One of the very poorly kept secrets to travel as a non-elite is that the “good seats” at the front of the plane, normally reserved for elites, are made available to everyone once check-in starts. So 24 hours prior to departure most airlines allow anyone to snag a seat towards the front of the plane, regardless of status. USAir is taking away the feature from their flights. Starting in early May, USAir will now charge non-elites for the aisle and window seats in the front of the coach section of the plane.
Not completely clear to me from the email I just got about the change is whether elites can continue to select the seats for free in advance, or if they will have to fight with the non-elites willing to pay at T-24. The pricing was also not in the email, but it will vary based on flight distance.
This seems similar to United’s Economy+ program, except the seats don’t have any extra legroom. I’m sure the seats will be assigned to passengers for free at the gate if there are no other seats available, but for now it looks like USAir is ratcheting up the competition between airlines for charging money for services that used to be free.
Updated (4.17.08 6:10a): Elites will continue to be able to select the seats in advance, so that isn’t a big deal. Thanks, Flying Critic!
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Yes, US elites can continue to pick the preferred seats for free in advance.
See the US FAQ on their new scheme:
Dividend Miles Preferred members and companions traveling on the same reservation will be offered Choice Seats free of charge at any time after making their confirmed reservation. Preferred Members also have exclusive access to exit row seats.
Jetblue is also now charging more for the seats with more legroom. $15 extra, but still ridiculous! So annoyed by this myself as a Trueblue member because the cost of travel has gone up as well. Sigh.
It is similar to JetBlue’s EML program, except that in US Air’s case, there is actually no difference in the seats, except their location on the plane. At least with JetBlue you’re getting 4″ of extra legroom (6″ on the E190s). JetBlue’s program is much more similar to United’s E+ in that they actually have a different product they’re selling you.
And I’m almost certain that I’ll never pay it on JetBlue. Maybe on a redeye, but otherwise 34″ pitch is still more than enough for me, and the cost of travel has gone up enough that I try to avoide discretionary choices that make it go up even more.
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