‘Neighbour-free’ flights – airline allows passengers pay from €18.50 to leave next seat empty

Qantas’s ‘Neighbour Free’ option allows the next seat to remain free throughout the flight

The airline cabin of a Qantas 737-800

A Qantas A380 over Sydney

Screengrab: Qantas

thumbnail: The airline cabin of a Qantas 737-800
thumbnail: A Qantas A380 over Sydney
thumbnail: Screengrab: Qantas
Benjamin ParkerUK Independent

Qantas has unveiled a new in-flight offering that allows passengers to guarantee they won’t have anyone sitting beside them – with prices starting from as little as $30 (€18.50).

The Australian flag carrier says that its “Neighbour Free” option promises “extra space and comfort when travelling in economy”.

"When you reserve Neighbour Free, the seat next to you remains free throughout your flight,” it says.

It’s the first time the airline has allowed all passengers to reserve the seats next to them, with the service having previously only been available to those in its frequent flier programme.

A Qantas A380 over Sydney

Passengers on eligible flights will be sent an email from the airline 48 hours before they’re scheduled to board, giving them the opportunity to book the seat next to them. Customers are then shown an online seat map, where “Neighbour Free” seats are available to purchase.

The additional space cannot be used for infants (who would otherwise be travelling on an adult’s lap) or any carry-on baggage, with Qantas stating the upgrade covers “the personal seat space only”.

Passengers will only know if they have acquired their adjacent seat once they are at the gate, and the airline warns that “Neighbour Free seats are subject to availability and may need to be changed for operational, safety or security reasons, even after boarding the aircraft”.

If the seat is filled, passengers will be refunded for their upgrade.

“Neighbour Free” is currently only available on certain Qantas domestic flights in Australia although many of Qantas’s busiest routes – such as Sydney to Melbourne and Brisbane – aren’t included.

The airline has been contacted to ask about plans for a wider rollout, including on international routes.

Screengrab: Qantas

Qantas is not the first airline to enable air passengers to book extra room by using the seat next to them.

In 2017, Eitihad introduced a similar concept, “Neighbour-Free Seat”, which allowed passengers to bid on up to three extra empty seats adjacent to their booked seat.

The winning bid ensures that the extra seats remain vacant for the duration of the journey, meaning the passenger could have an entire row to themselves.

Emirates began offering passengers “the ability to purchase up to three empty adjoining seats” on their flight in 2021, while Air New Zealand, Fiji Airways and Alaska Airlines also offer similar options.

On This Day In History - 19th May