/ Travel & Leisure

Bring on Easyjet’s allocated seating, if the system works

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?

Sophie Gilbert says:
19 November 2011

Not having pre-allocated seats before boarding is the only thing I really hate about using budget airlines. I know they also specialise in added fees for luggage, onboard meals, use of credit card and whatnot, but I get the feeling that they are only being more upfront about ripping us off than non-budget airlines are. I only hope Ryanair and the likes will follow in Easyjet’s footsteps and put an end to this stressful and unpleasant nonsense at the departure gate.

I noted with interest that in a interview with EasyJet they implied that not having allocated seating encouraged passengers to turn-up at the gate promptly, reduced dawdlers and thus improved their punctuality ratings.
I do see some logic in this – but personally the lack of allocated seating does discourage me from using them

Mikhail says:
22 November 2011

I have the speedy boarding card, but I’m very tall, I can’t ask for a special assistance, but I can’t sit anywhere apart from the front row because of my knees. I hope they will make the seat allocation process fair to everyone, by that I mean frequent flyers (easyjet card holders) can reserve seats, e.g., 3 days prior the flight, passengers with a hand luggage ONLY can choose their seats 2 days prior the flight and all others 1 day prior the flight or free allocation, as they will have to wait for unloading of their luggage at the destination airport anyway. If anyone thinks that this is unfair I’d like to know why?

Bferry says:
11 January 2012

I am just about to fly to Australia and New Zealand with my wife which is a trip we also made last year. I have just found out that BA and Qantas, with whom I am booked, have, in the last year, implemented a seat booking charge of £20/person/leg if booked more than 24hours in advance. This would add £320 to the already expensive price I have paid. This new policy prevents my travel agent assigning us seats at the time of booking a was done in the past. To add insult to injury I am unable to check in on line and reserve a seat on the Qantas flights as the first flight is a BA one and their system does not link to the Qantas system. We are told that we will need to book in at the airport at which time there is a good chance we wont be able to sit together during either the 13 hour flight to Singapore or the 10 hour one to Brisbane as all the “real” Qantas passengers will have taken the best seats. Diabolical customer service or what? Emirates have just announced another flight from Glasgow to Dubai and beyond – guess which airline I will be using next year?

Totally share your outrage, had the exact same situation on my recent flight home to Australia over Christmas with BA/Qantas. I chose not to pay the £25 for a seat on the BA flight (like youI was unable to pre-book/check in online for the Qantas flight) and checked in online 24hrs in advance. There were still aisle seats available so I booked one of these, boarded my flight the next day and minutes before take off was informed by cabin crew that they’d overbooked the seats and I would now have to relocate to a middle seat for the 22hrs of flying. Will not be flying BA again. Frustratingly, when comparing flight prices, BA did not mention the seat charges, meaning that I falsely assumed that seats were free to book and chose not to book with another airline who were upfront about their seating charges. Ridiculous.

Berry says:
13 January 2012

We finally got our seat assignments at Edinburgh airport for the 2 legs to Singapore and Brisbane thanks to a lot of work from our travel agent, Travelbag. They spent most of the day hassling Qantas to get his sorted out. I have had no response from Qantas so far and am dreading a repeat when we try to check in for the later legs of our trip. A further thought – the flights were full, so surely we could not be the only ones with this problem?