Unlike most budget airlines, Easyjet is to make seat reservations mandatory. Like Ryanair, you’ll have to pay more for some of the seats, like those with extra leg room. But maybe allocating seats will kill the queues?
I like flying Easyjet. But I detest waiting to board the airline at the departure gate.
I hate the way it brings out the worst in people as they jostle to get a few inches further forward in the queue, even though there’s ages before anyone steps foot on the plane.
I hate the way parents with small children have to battle through an unsympathetic crowd so they can board early, or risk being forced to sit apart during the flight. And I hate the way some people who’ve paid for speedy boarding decide they’ve joined a superior social class and swan to the ‘fast track’ lane with their noses and boarding passes in the air.
The one upside is that since so many people pay for speedy boarding, they have to wait as long in the fast lane as everyone else – giving those of us who didn’t pay extra the last laugh.
To me, the queues are just one of the signs that Easyjet’s current boarding system no longer works – for passengers or the airline. They spoil what’s generally an efficient, reliable, trouble-free flying experience. So I’m all in favour of the airline’s decision to test allocated seating.
Paying extra for special seats
From next spring, on certain flights every passenger will be allocated a seat before boarding. But if you want one of the popular seats with extra leg room, such as the front row or next to the wing exits, you’ll have to pay more.
I don’t mind paying a bit more to grab a bit of extra leg room – it seems fairer to me than the current system where you’d have to pay for speedy boarding and then race your fellow speedy boarders to get one of those seats.
What does worry me is that families will end up paying more to ensure they can be seated together. Easyjet has said that passengers on the same booking who don’t pay for a seat will be put together ‘where possible’.
That sounds to me like a warning that you’re likely not to be put together. And if that happens repeatedly, people will never feel confident they will be able to sit together. So they’ll either continue to push to the front, or decide to pay for allocated seats as matter of course.
Potentially another surcharge
We may end up in a situation where paying for an allocated seat becomes another difficult to avoid charge, like paying for hold luggage.
I hope this doesn’t happen, but will Easyjet really earn enough from selling front row and exit seats to make up for the loss in revenue from speedy boarding sales? If not, I fear it will become another surcharge.
Are you happy to pay to secure your favourite seat? Will you be sad to see speedy boarding go? Or can you think of a better way for Easyjet to organise its boarding procedures?