Australian airline Qantas is allowing customers to guarantee they won’t have a seatmate by purchasing the empty seat next to them — for a price.
The “Neighbour Free Seating option,” which is being offered on certain domestic flights as a pilot program, offers passengers in economy the chance to buy the next seat for between $30 AUD and $65 AUD ($20.28 and $33.80), the carrier confirmed to Travel + Leisure. The trial is being run across six domestic routes over six weeks.
Passengers who booked a flight that isn’t full will be sent an email invitation to buy an extra seat about 48 hours before their departure. While they can choose to upgrade, the additional seat won’t be guaranteed until departure. If the plane fills up, customers will receive a refund for the seat.
The routes that are part of the pilot program range from 90 minutes to four hours long. Passengers can currently buy an extra seat on flights from the Gold Coast to Sydney, Adelaide to Sydney, Darwin to Melbourne, Darwin to Sydney, Perth to Brisbane, and Adelaide to Brisbane.
The airline will then consider a larger rollout on other domestic flights later this year. When asked if the trial would be expanded to international flights, a Qantas spokesperson told T+L it was only being run on domestic routes for now.
Qantas joins several other airlines in allowing economy customers to purchase an extra seat. Etihad, for example, allows passengers to request up to three empty neighboring seats starting 72 hours before a flight departure, according to the airline. Last year, Emirates also introduced the chance to spread out by purchasing an empty seat starting as low as $55.
Air New Zealand offers a host of seat choices for economy travelers, including the option to upgrade to a “Skycouch” in which the airline will transform a row of economy seats into a couch after take-off. The airline also plans to introduce an “Economy Skynest” in 2024, a sleep pod featuring six full-length, lie-flat beds that passengers will be able to book in timed increments.
Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she’s not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.