On the rare occasions when you’re not dropping quadruple digits to travel in your own private apartment in the sky, Etihad Airways is launching another option for space-strapped travellers: a Neighbour-Free Seat.
The new upgrade allows economy passengers to bid for up to three empty seats around them for the duration of their flight. Bidding begins at the time of booking on Etihad’s website. There’s a minimum and a maximum bid for each seat, and members of Etihad’s frequent flyer programme will get priority over non-members.
If your bid is successful, you’ll receive an email from the airline with your seat assignment. If not, you’ll receive an email within 32 hours of departure letting you know that you’ll have neighbors (presumably accompanied by this sound).
There are restrictions, of course. You must have a confirmed ticket that starts with the numbers 607 to be eligible. “Deals” fares, Guest Seat rewards, redemption tickets, group bookings, free tickets, tickets already upgraded using miles, multi-flyer tickets, and tickets with an infant are also ineligible – a serious oversight, if you ask us, because infants are ideal candidates for neighbour-free seats.
Etihad says its new upgrade option “gives guests the opportunity for increased space, comfort and privacy, at a price that is affordable.”
The thing is, they refuse to say what that price actually is. Without knowing the specific pricing of the minimum and maximum bids, it’s impossible to know if bidding on a Neighbour-Free Seat is a better value than buying a business or first class seat and getting the additional perks.
Still, at a time when most airlines are reducing leg room and adding fees, it’s nice to see Etihad trying to make things more comfortable for their passengers (even if they’re making extra $ in the process). It’s not quite a $21,000 first class seat, but at least it’s not Ryanair.