New revenue source: Easyjet to introduce reserved seating

EASYJET will be introducing reserved seating and charge passengers for it although the budget airline said the objective was not to make money since the initiative would be “revenue neutral”. Its chief executive Carolyn McCall said: “Our aim is to make travel easy and affordable for all our passengers.”

Emergency exit seats with extra leg room come at a cost of GPD12, front row seats at GPB8 and seats elsewhere at GPB3. If you still want a free seat, you will be allocated what`s left. That means possible split seating for passengers not travelling alone.

Rival UK budget carrier charges GPB10 for reserved seats in the first two rows and those next to emergency exits. Full-service airlines have also introduced charges for preferred seating.

For all that Easyjet may be saying about making it convenient for passengers, you cannot deny that the move is revenue generating, even if it is “revenue neutral” at the start, conceding that the carrier – as it said to support its argument – would incur additional expenses to tweak its booking system.

Many airlines are already charging for ancillary services that were previously offered as part and parcel of the ticket fare – and reportedly made good money from them. This helps when you are flying in the red. Easyjet lost GPB153 million in the first half of last year and is expecting further losses of between GPB110 million and GPB120 million for the six months to the end of March.

Ms McCall additionally commented that some passengers found the free-for-all boarding “a nuisance”. That cannot be denied. It can be an ugly sight if the situation gets out of control, and there have been instances of scuffles. But that is what the budget model is premised upon: you sacrifice a certain amount of comfort for the lower fare that comes with no boarding passes, no reserved seating, fewer staff members to assist you and some degree of stress depending upon your constitution.

In the bigger picture (as I have maintained previously), the cost-gap between the low-cost and full-service products is narrowing. That being the case, the cost differences may not fully justify the gap in service. Easyjet and the like are drifting out of a niche market into the bigger arena where value more than cost – whether budget or full-service – will drive the business. Clearly, Easyjet wants to attract more than just people who do not mind sitting anywhere for the low fare; others who may have been deterred to fly budget because of the inconvenience may now come on board. Even more so is the case as Easyjet tries to attract more business passengers.

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About David Leo
David Leo has more than 30 years of aviation experience, having served in senior management in one of the world's best airlines and airports. He continues to maintain a keen interest in the business, writes freelance and provides consultancy services in the field.

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