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’Neighbor Free’ Seat Upgrades Are Gaining Popularity With Airlines and Cramped Passengers

Michele Debczak
Space is often a luxury.
Space is often a luxury. / Andrew Merry/Royalty-free/iStock via Getty Images
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Whether it’s lost luggage or flight delays, the surprises that come with traveling typically aren’t happy ones. Sitting next to an empty space on a plane is one exception. Getting blessed with extra elbow room in your row is usually a matter of luck, but some airlines are allowing passengers to opt for the perk—for the right price, of course.

As Condé Nast Traveler reports, Qantas is the latest airline experimenting with a “neighbor free” option for flyers. If their flight isn’t fully booked, select travelers flying with the Australian airline will be notified of the opportunity 48 hours before their trip. They can pay a fee ranging from roughly $20 to $34 USD depending on the route to keep the seat next to theirs unoccupied. Passengers must agree not to use the empty seat to store personal items, and the airline reserves the right to fill it and issue a refund if the flight books up at the last minute.

Qantas is just one airline offering more breathing room to passengers. Since 2021, people flying economy with Emirates have been able to reserve up to three connected seats by paying an extra $55 to $165 at the airport check-in counter. Fiji Airways also gives customers the option to keep their entire row clear for long distance-flights.

Most airlines that have a neighbor-free seating upgrade are based outside the U.S. Qantas is limiting the option to its domestic routes for now, but if it’s successful you may see it expanded to flights abroad. Hopefully American-based airlines will follow suit, but until then, try this travel hack to avoid muscle pain while flying economy.

[h/t Condé Nast Traveler]

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