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Preferred Seating on Airlines: the Joke’s on the Customer

You'll pay more for bulkhead seating on some flights. (Photo by caribb)

An article yesterday by Peter Greenberg, travel editor for CBS News, and Scott McCartney, the Wall Street Journal’s airline industry reporter, lambasted the preferred seating plans many airlines are employing these days.

“Paying extra to reserve a seat you already bought takes nickel and diming to a whole other level,” McCartney said. Greenberg added, “As a matter of principle, I will not pay for a preferred seat. I will take whatever seat I have to because I think the program is a joke.”

Some airlines—only in the US for now—are even defining window and aisle seats as preferred, and adding fees accordingly.

The full extent of the joke becomes apparent once you’ve already paid for an aisle or window seat only to find numerous other “preferred” seats vacant on your flight. Reason being that airlines may block passengers from seeing all of the seats available, to pressure them into shelling out for a preferred seat.

Here’s hoping Canadian airlines don’t taxi down this slippery slope.

Presently, only Air Canada and WestJet charge for preferred seats on domestic flights in Canada:

Air Canada
For bulkhead and exit-row seats:
up to 350 miles: $27/$16*
351–1,000 miles: $35/$25
1,000+ miles: $40/$30
*Tango price/Tango Plus and Latitude price

WestJet
For an exit-row seat:
1 hour or less*: $5
1–2.5 hours: $10
More than 2.5 hours: $15
*flight time per segment

Canadian airlines, do however, levy fees for the privilege of selecting a seat.

See seat selection fees on major Canadian airlines.

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One response to “Preferred Seating on Airlines: the Joke’s on the Customer”

  1. James says:

    The seat selection with Air Canada is a joke! Me and my wife were automatically seated in the row just ahead of the exit row on a 767-300 (meaning your seat will not recline). When I called AC to change our seats they offered back of the bus seating or preferred economy seating at $70 per seat. We decided to take the free option and get seats further back in the plane. When I went back online to check my reservation it seems they are now offering our original 2 seats at $25.00 a pop. So those seats were free for us but now some poor soul will have to shell out extra dough to sit in a seat that does not recline. Go figure?

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