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QANTAS: Paid spare ‘Neighbour Free Seating’ goes international

QANTAS: Paid spare ‘Neighbour Free Seating’ goes international

Australia’s largest airline has now worked out how to get you to pay for a seat you don’t sit in. Their Neighbour Free Seating allows you to pay for a spare seat to be next to you, so that no one else can sit in it. Well that is unless Qantas can get someone to pay regular fare for it.

Vacant Seat

Now, Economy seating whether on domestic or international trips is becoming increasingly hellish. It’s not like seats are getting any wider, while Australians in general are. Neither is seat pitch – the distance between seats getting any larger, while Australians are getting taller. So, getting a spare middle seat between a couple used to be regarded by me at least, as the gold standard as far as economy seating was concerned. If it was in an exit row, even better.

Then I got Qantas Platinum and was able to get close to first dibs on row 4, just behind business class, which gave you a bit of extra legroom, but no more, in fact probably less seat width, because the tray tables are stowed in the armrests.

Well, Qantas is now democratising the vacant seat by selling it to you to not occupy.

Price and how to book

Qantas will charge you AU$35 for a vacant seat for short-haul domestic (MEL-SYD), and AU$65 for longer flights – say Sydney to Perth. For international, again it will depend on distance, but we don’t know the price yet.

Some Examples:

  • $30 = short domestic flights (Adelaide-Melbourne)
  • $45 = domestic flights ~ two hours (Adelaide-Sydney)
  • $65 = longer domestic flights (Perth-Melbourne, Adelaide-Darwin)

You can’t book pre-emptively. You have to wait until you receive an offer via email. Respond to the offer, select your standard seat, and then your ‘Neighbour Free’ seat, plus payment details of course, and if it is granted, Qantas will email confirmation. If not, you get a refund. If granted the two seats will appear on your boarding pass.

a red and white seat with check marks and a check mark
An Illustration of what it will look like on the seat booking page [Qantas]

Fine Print

Just remember that you are not really buying a ‘free seat’ next to you, just the option to have it if its unsold. If it is sold prior to your actual flight, then goodbye ‘Neighbour Free’ seat. So, you guessed it, effectively Qantas is charging you for a seat they can’t sell! The beauty of it!


ET is reporting that it will be extended to Internation Flights. All we really know is this will be rolled out on international flights as well as domestic. We know that the scale of charges will reflect the same relationship to distance travelled as the domestic scheme does. We just don’t know how much they will cost. Nor do we know when it will become available, except AFF is saying in the coming months.

a group of people sitting in an airplane
Qantas domestic 737-800 in Economy

2PAXfly Takeout

This is a superbly clever trick by Qantas. It boosts their revenue since it is effectively selling the unsellable and of great potential advantage to economy travellers who want a little more space, so luxurious on long-haul. If only you could buy two, and have a row to yourself. There’s a suggestion for you Qantas. You could probably even charge a premium for the second one!

I’m inclined to hold back my dollars from Qantas for this perk and use the old T-80 strategy. That is Qantas releases previously held seats 80 hours from the scheduled flight. If you log into your seating allocation then, you have a better chance of either bagging a seat in Row 4 or can predict that the flight might be empty-ish, and nabbing a seat in what might be a largely empty row, usually up the back.

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