Etihad Airways has introduced a new “Neighbour-Free Seat” concept, allowing passengers to bid on up to three extra empty seats adjacent to their booked seat. If the bid is won, the extra seats will remain vacant for the duration of the passenger’s journey, meaning you could have an entire row all to yourself.
According to Etihad’s site, the bid can be placed when buying your seat. There is a minimum and maximum bid the site will accept per seat, and priority will be given to members of the airline’s frequent flyer program, Etihad Guest. If you win the bid, you will be notified 32 hours before your flight departs.
While bidding for empty seats can seem a little unnecessary, many of the Abu Dhabi-based airline’s most popular routes — to destinations like Kuala Lumpur and London — are long-haul flights. For trips that can last nearly 14 hours (Abu Dhabi to Sydney, for example), extra space could be a huge difference. Having this room could be an attractive option for families with young children, those traveling for business, and really, anyone who likes sleeping across an entire row of plane seats.
Unfortunately, representatives for Etihad refused to disclose specific pricing regarding the minimum and maximum bids for Neighbour-Free Seats. Without this, it’s impossible to say at face value if bidding on, say, three extra seats would actually be cheaper than buying a business or first class seat (which would then come with additional class perks for the price). A sample one-way flight we looked up on the Etihad site between Abu Dhabi and Sydney was $799.10 for economy and $3,094 for business class.
In theory Neighbour-Free Seats is a great idea, not just for an airline to make use of unsold seats, but for passengers who want additional space. However, not being transparent about pricing makes it hard for people to consider if it’s worth buying into. “Trust us, it’s a good deal” has never been a great tool to win people over. But, people might be willing to overlook it because empty seats don’t talk or snore (or smell).
You can view additional details on how Etihad’s Neighbour-Free Seat program works on its website.