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Preferred Seating on Airlines: the Joke’s on the Customer

You'll pay more for bulkhead seating on some flights. (Photo by caribb)

An article yesterday by Peter Greenberg, travel editor for CBS News, and Scott McCartney, the Wall Street Journal’s airline industry reporter, lambasted the preferred seating plans many airlines are employing these days.

“Paying extra to reserve a seat you already bought takes nickel and diming to a whole other level,” McCartney said. Greenberg added, “As a matter of principle, I will not pay for a preferred seat. I will take whatever seat I have to because I think the program is a joke.”

Some airlines—only in the US for now—are even defining window and aisle seats as preferred, and adding fees accordingly.

The full extent of the joke becomes apparent once you’ve already paid for an aisle or window seat only to find numerous other “preferred” seats vacant on your flight. Reason being that airlines may block passengers from seeing all of the seats available, to pressure them into shelling out for a preferred seat.

Here’s hoping Canadian airlines don’t taxi down this slippery slope.

Presently, only Air Canada and WestJet charge for preferred seats on domestic flights in Canada:

Air Canada
For bulkhead and exit-row seats:
up to 350 miles: $27/$16*
351–1,000 miles: $35/$25
1,000+ miles: $40/$30
*Tango price/Tango Plus and Latitude price

WestJet
For an exit-row seat:
1 hour or less*: $5
1–2.5 hours: $10
More than 2.5 hours: $15
*flight time per segment

Canadian airlines, do however, levy fees for the privilege of selecting a seat.

See seat selection fees on major Canadian airlines.

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