There’s good news and bad news. The bad news is the majority of US airline carriers have added more fees disguised as ‘preferred seating’ options.
The good news is Australia airlines such as Virgin Australian and Jetstar say they have no plans to establish such fees.
Travellers are livid as news spreads that US airline companies such as: Spirit, US Airways, Allegiant, Frontier, American Airlines and Delta, have amped up their fees by charging travellers for a ‘preferred seat’.
In addition, Tiger Airways now extend an option for ‘preferred seating’ at a cost of $5.
Even budget friendly UK-based carrier Ryanair has jumped onto the band wagon, as they’ve initiated preferred seating reservations. Meanwhile, Ryanair’s competitor, Easyjet has begun testing the new fee structure as well.
Many travellers, in outrage, have reached out to Airfare Watchdog, a travel site, which keeps account of airline improprieties. Airfare Watchdog founder, George Hobica says that the new fee structure is impractical as in some cases families may be separated from their loved ones during flight.
It’s especially critical, he says, for families who have medical conditions and may need their companion to care for them.
“The airlines are basically trying to squeeze out more fees in the face of higher costs, and it is inconveniencing a lot of passengers,” Hobica said.
Hobica said airline carriers are charging higher rates for customers who are willing to pay to sit next to a window or near the front of the plane. Other customers, who do not pay up, are left with less desirable seating and may again, be separated from spouses of family members.
The cost incurred to secure ‘preferred seating’ is around $29 one-way on domestic flights in the US, and as much as $59 on international flights.
Some carriers are defending the additional fees by pointing out that travellers will now have a superior option as to where they sit on a plane. Katie Hulme, a Delta representative says their goal is to provide a high level of service to its customers:
“Offering preferred seats for sale to all Delta passengers means that we are offering different seat selection options to enable more passengers to travel in their seat of choice.”
These news charges are seen by consumers as price gouging noting that a number of these fees such as: credit card usage, water, blankets, pillows, movies, extra baggage, and now ‘preferred seating’ were, once-upon-a-time, included in the regular price of a plane ticket.