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CommonWealth Finance Weekly

Is It Reasonable to Pay to Select Seats on a Flight?

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Is It Reasonable to Pay to Select Seats on a Flight?

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Starting this week, airlines will ask passengers to pay up to NT$ 1,500 to select their seats before boarding. In effect, travelling by air just got pricier. The truth is, plenty of major airlines around the world ask passengers to pay more for specific seats, in an effort to turn passengers’ preferences into a source of revenue. Whether this is a reasonable way to benefit from the supply and demand of the free market is still up for debate.

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Is It Reasonable to Pay to Select Seats on a Flight?

By Shu-ren Koo
web only

Attention, frequent flyers. Starting this week, you will no longer be able to pick your seat for free when you purchase an air ticket. Airlines are asking you to pony up for this privilege. The question is, is this a reasonable interpretation of the free market ideal: you pay for what you get? Or are airlines just inventing new ways to squeeze more cash out of you? There are differing opinions on the matter.

In February, EVA Air announced these new rules on their website: beginning on March 5th, passengers travelling in the less pricey Economy or Premium Economy Class must pay extra to choose where they sit.

Rates:

 

Premium Economy

Economy (Standard)

Economy (Special)

Short Distance

USD 15 (NT$ 463)

USD 10 (NT$ 308)

USD 20 (NT$ 617)

Long Distance

USD 40 (NT$ 1234)

USD 30 (NT$ 925)

USD 50 (NT$ 1542)

(Source: EVA Air official website. Note: Short distance flights cover Southeast Asia, Northeast Asia, Hong Kong, Macau, China. Long distance flights cover North America, Europe, Australia.)

According to news reports, consensus within the industry is that paying to pick your seat is a global trend. It’s a way to use differences in price to provide more customized services for consumers with specific needs. Airlines are maximizing the value of each seating choice and increasing their revenue. Another benefit is passengers who were slow to book their flights can still get favorable seating options—if they pay.

Proponents of the change say this is simply a matter of consumers paying for what they get. “Pay more to get more” is as it should be in a free market. However, critics point out beside seats near the exits, which offer more leg room, there is little to differentiate between Economy and Premium Economy, or aisle and window seats. What’s more, while low-cost carriers charge extra for every amenity in order to minimize operating costs, a mainline carrier like EVA Air has no such excuse.

In reality, many major airlines around the world already ask passengers to pay for specific seats. The only difference is how they bundle seating options and specific amenities into different pricing packages. For example, some seats in economy class can be reserved for free, while others cost extra.

Translated by Jack C.
Edited by Sharon Tseng

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