US Airways Choice Seats Not as Bad as You Think

Another day, another dollar . . . of ancillary revenue that US Airways is hoping to get out of you. While you’re likely to hear the usual chorus of “boo’s” from the peanut gallery, this isn’t really a bad move for the airline or for passengers.

Here’s the deal. Right now, US Airways blocks off exit rows as well as windows and aisles at the front of the plane for advance booking by elite customers only. Actually, most airlines do this. So what they’re going to do now is allow non-elites to pay to reserve the seats up front (but not the exit rows) at the time of check-in if they’d like. Pretty simple concept.

Here’s where it gets a little tricky. Right now, those elite seats open for anyone to book at 1201a on the day of departure. So, if you check-in online before midnight, this is just going to be an added bonus for you that you can pay to reserve the seats. If you check-in on the actual day of your departure, well, then you’re going to have to pay for what was once free.

How much? According to US Airways, it’s “per segment, lowest will be $5 and at least $30 on the high end, subject to change.” So would you ever pay for this? It’s unlikely that I would. I mean, if I’m traveling with a family and we can’t get seat assignments together, this will save a lot of the hassle of shifting around at the airport, but I don’t have kids, so this isn’t a big issue for me.

But that hardly makes it a bad idea. It’s all about paying extra for added value these days. If people think this is worthwhile, then they’ll pay for it. If not, well, then they won’t. My guess is that US Airways isn’t expecting a ton of revenue out of this, but assuming there was minimal tech work involved, even a handful of takers will make it a profitable move.


22 Responses to US Airways Choice Seats Not as Bad as You Think

  1. Bryan in San Francisco says:

    CF, i like you best when you’re cranky.

  2. The issue is it is another step in the steady erosion of alliance benefits. Over time more and more Star Alliance airlines are cutting back on the benefits they provide to elites of other Star Alliance airlines.

    Some examples of Star Alliance airlines cutting back on what used to be core alliance benefits include:

    UA no longer gives preferred seating

    US no longer gives preferred seating

    LH at FRA and MUC has 2 types of First Class lounges – the ones for their own F and HON passengers, and a far inferior one for all other airlines F passengers

    BD, AC (any others?) won’t interline as fully as they used to

    UA and US don’t provide the same level of lounge offerings as other airlines

    SQ doesn’t participate in the endorsement waiver program

    Despite the trend to coordinate the alliance airlines into a common terminal at certain hubs, some airlines choose to not participate (eg NZ at NRT, SQ won’t be at LHR T1)

    I’m sure there are plenty of other examples. A bit tired and in need of some relaxing travel right now.

  3. Andy says:

    So the strategy for me is to wait for the last second to check in? Only 1/3 of the seats are middle seats and they will be assigned to cheapskates who check in first. The rest will have to get the ‘good’ aisle and window seats, right?

    Flying with families makes it hard though… Their surcharge for 2nd bag, even for a 3+3 leg international flight where they operate only the first & last leg made me avoid them for the June family flight.

  4. CF says:

    Bryan – Sadly, I can’t be cranky all the time. But don’t worry, it never goes away for long.

    Global Traveller – Are you sure that Star elites can no longer access these seats on US? If so, then you’re right, it’s a big downgrade for the alliance. I know I was unhappy as a US elite when UA took away our ability to sit in Economy Plus.

    Andy – I’m not sure what the strategy should be here. If you’re a gambling man and want to take a chance that the only seats left will be the premium seats, then you’ll probably get lucky. But since most flights these days are full, you’ll probably just want to get the best seat you can on the early side. For me, that won’t mean paying for this though.

  5. Papa Kilo says:

    BAD, BAD idea, Does the airline still have to comply with the CFR’s?

    Personally I have had to do a few emergency evacuations and on a few flights I have had to refresh the cabin attendants to the CFR’s.

    In my mind, I want to know the one sitting next to the emergency exit is capable to perform the duties and not that they paid for the “privilege” of a few extra inches.

  6. CF says:

    Papa Kilo – Just to clarify, emergency exit rows are not included in this. Only elite members can reserve exit rows for no charge.

    That being said, I don’t see why it matters if someone pays for the exit row or not. They still have to comply with the regulations to sit there. So what’s the difference is someone pays or if someone just happens to get lucky to reserve the seats?

  7. US elites + those who pay get access to the preferred (read forward aisle and window) seats. Non-US elites have to take their chances under the new policy, or pay – ie are treated just the same as non elites.

  8. Million Miler says:

    What if the flight is not full? Seat police to keep the huddled masses from moving out of their places in center seats in the back of the (air)bus? Then what – a Rosa Parks of the air? Only updated with video clips on You Tube of the passenger being dragged off by TSA for “failing to follow a crew member’s order” to return their center seat.

  9. Greg R says:

    I am an Air New Zealand Elite. Here is my experience so far this year (about 10 trips) with US Air.

    * I have lost the ability to upgrade to business if available. They did tell me that this was a pure privilege and now is lost completely. UA and AC never gave this privilege.

    * The front window and aisle seats are available to me BUT my Airpoints number has to take at booking (which is not always the case). (Expedia will not even allow me to input my AirNZ number on a US or UA (or Air Canada) flight. I have to book on USair.com. I did a BUF-DFW this week and I got window at the front (but gave up to a grandma traveling with kids (see CF family issue) for a middle seat between two front row forwards (don’t know the American football term).

    * I have not seen any change in Lounge policy but compared to the Air New Zealand Koro Clubs they total rubbish and I am not concerned about losing this “privilege”

    I do recommend the Maple Lounges, they provide free booze and hot food (soups and salad).

    • Jr says:

      All fine and dandy for US Airways but I’ll bitter about the “it’s a better seat” comment and the $25 I spent a short while ago. Now tO cone up with a way to cost them $25 and complain to be in the rare “only 1 in 1000 complain” crowd.

      Also positive there was extra gap between the seats in the monitor. Can anyone chck next time doing electronic checkin?

  10. Piero says:

    Global Traveller:
    I agree on most of your points although as LH *G I can understand LH strategy for lounge allocation and brand reinforcement.
    LH offers Senator Lounge access for *G instead of their business lounges like UA and SQ do. As a result there is an overload of *Alliance passengers using what supposedly is a perk of its own elite travelers ( I am one of the disgruntled ones…). It is understandable then that for its F passenger LH wants to offer exclusivity real quality

  11. Cranky, what’s up? Did you wake up on the right side of the bed? ;)

  12. CF says:

    Ok, ok, I get it! You can all revel in the fact that I’m writing about Alitalia tomorrow, so you know the snark will return.

  13. Pingback: Earth Day events; LAX full body scan; US Airways seat debate - Travel - LATimes.com

  14. greg says:

    I live in Phoenix as a realtor and fly Us air because of the number of flights from arizona. We are hearing that Delta and US Air will merge. Any news as to if this thing is going to happen. greg moser

  15. CF says:

    Greg – I have heard no such rumor. In fact, that would positively shock me. Delta is way to busy with Northwest right now to bother with US Airways.

    Now a US Airways and United merger? Now that Continental is out of the picture, this one seems to be the hot topic.

  16. steep says:

    I was forced to take a “choice” seat online since nothing else was open. The site seemed to indicate that it was a wifi seat, which it wasn’t. I felt totally ripped off and I am not a cranky person who likes to grumble from the peanut gallery! The agent in the airport told me I would get a refund since no other seats were open and this is supposed to be about my choosing a better seat. I just heard from US air that they will not refund me. They claim I was assigned the seat as opposed to my selecting it and therefore I am not eligible for a refund. WHAT? Are you saying if I had checked in online I would not have been charged the fee?
    Ralph Nader is going to be taking this issue up soon – Go Ralph!

  17. Mrs. A says:

    I think this is another boondoggle. A way to reduce customer satisfaction so we will all be grateful to the airlines for allowing us to fly.

    Not convenient for families on any level or anyone that tries to save hard earned money. Please complain to your airlines about how confusing and unfair these seating up-charge processes are!

  18. Vicki O says:

    I have some good things to say and some negative things. Negative: Pilot failed to let us know there was turbulance before we entered into it. Scared alot of the passengers. A person sitting behind me was told to shut down his phone or the pilot would remove him from the plane. We had tickets in a seat that was broken and was not to be sat in. Was told might have to relocate in separate seats, I was with a small child. Didn’t happen and news was it was not going to happen. The good thing was I missed the first flight and had to spend the night, the lady at another desk gave me a discount ticket for a hotel and renewed my tickets for the next day. The lady at desk was rude that was to sign us onto the plane, she just did not want to be bothered. When I asked her about the flight, she said, I will be back in alittle bit to check on it and left. All in all I more then likely will avoid use this airlines anymore.

  19. Kevin says:

    Its a terrible idea when the result a few years later is that every available seat is either a seat which can only be booked by preferred members or a choice seat. If I have a return flight with 2 segments each way and every seat that is available is a choice seat which I find HIGHLY suspect, whats the difference between this and just charging me an extra $60 ($15*4) right from the get go????

  20. Jim says:

    Am I to understand that, unlike United, the “premium” seats on US Air do not have any additional legroom? I just upgraded for a Christmas trip to Maui and will be right ticked if the premium does not get me more legroom.

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