Friday, July 6, 2012

Pay more to choose my seat?

Recently, I wrote a post about buying my airline ticket. After paying almost $2,000 for two tickets, I went online to the airlines' websites to choose my seats. My itinerary involves three airlines:

  1. Emirates (Karachi - Dubai)
  2. British Airways (Dubai - London)
  3. American Airlines (London - Chicago - Minneapolis)
I first logged on to American Airlines website and entered my booking details to access my reservation. It showed up with both my flights and gave a whole seating chart to let me choose my seat. I went on to Seat Guru to get recommendations on which seats would be the best. But surprisingly, most of the seats were already taken. There were a few seats, in economy class, which were empty. I tried choosing them, and lo and behold, there was a $44 extra charge per seat for sitting in those seats. These seats are also in economy class, but they are 'preferred seats'! After paying $2,000 I expected the airline to at least let me choose good seats! Of course, I did not choose those 'preferred seats' and just selected regular seats.

I then logged on to British Airways website and accessed my reservation. When I clicked on the 'Choose my seats' selection, I was shocked to know that they charge extra if I want to select my seat! The price for each seat selection is ¥ 3,610. If I don't want to pay extra, I have to wait until check-in and then select seats. If they let the customer choose their own seats, I would assume they would save time at the check-in counter. Hence, less labor costs involved! So, rather than making it convenient for customers (as well as check-in counter staff), they would rather deter customers from choosing a seat and make the check-in counter staff go through the hassle.

After being disappointed with two of the airlines, I finally logged onto Emirates website and accessed my itinerary. Since Emirates is usually considered a premium airline, I almost expected there to be extra charges associated with seat selection. Fortunately, they are smart enough to let the customers easily choose their own seats so their check in-staff doesn't have to deal with it!

In the recent years, its common knowledge that airlines are suffering such heavy losses that they are trying to make money from customers in every possible way. These include drinks/food on short flights, check-in luggage and now seat selection. There are some costs which the airline incurs and is justified passing it onto the customer. But seat selection by customer actually saves the airline costs in terms of manpower at the check-in counter. Deterring the customer from this facility does not make any financial sense!