Paying for preferred seats creates problems

Busy businesspeople end up sitting with other people’s kids

As airlines fight to achieve ever-greater efficiency while the competition between them toughens, load factors are rising. In the US, the average load factor has increased from around 78% five years ago to about 86% today. But it is also giving passengers who pay for it a choice in seating – resulting in some unlikely seat-mates. Taking one typical example, on a recent 66-seat United Express CRJ-700 regional flight from Houston to Tucson, a businesswoman was unable to work or read as she had intended, because she found herself entertaining the six-year-old girl next to her. The girl’s parents were sitting elsewhere on the plane.
Business travellers now often have to pay anything up to $50 extra to choose where to sit. Airlines need the additional revenue. But families can’t afford it so they end up scattered around the cabin.
And airlines really love that new revenue. “Outstanding Economy Plus and premium-cabin upsale-sales drove second-quarter ancillary revenue up 11 percent,” Jim Compton, United’s chief revenue officer, told stock market analysts in a conference call last week.
The New York Times
[pictured: Aircraft downtown Hong Kong; photo by Luis Argerich]


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