying flight neighbours. (Photo: Getty Images)
Australian carrier Qantas Airways is conducting the trial of a new Neighbour-Free programme on a handful of domestic routes, under which passengers will be able to ensure that nobody is assigned the seat next to them. For this privilege, customers will have to shell out about US $30 (ie Rs 2,400) for short flights, and about US $60 (Rs 4,800) for longer flights.
Remember how Indigo or Go Air introduced an option during Covid to book two seats for a single passenger so that they could travel safely? Qantas Airways' new programme is on similar lines, but instead of Covid safety, it is for 'personal comfort'.
Why is Qantas trying this neighbour-free programme? Qantas is allowing passengers to pay to keep the seat next to them empty, 'for their personal comfort'. Though top-tier Platinum and Platinum One-grade frequent flyers have always enjoyed this benefit for free, economy class passengers will now be able to enjoy this perk for a fee.
How much do you have to pay?
As per the Australian Frequent Flyer forum, Qantas's Neighbour-Free privilege is priced starting US $30 on short-range domestic flights, and around US $60 for longer coast-to-coast services (say Perth to Brisbane).
The logic behind the pricing being, the longer the flight, the higher the charge to free a neighbouring seat.
It doesn’t look like this policy will be available for international flights.
What does it look like for customers?
The programme will be available on select flights where there are enough unsold seats.
If you are travelling on one of these flights, you will get an email invite to take up the Neighbour-Free option up to 48 hours before your flight.
If you choose to take this option, you will see both your own seat and the neighbouring free seat reservation appear on your boarding pass.
You can't use the empty seat “for infant seating or to place items such as carry-on baggage, or musical instruments”.
Also, you can only book and keep one seat empty on one side of your seat. You can’t book out an entire row of three and flaunt it on Instagram.
Now, the catch / the terms and conditions:
Given the changing nature of air travel, the neighbour-free charge does not guarantee a free side seat. If Qantas ends up allocating your neighbouring seat to someone else after you board the aircraft, your neighbour-free fee will automatically be refunded to you within two weeks.
What do you think about this programme? Would you want to try it?