Having been forced into lockdown and experiencing travel restrictions that left us separated from friends and family abroad for the greater part of two years, you’d be forgiven for thinking you missed air travel. Those plane carriers with their plush seating and tiny armrests, not to mention the meals that come on a tray service reminiscent of a tuck-shop canteen – it’s all so alluring now.
But step foot on a plane now and within five minutes you’ll likely be reminded of all those reasons you came to hate it. If a wailing toddler three rows down wasn’t enough to send you careering out the emergency exit, there’s the fact your knees are knocking against two strangers, one who refused to give up the aisle seat and now sits there like a night watchman, making you take on the hydration needs of a camel simply to avoid clambering over them in need of the toilet.
For an inter-state flight, it might be tolerable, but for 13 hours or more dealing with the snores of another passenger who, in their sleeping-state fashions your shoulder into a headrest, you’ll find steering solely towards cruises and land travel. It all makes an announcement from Qantas of a new trial program dubbed “neighbour free” particularly exciting, as it will allow any passenger to pay a bit extra to guarantee an empty seat next to them.
Revealed by Australian Frequent Flyer, the initiative has previously only been enjoyed by top-tier Platinum and Platinum One-grade frequent flyers. Under the new trial program however, rather than have passengers book their seat and wish with all their might that no-one shows up to sit next to them, that wish can now be granted should they choose to spend that little bit more.
Qantas Neighbour Free prices are reported to be starting from around $30 on short-range domestic flights and hover around $60 for longer coast-to-coats services. Sadly though, it doesn’t look like it will be available on international flights (or at least not quite yet).
Currently, Neighbour Free offers are being rolled out as a trial on select domestic flights with Qantas set to test the demand for them. If you’ve got an upcoming trip planned in Economy class, you might just receive an “email invitation” to pay for a neighbouring shadow seat up to 48 hours before the flight, assuming the plane carrier has enough seats remaining unsold to justify the offer.
After the initiation is received, passengers have an hour before the scheduled flight departure to decide on whether they want to go with the option or not. While Qantas has flagged on its website that the Neighbour Free option isn’t an 100 per cent guarantee as some seats “may need to be changed for operational, safety or security reasons, even after boarding the aircraft,” it certainly makes for an exciting prospect for those who enjoy the peace and quiet.
But if you were thinking of using the extra seat for extra storage, think again. Qantas has specified that the seats must only be used for the allure of extra legroom and a free armrest, not for infant seating or to place items such as carry-on baggage or musical instruments.
Find out more about the new policy, here.